We know from Crookes v. Newton that a link “by itself” is not a publication for the purposes of defamation in Canada. But what about a right by a publisher to collect royalties when being linked to?
It seems bizarre, but newspapers in Ireland are attempting to do exactly that. In a piece titled 2012: The year Irish newspapers tried to destroy the web McGarr Solicitors state:
This year the Irish newspaper industry asserted, first tentatively and then without any equivocation, that links -just bare links like this one- belonged to them. They said that they had the right to be paid to be linked to. They said they had the right to set the rates for those links, as they had set rates in the past for other forms of licensing of their intellectual property. And then they started a campaign to lobby for unauthorised linking to be outlawed.
The papers even provide a price list for the linking:
1 – 5 €300.00
6 – 10 €500.00
11 – 15 €700.00
16 – 25 €950.00
26 – 50 €1,350.00
50 + Negotiable
Legislative changes clarifying that linking involves copyright appear to be in works. More information can be found in the Further Submission of National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) to the Copyright Review Committee on its Consultation Paper on copyright and innovation.
The web is built on links. Links are what has made it so powerful and so threatening to established institutions of power.
Understandably there is some international outrage on this well beyond Ireland. Let's hope the bright folks in Ottawa don't get any ideas.