The German Federal Court of Justice issued a
verdict today holding that an online service which offers links to articles in a
protected database is not in violation of copyright and competition law.
The lawsuit against an online news search engine
which allowed users access to articles in the database of the plaintiffs via
deep links was based on paragraph 87 b of the German copyright law (UrhG). This
paragraph derives from European Union Directive 96/9/ECC of March 11, 1996. A
decision, which had banned deep linking by search engines to databases could
have influenced other EU member states' jurisprudence and caused significant
difficulties for search engines outside the European Union as well. Try to imagine
the internet without search engines!
The plaintiffs did not succeed with their
argument that deep links are illegal, because they take users directly to news
articles, bypassing introductory pages and advertising, thus depriving the
plaintiffs of revenue from their advertisements. In the view of the court
plaintiffs can not demand that users have to start with the homepage. The court
stressed the importance of deep links for the internet and held that it is up to
the plaintiffs to prevent deep links with technical measures, if they don't like
them. The court did not answer the question if the circumvention of these
measures would be illegal.
Where there is light, there is also darkness. The
fight about the legality of deep links is far from being over after this
decision. Upcoming Amendments to the German copyright law, which implement the
May 22, 2001 European parliament and council directive (2001/29/EC) on the
harmonization of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the
information society, introduce a new right of making available. The discussion
if hyperlinks violate this new exclusive right of a copyright holder, has
already begun. The Federal Court of Justice adressed this issue and said that
linking does not violate the making available right, but failed to deliver a
A similiar discussion was addressed by the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that inline linking violates
the copyright owner's right of public display. For more information on this case,
So, with the new decision, a battle has been won
today, but the war is not over yet. Courts worldwide will be faced with the
issue of deep linking again. For now, the danger that courts will prohibit deep
linking, thus changing the way we all experience the internet, has been reduced
by the verdict.
Additional note: There have also been lawsuits
about the legality of deep links in the USA. More information on the lawsuit
between Ticketmaster and Microsoft can be found here,
and about the lawsuit between Ticketmaster and Tickets.com here!
linking wins court approval in Germany, out-law.com:
"The German Federal Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that deep links
from a news search engine direct to articles in a publisher’s web site do
not violate German copyright or competition law."
July 18, 2003: BGH:
Funktion der Hyperlinks steht über kommerziellen Interessen, Heise:
"Der unter anderem für Urheber- und Wettbewerbsrecht zuständige I.
Zivilsenat des Bundesgerichtshofs (BGH) hat heute sein mit Spannung
erwartetes Grundsatzurteil zur Frage der Wettbewerbswidrigkeit so genannter Deep
Links bekannt gegeben."
1996 the Shetland Times newspaper filed a lawsuit against the Shetland News for
linking to Times' articles. Scotland's Court of Session issued an interim interdict
banning the links. Before
Scotland’s highest court could rule on the legality of the links, the two
publishers settled the case.
feud rages in Scotland, News.com: "The Scotland court will have to decide if unauthorized links are illegal and ponder whether headlines are bound by copyright
27, 1997: Kaplan, Carl,
Feud Over Whether Linking Is Stealing, New York Times: "A cutting-edge Internet legal dispute about the "right to link" that arose in Scotland's remote Shetland Islands was settled out of court recently by the still-feuding
11, 1997: Macavinta, Courtney,
link suit settled, News.com: "With a small island off the north coast of Scotland as a backdrop, two old friends turned enemies over Web site links have finally settled a long, drawn-out copyright lawsuit."
21, 1996: Oppenheim, C.,
'Copyright Battles: The Shetlands', Ariadne: "On 24 October 1996, Lord Hamilton gave in a Scottish court a preliminary interdict (equivalent to injunction in English law) to prevent the Shetland News, an Internet based newspaper, from offering links from its WWW pages to those of its rival Internet newspaper, the Shetland Times."
30, 1996: Mendels, Pamela,
Case Tests 'Right to Link', New York Times: "It is a dispute between two local publishers that some believe could set the first legal precedent about use of hypertext links on the World Wide Web."
One of the first news meta-sites that got sued was
kranten.com in the Netherlands. The site provided direct links to articles on newspaper web sites. PCM, publisher of most
of the country's national dailies, failed to get an injunction against
kranten.com. A Rotterdam court found that PCM could place advertisements next to
individual stories, and that external links only brought it extra traffic.
