Intellectual Property: Dishonest Linking and Framing
Law should govern the deceptive and unethical practices of deep linking and framing against an author's express wishes. Deep linking refers to linking to a file deep within another Web site, bypassing the front page and any intermediate pages. Inline linking refers to referencing material on an original Web site, including but not limited to images, video, or music, so that the material appears as part of the derivative site. Framing, unless otherwise specified, refers to the use of frames to pull content from another website, possibly a competing website. Primarily, the issue of framing concerns use of content as a source, not as a mere reference for further reading. These practices can diminish the ability for sites to secure sponsors, reducing the incentive to purchase advertisements. Inline linking and framing are functionally equivalent to copying. Bandwidth is not a free resource. A website owner can use technologies to block unauthorized linking, and there are ways to track users' use of materials. Nevertheless, each threatens fair use and raises privacy concerns respectively. Finally, these practices can mislead users as to the origin, and create an element of unfair competition.
Before I get into my argument, I need to define a few more terms that are commonly confused or misunderstood. Some assume a uniform resource locator (URL), link, hyperlink, and hypertext are synonyms and this might lead to confusion if the distinction is not clear. By itself, a URL is just information and cannot do anything. It is a passive reference, much like a street address or telephone number. A link, on the other hand, is an active reference, a connection between two things, whose purpose is not to inform but to direct. A link can be used to direct content into a page such as inline images and to guide navigation out to other pages. You can think of the prefix hyper-, in hyperlink, as a synonym for "able to be clicked to initiate some action." Thus a hyper-link is a clickable active reference used to initiate an action, namely web navigation. Hypertext and image maps are examples of hyperlinks. In the context of the Web, many often blur the distinction between link and URL, but there is an important difference between the two. One is passive information, while the other is an active element interpreted by a browser to facilitate some action.
Inline linking is functionally equivalent to copying. Before the Web, copying was the only way to use images from other works. On the Web, technically this is no longer necessary. The image by itself is a reference to an external document, the image file. Other people's work can be incorporated into other works through a mere reference. We created copyright law under the assumption copying was the only way another could use copyrighted material. I am not concerned with the fact the website did not...