Extremist law may destroy main peculiarity of Internet

Analysts in the West suppose that deep links, i.e. those website links directing users from one site to some definite publications of another site, may be soon restricted by the law.

An outcome of a lawsuit between Danish Newspaper Organization (DNPO) and information service NewsBooster may become a precedent for settlement of such problems. DNPO demanded that NewsBooster should stop deep linking to Danish newspapers.

The Association says, direct links break the law on trade marks. It is said, users are to reach articles of interest only after visiting the main page, otherwise, when visiting the site through a direct link, a user gets quite a different picture of the site.

On the other hand, it is perfectly clear that the more links are given, the higher the site’s rating is. Direct links make it easier for users to find an article of interest on the Internet. If the court allows DNPO claim to NewsBooster, unpredictable consequences may arise. This may affect Russia as well, as the country is actively taking its position on the global Internet area.

PRAVDA.Ru correspondent asked members of the Russian Internet media, whether it was really necessary to ban deep links.

YELENA KOLMANOVSKAYA, Editor-in-chief with &to=http://www.yandex.ru/' target=_blank>Yandex:

- The problem of deep links has got two sides – search engines and links published separately on a subject of interest.

As for search engines, the deep link problem does not concern such engines any longer, as every site owner can ban access to other pages of the site, except for its main page with the help of robots.txt file. Sites using this practice are sure to lose a part of visits from search engines (they will be infrequently referred to). So, it is up to site owners, which way to prefer. To chose, no special law is to be introduced, as robots.txt standard is observed by all large search engines.

And as concerning links published separately on a subject of interest. To my mind, adoption of such law is unreasonable and contradicts the hypertext idea of the Internet. When I link users to a page of some other site, I do it to provide more additional information to the readers. In this case advertising of the site is beyond my scope. I think, it is good for a site when it is abundantly referred to.

My opinion is that sites themselves are to settle the problem: they should either create all pages so that they all can produce equally favorable impression on users, or make URL of a page so that it would be impossible to refer to it. However, as an Internet user, I would treat it as an unfriendly action of the site (or webmaster ignorance). Being a professional at Internet advertising, I would not recommend clients to do so.

Just imagine, if such law is adopted, we should next prohibit to serve drinks in jugs and glasses in restaurants, because, according to the logic of this law, clients are not demonstrated a label on a bottle, that is also a result of marketing efforts. We should use authentic openness of the Internet and not make it close. I hope, European countries are reasonable enough not to adopt such extremist laws.

ANDREY LEVKIN, Editor-in-chief with &to=http://www.smi.ru/' target=_blank>SMI.Ru:

- To my mind, the situation is a sign that paper media have got greatly worried about their future. The very fact of the lawsuit looks rather psychopathic: indeed, the procedure is useful for newspapers, but at the same time there is some anxiety, that is sometimes attempted to be switched to this or that problem. As for juridical side of the problem, it is not necessarily that a decision will be logical in this case. At the same time, a geographical peculiarity of Denmark should be mentioned in the situation: the country is small and pressmen enjoy considerable authority and they are rather cautious as concerning on-line media. On the whole, such attitude is typical of Europe. For example, there are not many Internet sources in Germany.

What consequences can it bring to the Internet? It is very much unlikely that the lawsuit will be allowed, because legislative basis for quoting should be changed; I mean, it should be prohibited to quote anything at all. But, to my mind, it is very much unlikely. An obligation can be issued at that to publish address of the main page as well together with a deep link, that would be rather useless.

Is it probable that the scandal is stirred up for the sake of index pages promotion?

DENIS USATENKO, Producer with &to=http://www.lenty.ru/' target=_blank>Lenty.Ru:

- If no links are allowed on the Internet, it will be turned into a very useless thing. In this case it is necessary to prohibit search systems to index such sites, because they usually link users directly to a document of interest.

If some edition wants its headlines to be removed from www.lenty.ru on some reasons, we will not argue and do it at once. But there have been yet no precedents.

PAVEL LEGENYA, director of Hosted Search project with &to=http://www.rambler.ru' target=_blank>Rambler Internet Holding: - On the one hand, as soon as Internet turned into a commercial and political sphere, lots of useless things and iterative materials appeared on the web. Majority of those who produce the junk simply do not understand the idea of this or that resource, they aim at increasing the number of visitors only. Links belong to the junk as well. The system gets on people’s nerves; that is why it would be nice for materials, that claim to be exclusive, to be reached for through a well-ordered structure.

