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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Bring Lawyers, Links, And Traffic

Too bad law school exam season is over. (Ha! First time in my life I've ever experienced that sentiment.) Try this one on for size. An online publisher has a site with some freely accessible articles, and others available by subscription only. The publisher comes up with a good marketing idea—it puts together a list of certain weblog authors (perhaps harvested from the Blogosphere Ecosystem, or by using Technorati stats), and begins emailing them daily with headlines and "pass-through links." These links work to access the subscription content on the site. The idea is that blog authors will send readers to the site with the pass-through links, and hopefully increase subscriptions. The bloggers also are encouraged to forward the emails to others who might be interested in the articles. So what happens when someone starts posting all the pass-through links, not with commentary, but as a public service to help everyone indiscriminately access the subscription content? Does the publisher have a legal basis for asking the link poster to stop? Would it make any difference if the links were to articles you'd otherwise have to register for (think Los Angeles Times), rather than to subscription material? Would it make any difference if instead of posting the links from the emails, someone figured out the link algorithm and built a link generating tool? Ready, begin! (Hint: see Ernie on copyright and deep linking, and remember these links are being voluntarily distributed by the publisher.)

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