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Linking to a Page
Can someone stop me?

This seems to be asked often. The Web seems unique, independent, free and open. The laws of copyright, however, still apply.

In the normal (almost universal) way of things, when someone visits a web page, each of the items on the page, is copied onto the visiting computer. That copying is, in the absence of a licence from the author, an act infringing copyright. No explicit licence is granted on each page for each element. One is implied. People only have any right to make a copy of the web page by virtue of that implied licence.

Not all web pages are intended to be public, or accessed directly (without passing disclaimer pages etc). Many are accessible only on subscription.

Because access is by virtue of an implied licence only, that licence can be limited or particularised as the rights-owner sees fit. He has the right to set the terms on which you visit his page, and copy his material onto your computer. That right includes the right to make particular rules for particular people.

There is also the additional idea of 'contributory infringement.' This is where you do not yourself make a copy of an article, but you instead make it possible for somebody else to do so. This can include acts deliberately encouraging, or assisting, others to breach a third party's copyright. If you make a link which you know is to a page which your own visitors are not entitled to visit, then you may be infringing his copyright, and he can stop you.

You can take comfort from knowing that he will not be able to do anything against you unless he is ready to spend several thousand pounds with a lawyer. Do not take too much comfort however, since you would have to do similarly to defend.

I am very much aware that this view is not universally shared.

Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
All information on this site is in general and summary form only. The content of any page on this site may be out of date and or incomplete, and you should not not rely directly upon it. Take direct professional legal advice which reflects your own particular situation.
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Copyright and Database Rights: David Swarbrick 2012
18 October 2013 228 18 October 2013