22, 2000: Cramb, Gordon, Dutch
papers fail in cyber case, Financial Times
(link does no longer work, website not available with the Wayback Machine)
Record label BMG Australia Ltd. claims that the owners of an Australian
website are infringing on copyright laws by simply linking to a song by artist John Farnham.
25, 2000: Creed, Adam, Record
Label Threatens Australian Web Site Over Song Link, Newsbytes:
label BMG Australia Ltd, part of the giant Bertelsmann media empire, has
threatened to sue the owners of an Australian Web site over a link to a
famous song by artist John Farnham."
Ticketmaster failed twice in an attempt to obtain a
preliminary injunction in the United States District Court for the Central
District of California to stop Tickets.com from deep linking into
its pages. According to an March 2000 ruling linking couldn't contravene
copyright laws because no copying was involved.
October 25, 2000: Kennedy, DeBrae’,
Linking Your Way into a Lawsuit, Internet Law Journal: "Today, however, the legality of hyperlinking is being debated in courtrooms. What is it about hyperlinking that could lead Web site owners to courtroom
September 12, 2000: Ciminello, Dominic,
Linking Is Here To Stay…For Now, Internet Law Journal: "A recent decision by a Los Angeles District Court OK'd the use of hyperlinks to link one page of a website to the page of another website, bypassing the second website’s homepage."
5, 2000: Sinrod, Eric,
link or not to link?, Upsidetoday: "Lately there has been quite a bit of commotion in the legal world about whether linking between websites is permissible, and more and more cases are preventing links and related
2000: Bonisteel, Steven,
Gets Setback in “Deep-Linking” Suit, Computer User: "Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch Inc. [NASDAQ:TMCS] said it has failed again in an attempt to obtain a preliminary injunction preventing another Web site from "deep linking" into its pages while a lawsuit over the issue unfolds in a California federal
June 7, 2000: Contreras, Jorge / Morgan, Jeffrey /
Legality of Hyperlinks: The Issues Deepen, Hale and Dorr LLP: "Many Internet commentators have argued that legal restrictions on hyperlinking would inhibit the growth of the web and defeat the openness that led to its widespread
7, 2000: Kaplan, Carl,
of “Deep Linking” Remains Deeply Complicated, New York Times: "When a federal judge issued a decision last week in a case involving "deep linking," many reports suggested that the controversial Internet practice was now unambiguously legal."
30, 2000: Finley, Michelle,
Editors: Deep Link Away, Wired: "Deep linking has an official seal of approval now that U.S. District Judge Harry Hupp has ruled that websites can legally provide links to any pages on all other
10, 1999: Tedeschi, Bob,
Sues Again Over Links, New York Times: "Six months after settling a lawsuit against the Microsoft Corp. over the practice known as "deep linking," Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch Inc. filed a similar suit against a competitor, Tickets.com Inc."
April 1997 Microsoft launched Seattle
a Web guide to the Seattle area, which also listed various events. When visitors
wanted to purchase tickets for them, they were referred to Ticketmaster’s
website. On April 28, 1997, Ticketmaster reacted with a suit to Microsoft’s
deep linking in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Ticketmaster alleged that Microsoft had “pilfered” its content and diluted
its value. The lawsuit was finally settled in 1999.
February 15, 1999: Tedeschi, Bob,
and Microsoft Settle Linking Dispute, New York Times: "Ticketmaster Corp. has settled its closely-watched lawsuit against the Microsoft Corp., the chief executive of Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch said Thursday, with the ticketing giant prevailing in the dispute over whether one Web site can freely link to pages deep within another
May 21, 1997: Dunn, Ashley,
You! Who You Pointin’ At?, New York Times: "The lawsuit filed earlier this month by Ticketmaster against Microsoft sent a shiver of anxiety through the online world since it struck at one of the most basic aspects of the Web -- the freedom and openness of the hypertext link."
