Linking Continues to Spur Litigation

A U.S. District court judge in Texas has recently decided that linking to a webcast violates the law, unless the copyright owner gives permission. Those publishers in Belgium that previously kept Google from legally linking to their articles are now making a similar case against Yahoo. These two examples show how problematic linking continues to be. And while sometimes scenarios regarding linking are unique to media companies, links are a feature common to essentially all websites.

One of the key ways to protect a website against linking-related lawsuits is simply to obtain permission prior to posting the link. Sometimes a website will post a linking policy as part of its Terms of Service / Use agreement. Other times, the linking permission information will be set aside in a content licensing section of the website. Look at the bottom of the website page in the footer for this type of information. If there is no information about linking permissions on the website, do not assume it is okay to link. The wisest course of action is to obtain permission first.

To help transfer linking risk via an insurance policy, look for policies that include website activities in the definition or schedule of insured services. Also, be sure to obtain copyright and trademark infringement as well as defamation coverages in the policy. A third party Internet Liability policy should provide these necessary coverages but it’s not unreasonable to also expect a professional liability policy to extend these types of protections as well.