Tue, 22 Nov 2005

Don't ask to link to somebody's page!

Do NOT ask anybody for permission to link to their page. Freedom of speech and the press includes the right to tell people where information is found. Anybody who says that you can't link to their page is LYING. Absent a contractural relationship, they have no legal ability to stop you from publishing a URL. There is no legal theory (of which I am aware, but I'm not a lawyer) which gives them that control.

Trade secret law? As long as you received the URL from someone who had no obligation to protect a trade secret of theirs, you can publish it. If they have (for example) published the URL on their website by linking to the page in question, they can hardly claim that they are keeping a secret, can they? And if they don't keep their own trade secrets secret, you have no obligation to.

Patent law? You can't patent a URL, thank god.

Trademark law? But you can always use a trademark truthfully. If a company has a trademark in their domain name, and you use it to say that a web page is at a certain location, you are either right or wrong. Either way you haven't misused their trademark. You might lie and create a URL which disparages their trademark, but you'd have to lie first, and we all know that's not free of risk.

Copyright law? You can't copyright facts. An address is a fact. There may be a creative element in an address (e.g. Apple's "1 Infinite Loop" or FTP Software's "2 High Street"), but I know of nobody who thinks that that approaches the threshold needed for copyright protection.

DO NOT ask for permission to link. When you do it, you give other people the idea that they should also. This is the web--without linking it would be useless. Don't ask, just link.

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