May 21, 1997: Macavinta, Courtney,
link to Ticketmaster fizzles, CNet: "Microsoft Sidewalk tried to sneak its users past Ticketmaster's blocks this week, but faulty search engine links frustrated its
19, 1997: Macavinta, Courtney,
sidesteps Ticketmaster, CNet: "Microsoft's new Seattle Sidewalk site has developed a crafty way to skirt the blocks Ticketmaster put in place last week to halt traffic from the entertainment guide's Seattle and New York
30, 1997: Flynn, Laurie,
Suing Microsoft Over Link From Sidewalk Site, New York Times: "Ticketmaster, the nation's largest ticketing agency, is suing Microsoft Corp. for linking to its Web site without its permission, accusing the company of "sucking" the value from the Ticketmaster site without paying for it."
29, 1997: Ricciuti, Mike,
link irks Ticketmaster, CNet: "Ticketmaster's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles yesterday, contends that Microsoft's new Seattle Sidewalk Web site illegally uses the Ticketmaster name and trademark, mainly by providing links to Ticketmaster's own
County Court issued an injunction against StepStone’s German rival OFIR,
stopping OFIR from further deep linking to StepStone's online job advertisements.
The court held that deep links infringe StepStone’s exclusive rights in its
database of job vacancies.
17, 2001: McCarthy, Kieren, StepStone
sets precedent with hyperlink ban, The Register:
"Online job site StepStone has obtained an injunction against German rival OFiR which prevents it from linking to StepStone
Belo, the parent corporation of the Dallas Morning News, sent a
letter to the Website, BarkingDogs.org, demanding it stop deep linking to
specific news articles from the paper's site, rather than its home page.
3, 2002: Bowman, Lisa,
linking faces clampdown, ZDNet: "Imagine your surprise, then, when you receive a letter from one of the sites you directed people to, which says posting such links is illegal without first seeking written
July 1, 2002: Gibbs, Mark,
to sue for, NetworkWorldFusion: "The issue for these organizations is deep linking, or linking from another Web site to content below a home page. Rather than solve the problem with technology, they opted to bully sites into removing all links except those to their home
May 17, 2002: Morrissey, Brian, Can
Deep Linking lead to deep trouble? InternetNews: "Their mistake: Linking directly to a runnersworld.com interview with 800-meter Olympic champion Peter Snell. Instead of linking to the home page, LetsRun.com sent readers directly to the "printer-friendly" version of the article, deep inside the
13, 2002: Dizikes, Peter,
the Links, ABCNews: "To the consternation of some observers, a recent federal court ruling in San Francisco has called into question some basic linking practices — and demonstrated the extent to which the legal status of links remains undefined, even though they have been the essence of the World-Wide Web since Tim Berners-Lee developed it in 1989."
13, 2002: Kling, Arnold,
Links? Yay!, TCS: "And lawyers for the Dallas Morning News want to prevent other web sites from linking to pages within the DMN site, other than its home page."
9, 2002: Sullivan, Carl,
Citizen Attacks Belo’s Deep-Linking Policy, Editor & Publisher: "Washington-based Public Citizen said Thursday that Belo's stance against "deep links" on the Internet threatens the viability of the Web and attempts to stifle free
May 2, 2002: Farrel, Nick, Newspaper
hacked off by deep linking Personal Computer World: "Legal heavies from the Dallas Morning News are demanding that a website removes so-called deep links to its stories."
May 1, 2002: Manjoo, Farhad,
Barks About Deep Link, Wired: "Now Adelman is locked in a battle against the Belo media corporation, owner of The Dallas Morning News, which sent him a legalistic letter this week demanding that BarkingDogs.org remove all "deep links" to the DallasNews.com
received a letter from Rodale Press, the publisher of Runner's World
magazine, demanding it delete a hyperlink to a "printer-friendly"
version of a runnersworld.com article or face the consequences.
May 31, 2002: White, Caroline, Deep
Linking = Deep Trouble, Journalism.co.uk: "Brothers Robert and Weldon Johnson, owners of LetsRun.com, initially thought the letter - which claimed that they had infringed copyright by linking to an interview page inside the Runner's World site - was a
14, 2002: McCullagh, Declan,
Run to a Deep-Link Suit, Wired: "Rodale Press, the publisher of Runner's World magazine and many other prominent health-oriented publications, sent a stiff note to a hobbyist website this week, demanding it delete a hyperlink to a "printer-friendly" version of a runnersworld.com article or -- face the
The Dutch Association of Real Estate Agents (NVM) brought a
suit against De Telegraaf, a search engine that enables its users to search
other websites for information on certain topics, e.g. real estate sales. De
Telegraaf lost its case in the first instance verdict of September 12, 2000, but
successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal in The Hague. According to the
court the NVM database was not protected by a database right. The decision was
overturned in March 2002 by the Dutch Supreme Court that ruled that owners of
online databases can prohibit deep linking to the contents of their database.
