Judge Richard Posner of United States Court of Appeals judge in Chicago suggested that linking to copyrighted material should be outlawed.

Erick Schonfeld of Techcrunch disagreed and even felt it was unbelievable that he had to come up with a post to explain why this was a bad idea.

Wrote Erick,

Blogs and other sites just take content from newspapers, Posner asserts, but they share none of the costs of news gathering.

Of course, that blanket assertion is simply not true. A growing number of blogs, including TechCrunch, do their own news gathering and send writers to cover events at their own cost. But even if we limit the discussion to cut-and-paste sites, the free rider argument still doesn’t hold much water. You can’t be a free rider if you are giving something back of value. A link on its own is valuable.

Where does Judge Posner think all of these newspaper sites get their readers? It is mostly through links, not direct traffic. Removing the links would obliterate the majority of the online readership for many newspapers.

I would have broken copyright law if Judge Posner had his way. However, stating the obvious, I would have bought a few readers to the already popular Techcrunch site.

On the hand, some traditional mainstream media sites I am aware off ban their journalists from linking out to sites that are out of their domain.

The argument that publishers give is that if they want to be links out, they need to be paid in a form of a banner ad.

Myopic view of the Internet? Yes.

Ironically, bloggers are becoming the new mainstream because of their willingness to share interesting sites with their readers. These bloggers continue to gain a following when they share more links.

http://cowboycaleb.liquidblade.com surprises me with new links he shares and that’s the reason why I return to his site regularly.

Sharing links in Twitter gained so much popularity that it even spurred a cottage industry of URL shortening services available out there on the Internet. These shortening services now even provide you with analytics to trace where the hits are coming from. Some services put a top frame on top of your link page for you to earn some ad dollars on it.

As such, traditional media should look at how links can help them to bring in more readers, both by allowing their readers to link in and sharing links out.


  1. Girish  

    July 1, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    Can't agree with you more! All my access to news these days is by following blogs and people's tweets. I hardly remember logging onto a news website to read today's news!

    As long as the blog provides a link (attribution) to the source website, I think there should be no issue!

  2. Aaron Koh  

    July 1, 2009 at 9:41 PM

    The problem is that not many actually will provide the proper attribution.

    All they just cut and paste the whole article and visitors wouldn't need to click on the link.

    Tough issues to solve.

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