There is so much on the internet about deep linking and the controversies the term generates. But, what exactly is “deep linking”? To put it simply, deep linking is the practice of building connections to various web pages within a site, rather than the homepage. There are those who believe that deep linking was a major factor in the rapid growth of the Internet. As a result of deep linking, it became easier for individuals to reach certain Web pages. A URL and a few phrases explaining that URL is all that is required for a deep link.
A court action brought by the Danish Newspaper Publishers Association against Newsbooster.com is one of the most interesting cases in the history of deep linking.
Newsbooster used headlines as the link text to extract direct links to stories from thousands of newspapers. Newsbooster extracted only links and titles, unlike search engines, which crawl and index the entire text of web pages.
Newsbooster links, according to the Newspaper Publishers Association, robbed them of advertising money by skipping their front pages. In addition, they said that Newsbooster competes directly with newspapers. The Danish Copyright Act resulted in Newsbooster losing the case.
The legality of deep linking has always been a source of contention. Many others contend, however, that if deep linking is illegal, search engines are the biggest violators because they create deep links to the entire Internet.
Deep linking supporters claim that even academics deep link. How else would you explain the footnotes to specific papers that have exact page numbers in the journals where they were published? The entire idea of having a public website, according to this group, is to encourage users to come, and deep links make finding and visiting sites simple. Finding content is even more difficult on home pages, which often have a crowded design and flimsy excuses for site search tools.
Although some high-profile cases have been settled out of court including a recent partial judgment in one significant case, there is no clear case law in the area of deep linking. The legal ramifications of court decisions could be massive. Even search engines could be affected, as nearly all of them, including Yahoo, Alta Vista, Lycos, and others, rely on deep linking in some way. Blanket legislation or poor litigation outcomes in deep linking cases could substantially limit their ability to function.
The majority of the deep linking cases thus far have perplexed the Internet community, owing to the diametrically opposed nature of the findings. As a result, if one must decide on the legality of deep linking, one is left with no options. Most of the time, the victim (whether the plaintiff or the defendant) is left perplexed by the inconsistent nature of the judgments. Many businesses are now enacting procedures to address their deep linking concerns. This is reasonable—if you don’t want your site linked to, say so. Are the linking policies enforceable? That is the question that many businesses and attorneys are attempting to answer.