I have discovered a little contradiction within myself. On the one hand, I am a zealous believer in the right to link. Links have been and remain the lifeblood of the web. The anti-linking policies which seemed fashionable a few years ago were invariably flouted and led to the wide-spread ridicule of the things which they were meant to be “protecting.”
That’s only one aspect of the right to link. In 2005, the issue of the linker’s liability for linking to copyright infringing material hosted by third parties has received some judicial attention in Australia. But I would argue that even the Universal Music Australia v. Cooper case doesn’t yet endanger the right to create a bare link to infringing materials, provided there’s no question of “authorizing” copyright infringement.
A bare link does not provide any endorsement, agreement or authorization of the material being linked to. A bare link to a web site is just a statement of a fact - that at a certain place on the web this information exists. While there is any strength left in the ideas and expression of ideas dichotomy, US National Public Radio (a past offender) can't prevent a blogger from linking to them, no more than it can copyright any other fact, such as 2+2=4. For NPR to prevent anybody linking to them is like claiming copyright in their own physical address.
To use a different analogy, anti-linking policies make as much sense as an author claiming that merely being cited in a journal article infringes on her/his copyright.
It might be different if there’s more than a bare link happening. For example, if I linked directly to a certain image on the illegal-art website and wrote, “Check out this hilarious parody of the Starbucks logo!” That might get me into trouble, so I’m not going to do that.
I believe in the right to link and that if somebody chooses to make their website or blog available to the world, anybody has the right to link to it. On the other hand, in my own personal conduct I had decided that I would prefer being courteous over exercising this right. For example, with the list of Australian librarian blogs on my sidebar, I have often requested permission before adding blogs to this list.
Courtesy is very good and nice, but I have now decided that it is too much of a good thing if it gets in the way of adding new blogs to this list. It has even caused me to temporarily lose some of the blogs which I intended to add. I know, losing a blog is a very embarrassing and silly thing to do.
From now on, I’ll just add the blogs as I find them. If anybody has a problem with being added, they are welcome to email me about it and we can talk about it.