On the other hand, it is very difficult to trace who and how links to a resource, it is a very expensive task. But there are enough moneymakers who are very likely to profit from limiting of linking. On the whole, this is the thing that should not be paid much attention to.

We asked DREW CURTIS, President of &to=http://www.fark.com/' target=_blank>Fark.com as for his opinion about deep links

- Fark is pretty much nothing but a collection of deep links, at least by the DPNO's definition. I disagree that deep linking causes damage, in fact in our case it actually raises advertising revenue for news websites by allowing us to send large numbers of readers directly to an article of interest. These readers would not otherwise bother to look for the articles if they were directed to the main page of a news site instead.

However, on the other hand, we do try to avoid deep links which only cost websites money. For example, we try not to deep link directly to movies and audio files. Instead we link to pages where these files can be downloaded, preferably ones that display ads so the site can make money from the traffic to help pay for the bandwidth charges it incurs from all the downloads from our readers.

In any event, if anyone ever requests that we take a link to their site down, we do it. This has only happened twice in three years.

Did you hear anything about the problems with deep links in the USA? -Yes there was a similar situation a few months back with a Texas newspaper, possibly either the Dallas News or the Houston Chronicle, I think. Same issue.

On a related note, recently a few major news sites have switched to only allowing users which have an account there to read their news (Chicago Tribune and Dallas News recently did this). While it's completely within their rights to do this, I am willing to bet it has cut down on the total traffic on their websites dramatically.

As forFark, we won't link to websites that require logins and passwords to read news, even if they are free. Most people don't have the patience to get a login on every site they read, and will back out and go elsewhere when they encounter this. I do the same thing myself.

Have you ever had any problems because of use of deep links in Fark.com? - We once deep linked directly to a movie which ended up costing the website hosting it several hundred dollars. I offered to pay for the extra bandwidth but they politely declined. I still feel bad about it.

In general we've had the opposite situation occur: we've had news sites ask us specifically to deep link their articles. Several dozen major newspapers across the globe send us their articles every day specifically so we can deep link them.

In your opinion, what was the reason that the DNPO decided to target Newsbooster? It seems that if the DNPO was unhappy with Newsbooster's services, it would simply stop providing newsfeeds? - I think that probably DNPO is extremely hard up for ad revenue and wants to force readers to navigate their site, thereby racking up more impressions for their advertisers. I think this approach is misguided however. News websites have told me that when we link to a news article, most people will then see other articles they are interested in on the same site and go check those out as well.

We sent over 30,000 individuals to one article on one news site, and they later told me that those 30,000 individuals went on to impact the site with a total of over 600,000 impressions as they went on to read other articles. If ad revenue is what the DNPO wants, they should encourage other sites to link directly to their articles

One other comment on this: in the event the DPNO actually succeeded, I feel that Fark generates enough traffic at this point to where we could contact individual news organizations and still get permission to link directly to their articles. So it wouldn't affect Fark much. However I really hate to see ludicrous lawsuits that go against the entire concept of the World Wide Web like this succeed.

Member of &to=http://www.antiwar.com/' target=_blank>Antiwar.com the international news site, ERIC GARRIS told PRAVDA.Ru his opinion about deep links.

Does the controversy regarding so-called deep links cause Antiwar.com any concern? - Yes, but I think that freedom of the press will win out. Most successful websites recognize the importance and value of free linking.

Have you had any complaints about Antiwar.com using deep links? - Only from a few individuals who didn't like being referenced by us, but no news organizations. Most websites practically beg us to link to their stories.

In your opinion, why do some traditional newspapers object to the use of deep links? - They are stuck in the past and do not recognize what the internet is or what it can be for them. Hopefully, they will either learn from their errors or lose out in the marketplace of the Internet.

As we see, almost all of the interviewed stick practically to the same opinion: DNPO initiative is absurd. Indeed, it can not be considered copyright violation if NewsBooster does not re-publish a material, but simply deep links to it. Probably, one of the interviewed is right when he says that it is not necessary that settlement of the problem will be logical.

According to the recent information, troubles are dangerously brewing for NewsBooster.

Prepared by Sergey Stefanov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/06/13/42603.html

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