March 27, 2002: Vos, Esme,
Court bans unauthorised deeplinking, Europemedia.net: "The Dutch Supreme Court has ruled that owners of online databases can prohibit other websites from “deeplinking” into the contents of their
January 23, 2001:
Fremde Links auf eigene Seiten kann man verbieten, Heise: "Das Landgericht Hamburg hat einer Firma in einem kürzlich verkündeten Urteil, zu dem nun die schriftliche Begründung vorliegt, beim Setzen unerwünschter Weblinks einen Unterlassungsanspruch gegenüber einem Mitbewerber zugestanden – und zwar auf Basis des Wettbewerbsrechts."
"The plaintiffs sued the defendants for copyright infringement, passing-off, breach of statutory duty involving s 188 of the Copyright Act (Cap 63) and the common law tort of trespass. What the defendants had done was to link their website to subsidiary web pages belonging to the plaintiffs instead of the plaintiffs' main web
Auctionwatch and Bidder’s Edge used software to search other websites and
collect descriptions of items for auction. They then displayed them and offered
links to the items. One of the searched websites was eBay. In what turned out to
be a futile attempt, eBay demanded that the companies stop searching
eBay's website. EBay then turned to the courts and filed a suit to stop
Bidder’s Edge from crawling its website and invoked the doctrine of trespass.
A preliminary injunction prohibiting Bidder’s Edge from searching eBay’s
site and displaying the auction results, was appealed. The appeal was dropped
and Bidder’s Edge signed an agreement to end their legal dispute in 2001.
31, 2000: Cisneros, Oscar:
Fights Spiders on the web, Wired: "A lawsuit filed by eBay to prevent automated agents known as spiders from crawling its site could turn websites into no-trespass fortresses and block common searching and
14, 2000: Wolveron, Troy:
Bidder’s Edge face off in court, CNET: "A U.S. District court judge said today that he is leaning toward issuing an injunction that limits the ability of Bidder's Edge to search eBay's auctions and to display the results on its Web
5, 1999: Rötzer, Florian:
blockiert Zugriffe von AuctionWatch-Servern, Telepolis: "Der Konflikt über Deep Linking zwischen der Auktionswebsite Ebay und
AuctionWatch, einer Website, die wie eine Metasuchmaschine die Angebote von unterschiedlichen Auktionswebsites auflistet, hat sich verschärft."
4, 1999: Richtel, Matt,
Raises Stakes in Auction Dispute, New York Times: "Raising the stakes in a dispute that has important intellectual property implications for the digital age, Ebay Thursday blocked access to its site from the computers of AuctionWatch.com, a service that lists items for sale from Ebay and other online auction
11, 1999: Auction
Conflict Escalates, Wired: "AuctionWatch.com, a startup that runs a search engine for tracking online auctions, said Monday it plans to blow off a request from eBay to stop indexing items on its
5, 1999: Richtel, Matt,
Over eBay Auction Listings, New York Times: "In a brewing dispute over Internet auction listings, the Web site AuctionWatch.com said on Monday that it would continue to provide its visitors with lists of items for sale on the site of the industry leader, eBay Inc., which is threatening to sue to stop the
Edge, Inc. also filed an antitrust lawsuit against eBay, Inc. and the Justice
Department launched an antitrust investigation, see:
5, 2001: Dembeck, Chet & Conlin, Robert:
Year Ago: U.S. Justice Department Launches eBay Anti-Competitive Probe,
E-Commerce-Times: "The U.S. Justice Department is reportedly investigating online auctioneer eBay, Inc. to determine whether its efforts to block price comparison search software from probing its Web site Relevant Products/Services from Interland are
14, 2000: Wasserman, Elizabeth,
New Bidding War, The Industry Standard: "Federal antitrust officials have launched an informal probe into eBay and its long-simmering dispute with two auction-listing aggregators that scour eBay and other sites to create a master list of all online
February 8, 2000: Dembeck, Chet:
Sued for “Anticompetitive Behavior”, E-Commerce Times: "Auction portal Relevant Products/Services from Verity Bidder's Edge, Inc. filed an antitrust lawsuit against eBay, Inc. yesterday, alleging that the giant online auctioneer had attempted monopolization, interfered with contractual relations, and utilized unfair
a search engine for news articles was sued by the Danish Newspaper Publishers
which claimed that Danish company Newsbooster violated copyright laws by "deep
linking" to newspaper articles on some Danish newspapers' Internet sites.
