The Right to Link: the right to create, forward and follow links.
Why do we need a campaign to protect the right to link? Because moves are afoot in the marketplace that could lose us internet freedoms that we have taken for granted until now. Most of us aren't even aware it's happening. If you want to know more, read on.
These threats to our freedoms are coming from 'old' media, especially the print newspapers, at the expense of the 'new' media — search engines, bloggers, social networks — and any business that uses online information. These changes could even threaten our ability to function as a democracy by restricting access to information.
Their starting point is to accuse search engines of making money out of their content. They claim that they, the newspapers, have the exclusive right to control the links and headlines to their articles, which search engines display.
They have also begun to accuse organisations that use the internet in order to monitor news, of infringing the newspapers' rights when they circulate links, whether within their organisation or with asociates — and to demand cash for the privilege.
No-one is saying that the newspapers cannot own their articles or should not put up paywalls to charge for access to their intellectual property. However their claim is that they can levy charges on, and control, the signposts to their material. If this principle is established, the circulation and use of links — the signposts — would require their permission.
The danger is that media owners will be able to restrict what you can and cannot read, see or know. Your right and ability to find, access and communicate information would be seriously jeopardised. These threats include:
- Serious damage to the ease of access to digital information that drives the economy.
- Media owners cherry-picking organisations to target, accusing them of copyright theft, or demanding cash — this is already happening!
- Media organisations with significant economic power cutting deals with selected corporate search engines to guide the public to their online media, their opinions and their political and commercial allies.
- Media with the power to enforce it levying additional so-called "licence fees" from any business or organisation using or linking to their websites.
We say that ...
All should be free to create, use and circulate links — they are the signposts to content on the web.
Think about this. If someone owns the signpost to information, the next step may well be to use the law, including criminal sanctions, to police their online land grab — if necessary by lobbying Government.
This is an unprecedented extension of ownership, by stealth, over a part of the information superhighway.