Would You Ever Pay To Link?

    January 17, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Money for links. What a concept. We’re not talking about paying someone to have them link to you. We all know Google’s stance on that. If you pay for a link that passes PageRank, and Google discovers it, you’ll find yourself with some SEO problems, to say the least. The fact that people do engage in this practice, however, illustrates that links can be valuable. People want others to link to their content, because that means potential eyeballs on their sites. How backwards is it then, that there are actually organizations who think their content is so special that they have the nerve to charge others for the privilege of linking to it.

There is some great content out there, but is there any that is so good that you would pay just to link to it? Keep in mind, we’re not talking about republishing that content and linking to the original source. We’re not talking about writing a blog post, maybe pulling a quote or two, and linking to the original source. We’re not even talking about pulling snippets and linking to content in Google fashion (which has certainly been a controversial topic in the publishing world for years). No, we’re just talking about a simple link.

Would you ever pay to link to any piece of content? If so, in what kind of scenario would payment for links be justified? Share your thoughts in the comments.

There was a bit of an uproar last week (understandably), when a story made the rounds, claiming that the National Newspapers of Ireland, a group representing 16 national daily, Sunday and weekly newspapers and 25 local and regional newspapers, is enforcing a policy requiring any site linking to one of its member publicationsto pay at least 300 Euros (and more than that for multiple links).

Lawyer Simon McGarr posted an article about attempts from the organization to get money from one of his clients, a domestic violence charity, for linking to newspaper content. McGarr wrote:

This year the Irish newspaper industry asserted, first tentatively and then without any equivocation, that links -just bare links like this one- belonged to them. They said that they had the right to be paid to be linked to. They said they had the right to set the rates for those links, as they had set rates in the past for other forms of licensing of their intellectual property. And then they started a campaign to lobby for unauthorised linking to be outlawed.

These assertions were not merely academic positions. The Newspaper Industry (all these newspapers) had its agent write out demanding money. They wrote to Women’s Aid, (amongst others) who became our clients when they received letters, emails and phone calls asserting that they needed to buy a licence because they had linked to articles in newspapers carrying positive stories about their fundraising efforts. These are the prices for linking they were supplied with:

1 – 5 €300.00
6 – 10 €500.00
11 – 15 €700.00
16 – 25 €950.00
26 – 50 €1,350.00
50 + Negotiable

McGarr’s story was picked up by Slashdot, and was referenced by media industry analysts like Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen, and Matthew Ingram, who wrote a good piece about the situation.

McGarr called the whole thing: “2012: The year Irish newspapers tried to destroy the web.” He has since followed it up with some Twitter reaction, and an update about the policy from Newspaper Licensing Ireland (a group set up by the Newspapers of Ireland), who issued a statement on Friday.

He quotes the group as saying, “For personal use: NLI never requires or requests a licence for personal use of newspaper content.For commercial use: NLI does not require a licence from any organisation which only displays or transmits links to newspaper content. A licence is required when there is other reproduction of the newspaper content, such as display of PDFs or text extracts.”

So, apparently still no quoting, commonly considered to be fair use (within reason).

“Of more general social value, the damaging assertion that permission was required (and could be refused) to link to another website has been abandoned,” wrote McGarr. “For the sake of the country’s free exchange of views, this is a significant development.”

The group put out a much longer press release on the matter. Here’s what that says under “Our Position on Linking”:

Some of the discussion over the last few days has been around whether a hyperlink from one website to another, in itself and without any more, constitutes copyright infringement. That exact issue was in fact one raised a number of months ago in the Consultation Paper issued by the Copyright Review Committee appointed by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to review existing copyright legislation. In the Consultation Paper, the Committee expressly requested that submissions would be made by any interested parties on the issue and as to whether our existing copyright law should be changed so as to specifically include a positive statement to the effect that linking in itself, without more, does not constitute an infringement of copyright legislation. This request for submissions was made by the Committee in the context where the Committee itself states in its Consultation Paper that there are “divided” views from Courts as to whether the display of links in itself is an infringement of copyright. The Consultation Paper was made publicly available and anyone was free to make a submission on it.

NNI made a submission to the effect that our view of existing legislation is that the display and transmission of links does constitute an infringement of copyright and our existing copyright law should not be amended in the manner discussed in the Consultation Paper. We understand that some people do not agree with that interpretation of the law. Equally, there are others who do agree with it. As already indicated, the Committee itself acknowledged that there are divided views on this. We await, in due course, the final report from the Copyright Review Committee and await sight of whatever they might say or recommend on the point.

