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 Update 13: January 10, 2004

Is there a legal difference between a hyperlink and a URL?

In 2002 The United States Senate passed the Dot Kids Implementation and Enforcement Act of 2002 (HR 3833), which established an Internet domain ( as a kids-friendly area on the World Wide Web.  NeuStar, Inc., has been appointed to be the administrator of the domain name space by the DoC to operate a shared registrations system, domain name servers, and other equipment for the second-level domain (For more information see the Laws and Regulations section).

Because there is no foolproof method for protecting children online at this time, the Act specifies limitations put on specific technologies commonly used on the Internet today.  Hyperlinks that take a user outside of the domain are prohibited from use in any domain.

At the moment there are 6 websites. Three of them don't link to websites outside the domain or mention them ( / /

The website lists several attractions in Minnesota that might be of interest for kids, e.g. museums. If a museum has a website, the site is mentioned, but no link is provided (e.g. Bakken Library and Museum: You have probably seen a movie in which Dr. Frankenstein catches lightning to shock a body to life. However, what happens with electricity and magnetism and the human body in real life?  The answers may shock you!  Lots of people have little machines in them that use electricity to help their hearts beat better. Find out all about electricity, magnetism, medicine, and history at the Bakken Library and Museum....  Check out at their website or give them a call at 612-926-3878 for  more information.) 

Two other websites seem to have found a way around the restriction not to hyperlink. Instead of providing hyperlinks they merely provide the URL. See (e.g. The American Presidency - and (America's Story ( - Discover the stories of America's past.Jump back in time, meet amazing Americans, explore the states and more.)

Are these two websites in contradiction to the no hyperlinks regulation? Well, a "hyperlink" is generally a word or a picture that can be activated by a click of the mouse to transport the user to another website. That is not the case here, but there is no great difference between a URL and a hyperlink. There is no reason to believe kids wont be able to reach the websites mentioned even if there is no hyperlink. Copy and Paste and the job is done. Sure, the mentioned websites outside the domain probably wont be harmful to minors, but where is the sense in prohibiting hyperlinks when you allow the posting of URL's? We already have several software programs that recognize a URL and automatically convert it into a hyperlink (e.g. Word or Front Page). Are there already browsers out there that can do the same job? 

Can there be another legal approach to a hyperlink than to a URL? I don't think so. The legislator didn't want kids to find an easy way to a website outside the domain. So hyperlinks were not allowed. On the one hand the idea of creating a safe haven for kids on the internet would already be at its end, if the law is not construed in a way that it also prohibits the posting of URL's. On the other hand there are serious concerns that a wide interpretation of the law could violate the First Amendment. NeuStar, Inc. did not answer an e-mail asking for their point of view on the topic.  

Several other websites also prohibit their users from posting hyperlinks, especially dating and auction sites. e.g. prohibits links to websites outside the ebay-Domain. Their terms of use expressly state that URL adresses count as links. 

If you have an opinion on the matter, don't hesitate to tell me. I will post some reactions here.





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