Posts Tagged ‘Right2Link’

News International ban from displaying Times Online headlines in its search results

Saturday, January 9th, 2010, Britain’s largest homegrown news aggregator, has been told by News International (NI) that it may no longer link to any content on Times Online.

As a consequence of this action – apparently the first change to the Times Online’s blocking policy since May 2008 – two million visitors to every month will no longer find headlines and links to content on the Times Online site in their news search results.

NewsNow MD Struan Bartlett

NewsNow MD Struan Bartlett

According to Struan Bartlett, Managing Director and Chairman of NewsNow:  “It is lamentable that News International has chosen to request we stop linking to their content and providing in-bound traffic and potential subscribers to the Times Online and right now it looks as though NewsNow has been singled out. We note that no other major search engine has been blocked by NI in this manner. NewsNow is not fundamentally different to other news search engines that are part of the Internet infrastructure, such as Google News and Yahoo. Why block us and not them?”

The blocking has been technically implemented via the robots.txt protocol which requests search engines, web spiders and other web robots to refrain from asking for pages from all or part of a website.

Continues Bartlett: “We can understand why a website would attempt to block a search engine that was abusing its resources or blatantly stealing content. But this clearly isn’t the case with NewsNow. The freedoms to link and quote sources and compare and contrast reported views are press freedoms on which News International itself relies. Arbitrary attacks on news search engines therefore undermine press freedom, as well as the entire basis on which the Internet runs. NI is asking us to accept restrictions on our freedom to link to publicly available information that it would not accept itself.”

In December 2009, NewsNow decided to pull all links to many national newspaper websites from its subscription service following attempts by The Newspaper Licensing Agency Limited (the NLA) to impose a scheme that introduced the requirement to obtain permission and pay fees to circulate links to freely available web pages. The scheme has subsequently been referred to the Copyright Tribunal.

Although News International is not party to the scheme, it may be the first major UK media organisation to try to introduce the same requirement through selectively blocking search engines from linking to its websites. Concludes Bartlett: “The question remains whether News International, in arbitrarily blocking individual search engines, is trying to use its muscle to gain unreasonable control over the public’s freedom to choose the way they access information and news online. These are precisely some of the reasons why we and many others support The Right2Link Campaign.”


A campaign to ensure that linking remains free to all has been launched today

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

The Right2Link campaign ( 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.