Recently A.H. Belo’s Dallas Morning News and Rodale’s Runner’s World have sent cease-and-desist letters to indepedent web sites to make them stop linking to stories on their sites (“deep-linking”) instead of to their home pages. [Thanks to Chilling Effects for posting the letters.]
Rodale and Belo are trying to exploit the Web while conducting their business so as to decrease its value for everyone else. They are strip-mining the commons.
They have three options:
1. Allow (or encourage) deep linking and take advantage of the network effect to increase their business and improve the value of their product to their customers.
2. Use simple technical means to prevent unauthorized deep linking. This is boneheaded and self-destructive, but it is legal, moral, and ethical.
3. Use lawyers to assert their unproven right to prevent deep linking. This is not only less effective than (2), but also has a chilling effect on linking globally, decreasing the value of the Web for people who have never heard of Belo or Rodale and have no interest in their products.
I have no problem with the media making money on the Web. My livelihood depends on it. But the Web doesn’t owe them a business model. If publishers want to move their product on the Web, it’s up to them to make the numbers work, and not up to everyone else to turn the Web into a “virtual newsstand”.
Belo and Rodale are pillaging the Web by trying to make it more like print so they can make a buck. The tragic irony is that they will fail. But the damage they do could be permanent.