Bailiff's Court of Copenhagen ruled in favor of DNPA, ruling that the deep links
violate the newspapers’ intellectual property rights.
In 2003 Newsbooster has developed a downloadable programm called
"Newsbrowser" that uses peer-to-peer
techniques to search for news across the Internet. The programm comes as a
reaction to a verdict from 2002, that prohibits Newsbooster from deep
linking to some news websites.
January 22, 2003: White, Caroline,
sets up in the UK, journalism.co.uk: "The battle over deep-linking has taken a new twist as the banned search facility Newsbooster moves its operations to the UK."
January 17, 2003: Delio, Michelle,
Is Your Deep Link on P2P, Wired: "Following links from one Web page to another may soon require users to run special stealth applications, if a Danish search company's experience is a sign of things to come."
21, 2002: Ovrebo, Olav, Newsbooster's
"Deep Links" Could Create Fallout, Yahoo News: "Newsbooster's idea was a simple one. The Danish company combed through the Web sites of local newspapers for stories of interest to its subscribers, and e-mailed story links based on its customers' preferences. To many, that sounded like a good deal. But to one Danish judge, it sounded like a crime."
23, 2002: Minahan, Simon,
will become of Web's missing links? Sidney Morning Herald: "The legalities of linking have again raised their head, this time in Denmark, where a Copenhagen news-searching service, Newsbooster.com, has been restrained by a Danish court from providing its clients with direct links to articles provided by members of the Danish Newspaper Publishers Association."
16, 2002: Crosbie, Vin, Who
Owns Your Hyperlinks?, ClickZ: "Otherwise tranquil Copenhagen, Denmark, was the epicenter of a convulsion that rocked the online publishing world earlier this month, when a Danish court found that European laws make deep hyperlinking, a fundamental Web function, illegal."
July 9, 2002: Bowman, Lisa,
cuts off deep linking ZDNet: "A Danish court bars a news site from linking to other Web sites' back pages without permission - the first legal ruling to outlaw 'deep linking'. It could be the start of a crackdown."
July 6, 2002:
Gericht verbietet Deep Linking Heise Online: "Der dänische Internet-Recherchedienst Newsbooster darf laut einer am Freitag erlassenen einstweiligen Verfügung Meldungen auf den Websites dänischer Zeitungen nicht direkt verlinken."
July 4, 2002: Bowman, Lisa,
ties cut by hyperlinking crackdown ZDNet: "Some Web publications are clamping down on 'deep linking', where a hyperlink goes to a page other than their home page, but others warn that this destroys the very essence of the Web."
June 26, 2002: Manjoo, Farhad,
Linking's Legal Link on Hold Wired: "After two days of hearings, a Danish court has delayed making a decision in a closely watched case that could determine the legality of "deep linking" in Denmark and other European Union
June 24, 2002: Manjoo, Farhad,
Deep-Link Decision Due Wired: "If everything goes well for the Danish news service Newsbooster this week, nothing will change: The Web will be the same freewheeling place it's always been, with everyone allowed to link to everyone
June 10, 2002: Jesdanun, Anick,
publishers in court over links, SiliconValley.com: "Danish publishers, however, equate such linking with stealing - Nicolai Lassen considers linking such a fundamental element of the World Wide Web that he sees nothing wrong with creating a service around linking to news articles at more than 3,000 other
June 1, 2002: Deep
Linking Prohibition Sought HexMap: "Danish Newspaper Publishers' Association is seeking an injunction against Newsbooster for linking to the individual stories instead going through the main page for the web
May 20, 2002: Taylor, Charlie,
war on links, Nua Analysis: "Just imagine for a second that instead of providing you with a link to a specific report on Nua, I forced you to visit the home page and plough through the archives until you found what you were looking
April 19, 2002: Future
of Deep Hyperlinking Could be Decided by Danish Courts,
Inside e-Law: "The Danish Newspaper Publisher's Association has applied to the Danish courts for an injunction to be taken against Newsbooster for their practice of supplying newsfeeds to its users which contain links to newspaper
April 18, 2002: Delio, Michelle
Linking Returns to Surface, Wired: "Legal experts say that deep-linking can violate U.S. and European copyright and trademark
April 26, 2002: Bargain
Basement, Appraiser’s Cafe:
"Homestore.com (Nasdaq: HOMS) announced yesterday afternoon it has commenced a lawsuit against Bargain Network in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles."
