Just the other day I was singing the praises of the humble hyperlink, but today I’m reminded that perhaps not everyone gets it.
For example, I’m breaking the Top Gear website’s terms and conditions by including a link to them in this sentence. Why? Because they prohibit third-parties from linking to any part of the site other than the front page.
The terms also say that sites which do link to the front page must “comply in all respects with the content standards set out in the Code of Conduct”.
In fact I think that Hackbash probably does, apart from my occasional potty-mouth episodes. That’s hardly the point, though, and this is:
- A website doesn’t own its incoming links – no more so than a shop owns someone who happens to give a passer by directions there.
It is, I realise, a microcosm of a key point that Antony Mayfield makes to brands about their online presence: they may be talking about you, but you don’t own the discussion.
Terms of endearment
Top Gear is by no means the only website that includes a clause to this effect in its terms and conditions, but I’m using it as an example because I’m writing a post which would otherwise have linked to one of its stories – better, surely, to have an incoming deep link than no incoming link at all?
Don’t get me wrong, I well understand that not all incoming links are good. But if somebody out there chooses to anchor a link to Hackbash on the phrase “the biggest shower of c**ts writing on the internet”, I think it’s safe to say that we could request a retraction on the prospect of a successful libel action.
Similarly, if we were to say anything defamatory about Top Gear or to imply that the website, programme or magazine in anyway endorses Hackbash, we could fairly expect to be in quick and painful legal trouble.
However, there isn’t a legal basis to stop third-parties linking to a site, and consequently:
- there’s nothing to protect Top Gear and other sites from unsolicited or unsuitable links that don’t break any laws
- there’s nothing Hackbash can do about the fact that using the word ‘sex’ in the title of a post is enough to earn you a link from a Russian porn aggregator
- there’s bugger all a set of terms & conditions can do about either.