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Interesting ruling which will hopefully be contested in higher courts: A federal judge in Texas has ruled that it is unlawful to provide a h…

Interesting ruling which will hopefully be contested in higher courts: A federal judge in Texas has ruled that it is unlawful to provide a hyperlink to a Webcast if the copyright owner objects to it, reports News.com. The lawsuit was against an aggregation website Supercrosslive.com, which was linking directly to the video/audio webcasts on Supercrossonline.com, which has the official rights for “Supercross” motorcycle racing events. SFX Motor Sports, a Texas company that owns the official site, contended that fans who go to its own website will see the names and logos of sponsors, but direct links to webcasts won’t bring up the sponsors.
Not the first time that direct/deep linking has become a legal issue, but this ruling runs counter to previous case law on text links, as the story says. IN case an infringing site links to illegal content, the case laws have been relatively clear: can’t do it. But usually deep linking to legal content has stood the legal scrutiny.
Anyway, the court ruling: “The court agrees that if Davis is not enjoined from providing unauthorized Webcast links on his Web site, SFX will lose its ability to sell sponsorships or advertisement on the basis that it is the exclusive source of the Webcasts, and such loss will cause irreparable harm.”

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By Rafat Ali

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  1. James Quintana Pearce Saturday, December 23, 2006

    I'm not sure this is the same as deeplinking. When a hyperlink points to a web page, that page is opened when someone clicks on the link. In this case the page didn't open, only the webcast. In that sense it's like someone writing a program that displays content from other people's sites on their own site, and I think it's more like RSS scraping than deeplinking (although with RSS scraping the offending site does host the content).
    If internet content is going to be free there is going to need to be other business models to fund it — and if those business models aren't protected the content will disappear.

  2. I agree. This isn't deep linking. It's hotlinking. And can't the victim in the case solve the problem by adding some code to their site?

  3. There's a lengthy debate about this from December (an earlier ruling in the same case) on the Patry Copyright blog at http://williampatry.blogspot.com/2006/12/gentlemen-stop-your-linking.html. I worry that because of this case, there will be unwarranted fear about linking to other sites. Courts have generally held linking to be non-infringing (of copyright) so it's unclear to me (from the opinions issued by this court) why this court came out differently. I've blogged my opinion about it here: http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/node/5077… I also understand that the defendant has appealed the opinion.

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