Are Deep Links from Meta-News-Sites legal or can they be
banned? The news searching engine NewsClub.de was sued by a publishing company
for copyright infringement because of web site linking. NewsClub won an interim
injunction at Berlin court in January 2001, but lost in the main lawsuit at
Munich regional court (LG München). NewsClub appealed the ruling.
2003 Update: The inventor of NewsClub had been sued for linking to the
plaintiff's news articles. In January 2001, NewsClub had won an interim
injunction at a Berlin court. Nevertheless, plaintiff managed to move the
lawsuit to Munich regional court, and won. The decision was appealed at first
but the appeal was withdrawn at the end of March 2003. By
agreeing to comply with the cease and desist agreement, the Plaintiff
accommodated the Defendant by abandoning its claims of demanding compensation
and further information that had been determined by Munich Regional Court first
So the decisive question of the legality of search engines
in general will probably be answered by higher German courts in parallel cases
against the search engines Paperboy.de or Net-Clipping.de.
"Mainpost, a publishing subsidiary of German group Verlagsruppe Holtzbrinck, is sueing NewsClub.de, a news headline aggregator, over deep linking."
17, 2002: Delio, Michelle, Deep
Linking Takes Another Blow, Wired: "Using a search engine to locate stories on newspapers' sites violates
European Union law, according to a recent ruling by judges in Munich's Upper
12, 2002: Ein
Verlagshaus gegen Hyperlinks, futurezone: "Ein Unternehmen der deutschen Verlagsgruppe Holtzbrinck klagt die Nachrichtensuchmaschine Newsclub wegen Verletzung der Urheberrechte durch so genanntes "Deep Linking" gemäß §87b UrhG."
information on the lawsuit with court decisions, other case
documents and an english discussion forum can be found at the newsclub
Bazinet, who runs the website Movie-List, which contains over
900 links to movie trailers, received a letter from Universal Pictures,
demanding he remove all links to trailers for movies from Universal Pictures.
Bazinet complied with the request.
6, 1999: Kaplan, Carl, Is
Linking Always Legal? The Experts Aren’t Sure, New York Times: "Late last month, Bazinet removed the links to all trailers for movies from Universal Pictures. Lawyers from the studio had sent letters and e-mail objecting to his linking to Universal trailers without
27, 1999: Cisneros, Oscar, Universal:
Don’t link to Us, Wired: "A Web site that aggregates links to movie trailers online has come under fire from a major movie studio that says the links infringe on its
Accordings to a Norwegian
district court ruling hyperlinks to a competitor's database website do not
violate Norway's Copyright Act or Marketing Practices Act (Finn Eiendom AS and
Finn.no v. Notar AS (Trondheim D. Ct.), 162): "Surface Hyperlinking is a
normal practice on the internet"
engine Google is reaching out to Asia, offering its news service in three
Chinese versions (Hong Kong, China and Taiwan) as well as Japanese and Korean.
In Hong Kong Google received threats
of legal action and allegations by local media of copyright infringement
website for Hong Kong news cites news summaries and uses photos from local
Chinese language media, including newspaper, radio and television, and provides
hyperlinks to their websites. Another deep link lawsuit at the horizon?
There have been a
lot of lawsuits concerning
linking, framing and search
engine issues in the last years.
In this section you'll find
short introductions into the
different cases and links to
news articles about it.