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On our company web site, we have a page which lists all the magazine articles and web articles that talk about our products. It makes sense that magazine articles are shown in PDF format because they are scans of a physical magazine, but our marketing department also uses PDF for web articles. I asked them why not just link to the URL of the article, and they told me that most of these web-zines charge a fee for linking directly to their content.

Has anyone else heard of this? It doesn't make any sense to me for a multitude of reasons:

  • How can you charge someone for linking to you?
  • Why would you put up a barrier to getting an inbound link? Some people struggle to get inbound links.
  • How is it free to re-publish in PDF format? I would expect that's where they would be charging money.
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There was a legal case where one website sued another for deeplinking. I don't remember the outcome of the case but you may want to look it up as it may apply here. –  John Conde Oct 25 '10 at 18:26
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Wow, those are some stupid web-zines... "You're free to put our content on your site, but don't you dare give us traffic!" –  Lèse majesté Oct 25 '10 at 22:27
    
I did some searching on Google, and found the following collection of law cases regarding deep linking: linksandlaw.com/linkingcases-deeplinks.htm –  Scott Nov 8 '10 at 19:15

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

No one can charge others for links coming their way. In fact you'd normally need to PAY someone to link to your own site if they would not do it naturally.

However, it's certainly possible (technically) to block hot-linking to your files/pages, in the sense that when a user clicks that link, it redirects them to the home page or displays an error instead of the page or PDF.

Then the site owner could charge others so that links from the site they specify aren't blocked. This is more technical effort than it's worth so I highly doubt that even happens. And there's still no way to force payment for a link, whether it works or not.

The easy answer is to link to the content and see what happens. I mean, it is not breaking any laws assuming you are not misleading users into what the content is (and even then it would be a grey area).

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I may be wrong, but would this not be pointless? The idea is to get your website out there, not to cause people who want to help you run the other way.

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I've heard of the target site trying to take legal action against other sites for incoming links. I don't recall the exact details, but I do remember the whole internet laughing at the target site owner, and nothing came of the legal action.

If the content of the target site is public, then there is no way in the world they could attempt to charge for linking to the content. Google wouldn't have lasted very long if that was the case.

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