Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Oh good, another corporate information entitlement

Author:TQ White II
Posted:8/10/1999; 8:17:47 AM
Topic:Deep Linking
Msg #:9300 (In response to 9274)
Prev/Next:9299 / 9301

The world wide web is a public venue. To me it doesn't seem fair that people using this public resource want to enjoy the benefits of electronic distribution yet somehow avoid allowing the rest of us to benefit as well.

Publishing an item on the web, using a URL allocated from the public space, is a public act. It is akin to putting a pile of leaflets on the streetcorner. Deep linking is the equivalent of telling your friends to go take a look. Perhaps even the equivalent of grabbing a couple of copies and handing them out in your own neighborhood.

The leafleteer has the option of piling his leaflets in a storefront and controlling access but he wants the greater distribution and lower cost that a public venue offers and so operates based on different rules. On the web, anyone wanting to control information has the option of using passwords, etc to avoid unauthorized viewing.

If you have a message that you want your audience to see and still control, use direct mail, etc. Sure it costs more but you get to control your information. The entire point of the web is that it allows people to share information in ways that suit the needs of individuals.

I claim that the reason that the web exists is that the people understood this to be a democratic way to share information, to circumvent the practical truth of the modern age that that corporations that can afford lawyers (or storefronts for their leaflets) control the flow of information.

Now do this thought experiment.

Suppose we have agreed that the URL for deep-linking is some sort of intellectual property whose use corporations can control. Now ask yourself, is it ok to tell your website friends that the story is there at all? How could you refer to it? You can't use the headline itself since it's definitely copyrighted. Can you use the URL of the site and then in prose tell what links to follow to get to the item? What's the difference?

Oh, and is there anything such as 'fair use' anymore?

Forget robots.txt. If you want to prevent people from linking to your piece, put it on an intranet, not the internet. The internet is our common space for our common use.

We should not be turned into electronic vassals operating at the pleasure of the corporate overlords who want to make sure that we offer the correct form of obeissance before we walk on their land. Sure they want to make sure that we all see as many ad messages as possible on the way to a story but there's no reason we should grant them the right to require it.

Of course, the good news is opposition to deep linking is like hating the idea of reproducing. It is an inherently self-limiting idea.


ps, One last thing:

Many of you publish information of one sort or another and are doubtless thinking that you somehow have a stake in this argument. "Shouldn't I be able to control the use of my information?", you may ask.

Like so many other things in our society, the rich and powerful will get control, those of you that are not (was that a violation?) will NEVER get any control over your information. Even if the laws are completely on your side, you cannot afford to get justice against Pathfinder, Infoworld, etc. You probably cannot even afford to sue me and I'm broke. They, on the other hand, can afford an in-house legal staff.

Don't lose sight of the fundamental political reality. Laws, especially laws of this sort, protect the wealthy and powerful. Not you.

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