Hard News by Russell Brown

78

Grade-A lunacy. With your money.

One of the more perplexing elements of the establishment web is the site whose terms and conditions forbid anyone else to link to the site without express permission. Apparently, having spent good money publishing information on the public internet, the publishers wish to limit its currency.

The Copyright Council of New Zealand goes a step or two further. It forbids anyone to link to the terms and conditions in which it is explained that you are forbidden to link to the site. And don't even bother asking:

We do not permit direct linking to information sheets or other documents.

Ever, apparently. Because who knows where we'd be if information got out.

But:

You may provide a direct link to our home page, and/or to other pages on our website, but first, please contact us to request permission.

They undertake to respond to any such requests "within 1 to 5 working days." No, I'm not joking.

There are other examples. Converse Australia's T&Cs:

Creating or maintaining any link from another website to any page on the Conquest Sports (Aust.) Pty. Ltd website without our prior written permission is prohibited.

More worryingly, the Ministry of Education's Services for Tertiary Organisations website won't let you link to information your taxes paid for:

Linking to this website
If you want to link your web site to any of the pages on this web site, you will need the website administrators' permission. Please email xxxxx@moe.minedu.govt.nz for permission. If you create a hypertext link to any of the pages on this website, you are responsible for any direct or indirect consequences of creating that link.

But perhaps the most worrying example is a new one. Ben Gracewood noted last night that the website policy to be operated by the new Auckland Council (NB: the whole Auckland Council site seems to be down at the moment – I totally blame Ben for linking to them) will be taking the worst possible example for their new collective T&Cs – the terms and conditions of Manukau Libraries, which declare:

You may not create links from other websites to this Website in any way, including deep-linking or use of metatags, except with the prior express written permission of Manukau City Council. To obtain permission, please contact us.

And I'm sure they'll get around to it. Because all libraries are so copiously staffed that their people have nothing better to do than spend time on a pointless, counter-intuitive exercise that undermines the key feature of the World Wide Web. And I'm sure you don't mind that you're paying for their time in doing so.

UPDATE, 1.40pm: The Manukau Libraries page has been altered to remove the terms in question since this post went up!

UPDATE: the Auckland Council website is back up now, and the T&Cs don't specifically forbid links -- but they say this:

Auckland Council makes this Website available for your personal and non-commercial use. You may download and use information provided on this Website solely for your personal purposes, provided that you do not remove any proprietary rights notices, do not modify the information or make it available to third parties through a networked computer environment and do not make any additional representations or warranties regarding the information.

My emphasis. These seem to be needlessly proscriptive terms for a public organisation, and could be read as a ban on linking. Frankly, so long as the information's integrity is preserved, the Auckland Council should have every practical interest in the currency of its content. This needs sorting out now.

(Thanks to Ben, Peter McLennan and Petra Jane for the tips that led to the above post.)

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