• United States
by Ann Harrison

Newsbooster aims to fight Europe’s restrictive linking laws

Jan 30, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Deep linking company uses distributed networking strategy

P2P systems such as Kazaa and Gnutella, have demonstrated the usefulness of serving files from a distributed network of linked computers as opposed to serving files from a single server. This strategy helps shield these P2P services from legal action, helps to transport data far more efficiently, and makes it very difficult for authorities to shut down such networks. If Napster had followed this model, there is a chance that it might still be around.

Other companies that need to take a defensive legal posture have learned from the P2P example. A Denmark Internet search company called Newsbooster is now consider using this type of decentralized plan to carry out its linking service.

Last July, Newsbooster was ordered by a court in Denmark to stop deep linking to newspaper articles on the Internet sites of three Danish newspapers. The court found that Newsbooster’s “deep linking” was in violation of European Community copyright laws.

Deep linking is a way of providing a link directly to a specific content on another Web site instead of linking to that site’s main or “front” page. The practice is being targeted in Europe where any collection of information is presumed to be a database that is protected by copyright law. Accessing or providing access to a database without permission of those who own it is prohibited under European Union copyright directives. Several European courts have held that deep linking provides such prohibited access.

While Newsbooster awaits a final ruling on the case, it has launched an alternative service called Newsbrowser, a downloadable program that runs on the user’s own computer. Sound like a P2P client? A company officials says Newsbrowser will make accessible the content of any news organization that refuses to allow Newsbooster to link directly to it.

Newsbooster says Newsbrowser offers all the same features of its original Web-based service but the company contends that it complies with the EU copyright Act because the Act permits users to print copies of protected information for personal use.

“Newsbooster cannot and will not accept limits on the free possibilities of the Internet,” Newsbooster editor-in-chief Nicolai Lassen is quoted as saying to “Wired News.”

“We will continue to fight for a legal ruling that recognizes the difference between a referral via a link and the copying of protected information. But in the meantime, there is Newsbrowser.” Lassen added that the company has also considering simply moving Newsbooster outside of Denmark.

As a writer, I support the wide linking of my news stories and columns. I want to encourage these deep links, not sue the companies that promote them. Newsbrowser sounds like a clever response to laws that restrict the wide dissemination of information.

The deep linking fight is especially hot in Europe, but many U.S. companies, especially news organizations, have policies that limit how other sites can link to their material. So far, Newsbrowser is only being presented to users in Denmark because the ruling against Newsbooster’s deep linking is enforceable only in that country.

But other search services that find themselves in this situation would do well to study the distributed networking strategies pioneered by P2P services.