It is important, in fairness to us and our members, to specifically note here that the submission made on behalf of NNI to the Copyright Review Committee also expressly recognised that there is a distinction between the sending and receipt of links for personal use on the one hand and the sending and receipt of links for commercial purposes on the other (despite the fact that the same legal principles apply to both). NNI specifically stated that its members accept that linking for personal use is part of how individuals communicate on-line and that our members have no issue with that. Emphasis ours.

As Ingram points out, the statement from the group “confirms that it is lobbying to have Irish copyright laws define links as copyright infringement.”

As far as the distinction between personal and commercial use, where exactly is that distinction in today’s online world of social media, blogging, citizen journalism, and content creation and curation?

The whole thing is kind of ironic, because even many of the major media corporations of the world, would like to see more linking to their own properties. Look at this case from last year where a guy had to go to court for linking to copyright infringing content.

The argument about links has been going on for many years now. In the end, there is always the question, do links not drive traffic to the content in question? There are many publications on the web who would love to be linked to more (You can count us among them. By all means, link.). Why is the newspaper industry so resistant to the way of the web, even as the industry embraces it as a platform? Is it just that their content is so good that online-only publications could never match the quality? I’ve seen plenty of original reporting and breaking news coming from online-only outlets. I can’t think of too many who would try to charge for a link, or even a link and a snippet or quote or “text extract” within the bounds of ethical fair use.

What content is so good that people should pay for the right to link to it? Tell us what you think.

  • http://www.egdcltd.com egdcltd

    Many traditional media companies are struggling to deal with how the web works. In an adapt or die situation, they aren’t doing so well at adapting. Trouble is, they can cause a lot of damage on the way out.

  • http://www.bloketoys.co.uk BlokeToys

    This is pretty funny!
    These people are deluded, truly. They’re struggling to keep up with modern publishing and they are desperate to gain some more revenue, but charging people who want to link to their content is just going to speed up their destruction. No sane person on the planet would pay to link to an online newspaper, the idea that anyone would is ridiculous. This shows how completely out of touch the newspaper business is.

    This is all about industries failing to come to terms with the evolution of their business, stamping their feet like stubborn children rather than facing the truth.

    Hollywood is exactly the same, with studios and music labels expecting to still be able to make their billions every year (off of the work of others) and refusing to accept that the internet makes their delivery cheaper, and therefore the price of it too.

    Bring on the end of the BS media, they’re all corrupt, biased and corporately manipulated. They all preach propaganda depending on their backers and advertisers, and there are now millions of people on the ground all over the world able to offer the truth, directly, without censorship and without corruption.

  • Gordon Lincoln

    There is a simple cure for arrogant fools like Simon Legar and the Irish Newspapers – stop linking to these motherless spawn. I mean REALLY REALLY STOP – including DNS entries. After all, DNS entries are simply a link that offers a translation of their domain names and URL’s – I don’t think anyone who operates a DNS server wishes to pay these horse’s petoots a fee to include them in their DNS listings? And to make sure they don’t become liable for any links that infringe on these donkey’s intellectual desertland, perhaps blocking their IP’s would be the best defense.

  • http://k2media.co.uk K2 Media

    It is just an attempt to extort money from online business as a result of the continuing decline of offline media. Let’s face it if they get away with it, it would be a nice little earner – why sell newspapers lol

  • Steve Smith

    Some of these same Irish newspapers, also utilize a Facebook “Like” or “Share” button or a “Tweet” button for twitter and other social media. Since these also link to their content, isn’t it rather hypocritical of them to want to be paid for content when by using these social media buttons they are encouraging links to their content?

    The McGarr article you quote, has a link to NLI, which shows a list of member newspapers and the websites of those member newspapers that have websites. Many of them that I looked at (The Limerick Leader, Galway City Tribune to name two)have the Facebook, twitter, and other “share” buttons at the end of their stories.

    • http://www.enviroequipment.com Enviro Equipment Inc.

      Your point about the Irish newspapers who utilize social media buttons being hypocrites is exactly the reason why nobody should pay for the “privilege” of posting a site’s URL on their site. It’s a slippery, slippery slope that would end up hurting news organizations the most.

  • John

    I will not have anything to do with any website that charges people to link to it.

  • http://sahelmarketing.com buzz@saheltech.com

    How about just asking for bailout money instead of disguising it that way. This organization or racketeering gang needs to be educated about how the web works. Those people have to understand the money should have to passed hands in the other direction instead.

    The web was created to share information and web sites should be able to link to one another unless spamming or other malicious intent is involved. How about them paying social media websites they are currently linking to?

