16 December 2009
Contact: Jenina Bas - 07971 551778
KEEP LINKING FREE AND UNFETTERED, DEMANDS NEW INTERNET FREEDOM CAMPAIGN
A campaign to ensure that linking remains free to all has been launched today. The Right2Link campaign (www.right2link.org) comes as the Digital Economy Bill and other market developments appear to be threatening the information-sharing freedoms afforded by the World Wide Web.
The campaign is adamant that online copyright is to be respected, but argues that it should not be at the expense of the freedom to create, circulate and follow links to online content.
Linking – referencing someone else’s online intellectual property with a headline, short quote or summary with attribution – is standard practice for users of the Internet. Email and social networks like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn are often used to share links among friends, associates and colleagues.
Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, as well as other new economy businesses that act as portals and link aggregators, occupy a key role in identifying links that are of interest to be read and passed on. They are a key part of the World Wide Web’s system of circulating information.
According to Right2Link, the free circulation of publicly accessible information is threatened if individuals, businesses and search engines cannot continue to do what they are doing today without restraint.
Recent months have seen a climate developing, in which governments and media owners have articulated an increasingly restrictive and repressive attitude towards Internet freedoms, and in which there have been a number of disturbing developments threatening to restrict the freedom to link.
First, heads of large media corporations, among them Rupert Murdoch of News Corp and Gavin O'Reilly of Independent News & Media, have accused search engines and link aggregators of stealing their content. They have ventured to suggest that publishing headlines and short excerpts, widely accepted as permissible under the law, should be made illegal.
Second, some industry members and commentators have voiced concerns that the Government's new Digital Economy Bill will threaten information sharing freedoms.
Third, the UK's major print media owners have sought to establish a counter-productive precedent by demanding organisations obtain permission to use links to the newspaper websites and for forwarding them on. The danger in this precedent is that it threatens to give any media organisation or website owner the right to demand that permission be obtained before linking. They would be able to cherry-pick who they would allow to link to their web site and at what price. This would generate a climate of uncertainty about linking that would damage the Internet’s ethos of freedom of information exchange and restrict people’s and organisations' ability to conduct their business freely.
Opponents of this trend towards restrictions on the freedom to link include online new economy businesses, search engines, portals and aggregators, enlightened new media publishers, members and representatives of the PR industry and organisations who already realise their online freedom on the World Wide Web is under threat.
However, Right2Link warns that any organisation, including charities and government departments, is open to being threatened with legal action or targeted for “license” fees by any website owner if the freedom to link is not enshrined in law and in practice as an Internet right for all.
The founding sponsor of Right2Link is NewsNow, the UK's largest news portal. The campaign is fully supported by others in the sector including Meltwater, Alacra and Zenark.