Linking Policies = Load of Bollocks

Before I begin this rant, I'd like to clarify what I mean by linking policies. There are two common types of linking policies:

  1. Those which explain that the site is not responsible for content on sites to which it links out
  2. Those which try to control the way in which other sites link in to them

For the purposes of this rant, I will be referring to the latter.

I'd like to think we are making progress. I rarely see sites using frames these days, or annoying splash pages (official band sites aside). But every once in a while I wander across something and wonder how can these people STILL be so clueless! I mean, this isn't rocket science people. It's the World Wide Web and it's been around for more than a decade... figure it out!

But nothing yanks my crank quite like a stupid linking policy. To start off, a definition:

What is a link?

A hyperlink, or simply a link, is a reference in a hypertext document to another document or other resource. As such it would be similar to a citation in literature. However, combined with a data network and suitable access protocol, it can be used to fetch the resource referenced. This can then be saved, viewed, or displayed as part of the referencing document. [source: Wikipedia]

Why do some sites have "linking policies"?

(Remember, I'm talking only about those policies which try to control the way in which other sites link in to them.)

Usually these policies are ordered by control freaks in their mid 50s who live in near-crippling fear of being replaced or made obselete and losing their job and who are currently using AOL to connect to the "Interweb". I also have strong evidence that people who add these types of linking policies to their sites are the same people who invented the fanny pack.

Actually, sometimes these policies have valid points--e.g., don't link to us using our logo, don't link to us as if implying an endorsement from us. But these valid points really have nothing to do with the link itself. Instead, they are dealing with things like trademark usage and copyright. In other words, when a link is illegal, it isn't the citation [hyperllink] itself that is illegal, but a surrounding issue--you've stolen content from them, you are lying and saying you're endorsed by them, you're using their trademarked logo without permission and not in a fair use context etc.

Some things I've seen in linking policies that blow my mind

  • You may not link to us without permission
  • You may only link to us with the following anchor text...
  • You may not deep link to our site (see this case involving Ticketmaster)
  • etc etc

Subsequent Court Rulings Show That These Type Of Policies Are Bollocks

In most court cases, including the one involving Ticketmaster, the ruling has been that a hyperlink itself cannot be illegal (although, when referencing something via a hyperlink, you are still bound bound by 'normal' laws, e.g. you can't slander, you can't steal content ouside of fair use, etc.) But the point is, a reference in and of itself is not illegal, whether it be a footnote in your kid's term paper or a hyperlink on his personal blog!

"Tim Berners-Who?" --Hugh Janus, CEO and Webmaster of

Of course, we didn't need court rulings to know that those policies were bollocks--we could've just asked the founder of the World Wide Web:

The ability to refer to a document (or a person or any thing else) is in general a fundamental right of free speech to the same extent that speech is free. Making the reference with a hypertext link is more efficient but changes nothing else.

When the "speech" itself is illegal, whether or not it contains hypertext links, then its illegality should not be affected by the fact that it is in electronic form. [source: Links and Law, 1997]

These Policies May Have Been Written By The Biggest Wankers In History

  • Linking Policy - "Links to other than a text link containing our domain name or a link containing the graphic banner(s) below are forbidden."

    Hey guess what I can link to you with any word I want nah nah nah nah nah!

  • AusIndustry Linking Policy [a government site mind you!] - "In particular, you should note the following conditions: * All links should be to the AusIndustry homepage via"

    Actually, I couldn't care less about your homepage, what I'm writing about is your STUPID POLICY and that's the page I'm going to link to.

  • Athens 2004 Hyperlink Policy - "For your protection and ours we have established a procedure for parties wishing to introduce a link to the ATHENS 2004 website on their site. By introducing a link to the ATHENS 2004 official Website on your site you are agreeing to comply with the ATHENS 2004 Website General Terms and Conditions. In order to place a link embedded in copy interested parties should:
    a) Use the term ATHENS 2004 only, and no other term as the text referent...
    c) Send a request letter to the Internet Department..."

    Oops, I forgot to send in my letter! Oops again, I accidently typed Atkins 2003 as my anchor text! I really need to learn to type better...

"Arrogance and stupidity are among our core competencies." -- I.M. Stupid, CEO and Webmaster of

It is not only arrogant for these sites to think that they can control how people reference them, it is stupid to make a policy to discourage people from linking to you how they want. Hey Nincompoop, links help you!

Wow this rant has raised my blood pressure about 50 points, let's end on a funny note, shall we? From BoingBoing's Linking Policy:

Boing Boing doesn't believe in linking policies. They're dangerous, have no basis in law, and they break the norms that make the Web possible. They're a wicked, stupid idea.

That said, if you believe in linking policies -- that is, if you believe that people who make websites should be able to control who links to those sites and how -- then have we got a policy for you:

No site with a linking policy (other than a policy such as this one, created to deride and undermine the idea of linking policies) may link to Boing Boing. Ever.


A little knowledge is a

A little knowledge is a ridiculous thing

In Denmark lawyers are even

In Denmark lawyers are even more crazy (in link issues) than the US ones. They do in fact operate with 13 different types of links!

This is a really good summary (In Danish):

In short, these lawyers talk about links such as:

- Normal links
- Mail links
- Direct links
- In-direct links
- "Surface" links
- Internal links
- External links
- Reference links
- Illoyal links
- Offending links
- Deep links
- Repetitive and systematic links
- "badut" links

And don't ask me what they all are LOL - to me it's all a lot of BS. A link is a link and thats it :)

>>btw, don't forget to read

>>btw, don't forget to read the Threadwatch Member Guidelines when posting.

#8 is my favorite :)

I wish i put as much effort into emails to my mother....

linking policies just try to root out the people that waste valuable linking time :). Of course if you didnt have linking standards we can all just implement FFAs!!!

although i wont question they are probably control freaks too, hehe.

btw, don't forget to read the Threadwatch Member Guidelines when posting.

lol, I asked my girlfriend to read the post, and she IM'd me:

[her sn]: you sound like a very angry person
[her sn]: are you ok?

That's a truly beautiful

That's a truly beautiful rant Andy, and spot on!

Now, i really do need to get that blogs menu live eh? Do our active bloggers a little justice for their efforts - great post, made me laugh, and it's been a TOUGH day :)

ahh, that's better...

"I can ride a bike again!"

Do you feel better...

now that you have all that off your chest? That's the most important thing.


Thanks for the laugh Andy.

It's amazing how crazy "old thinking" can be sometimes.

It's really fun poundin' on the dinosaurs in the serps too:)