    Come on 300 euros for a stinking hyperlink? No precious metal/mineral in this world can cost that much for an equal weight.
    They better find a leprechaun to use pot of gold instead.

  • John

    It’s not April 1st is it? O yes – in Ireland it’s April 1st every day. Those T&C are utterly bollocks. Unenforceable. If they don’t want their content linked to, they should make their content accessible to members, and if they so wish, their members then pay to view the content. That way, if you link to the content, those who click the link would encounter a password/registration request. Any fool should be able to understand that. But we are talking about the Irish. I’m off to make lots of links to the Irish newspaper sites. :-)

  • http://www.greyolltwit.net/ Grey Olltwit

    The newspaper industry is just shooting itself in the foot imo, just like the record industry did in the past and continues to do. Instead of using the internet and making music easily available for a reasonable price early on and moving away from CDs, the record industry decided to spend much more money trying to beat piracy. The news corporations are now taking a similar path. They cannot see that online publishing is the future and that newspapers won’t be around for too much longer.

  • http://town-court.com Traffic Court

    If you don’t want links to your site, then don’t make the urls public. Once you’ve made it public, it’s like publishing your phone number and then complaining when someone posts your phone number. Utterly stupid. So I can see governments going along with it.

  • http://www.damienelsing.com Damien

    Wow … it’s like some sort of Monty Python sketch. The idea that a reference pointing to a publicly available document (i.e. a web page) could be copyrighted seems absurd. Just shows how out of touch the traditional media are.

  • Finn Brynildsrud

    This has already been tried in court here in Norway. Even though we are not an EU member, our laws are wery much in harmony with EU.

    The case here in Norway was that a real esate broker tried to stop other brokers from linking to the advertisements on their website.

    They lost big time and had to pay all the cost for taking the case to court.

  • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin

    Who pays for the content to be generated? Fun times ahead.

  • http://www.insidemyrocket.com Inside my Rocket

    It reminds me of a similar case many years back in Denmark (where I live). A new state of the art news aggregator website called newsbooster deeplinked to articles on online newspapers.

    The newspaper dinosaurs didn’t like the free traffic and the Danish courts ended up ruling that deep linking was illegal.

    It’s a crazy world out there.

  • Larry

    It’s all about the Almighty Advertising Dollar… some media prints can’t get enough ads to stay in print or online and be profitable… the one’s that do, are just greedy if they want to get paid to link to there media… leave it to the Irish… let see how about a licence to drink beer in Ireland… that will work right! Lets see, how about a extra Euro per pint just to drink beer… Cheers…

  • http://www.asie.vn Asiaplus Voyages Vietnam

    I don’t pay to link and never.

    • http://MB3PAffordableFamilyHealthCare.fcwhost.com James

      I see, on the internet, people trying to find an income possible on the web. Membership sites abound and members are signing up. To pay for a link that takes you where you want to go, or provides you with the goods you desire, would be best if free, but it takes work to find the right stuff and keep you happy. A worker for these popular sites is knowing that only the curious or the well-off will sign up. But To give such service for free and rely on “Donations” from the ‘well-served’ is the road to poverty. Times are tough for most but many are still doing well enough to afford themselves the ‘fun’ in life. If a link to my blogs at worksbyjjchristianblogs.wordpress.com would help me to earn a living from the grateful readers I say let it be a donation. J.J.

  • http://freeclassifiedads.websites-hosting-companies-cheap.com Classifiedads

    Take in consideration that between Facebook Twitter Linkins, Pinterest and General Social Media Is Killing News Papers and Online News.
    Probable That’s Part Why they Are Trying To Survive. They Get Very Little Advertisement. Their Business Is Dieing Everyday.

  • Markus

    Slave under Google? Not anymore… In a couple of years we will look back at this time and the scare of google and buying links. Links will crush google that’s why they fight it so hard.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/seo-training-workshops Nick Stamoulis

    I understand that traditional newspapers are fighting to stay alive, but this sounds like a pretty quick way to kill your online paper to me. If they were they only news source online they could do it and get away with it because we’d have no choice. But there hundreds, probably even thousands of other news sites with the same stories that won’t charge for a link and be happy to get more links anytime.

  • http://www.beatlottery.co.uk Peter

    Outrageous! This is against common sense and I urge everyone visiting their site to stop doing that – or they may use your IP to sue you next time that you visited their site without permission and paying them!

  • http://www.nigeriacomputers.com/ Jidaw

    It’s crazy and won’t work. Media coming online need to have a better and more reasonable understanding of what drives online content.