The insane world of “No linking Policy” – what happened to the interNET?

I have been working on a big social media project for one of my clients for the last few weeks, we were going live yesterday but were stopped at the last minute from the clients lawyers “I’m sorry you cannot go live before you have checked that you are allowed to link out to all of these sites”, What the [email protected]~!£??? Seriously, I thought, who in their right mind would prevent someone linking to their site. This is the internet, free speech = free linking, surely!? Or is it?

So, I quite confidenentaly wrote an email to the lawyers saying in essence (although I put it slightly more eloquently of course) “you got to be kidding and don’t be silly there is no UK company that would have a no linking policy”, BOY was I wrong. After a quick question round on twitter, asking my followers whether they had heard of such “no linking policy” for any UK websites, I was shocked to find out there are LOADS of website doing this.

(A big thanks to @rishil @chappers @wiep @nicholastott @mattuk @harrybailey @theEdword and  @tomsmith1984 for your quick replies to my tweet). And most of all thanks to @malcolmcoles who has spent significant time looking into all of these instances of UK “no linking policies”.

Malcolm’s most recent blogpost is a must read, giving you a list of examples of UK websites that has such “no linking polices”. These are all BIG UK businesses that have decided for one reason or another to prevent people from linking to their site.  Malcolm has written several blogpost on this subject, the first one being a list of UK newspapers which has this no linking policy, then the second blogpost gives another list of major UK companies including the AOP (Association of Online Publishers) permitting websites to link to them without permission. Now I find this particularly funny as AOP is of course all about “online publishing”, pah!! (EDIT: After publishing this blogpost it was brought to my attention that the AOP no longer have a “no linking policy” in their T&Cs.

Here’s a list of UK companies with a “no linking policy” or “linking restriction policy”:

Anglo Irish Bank
Apple
Barclays Premier League
BBC Active
Channel  4
Daily Mail
Daily Mirror
Easyjet
EDF Energy
Edinburgh Fringe
FT
Jimmy Choos
Kent Online
Manchester United (to be fair who would want to anyway..lol just joking)
Money Saving Expert
MTV
News International Jobs
Right Move
Royal Parks
TalkTalk
The National Autistic Society
The Sun
The Telegraph
The Times
Ticketmaster
TimeOut Tickets
Vodafone
Which.co.uk

**

But my absolute favourite is………….. The Post Office, yes that’s right, Royal Mail don’t allow you to link to them without……………… get this………….. “a paper license”.

I am still a bit gobsmacked really, why would anyone prevent sites linking to them. That is kind of the whole POINT of the World Wide Web.  There are so many reasons why restricting linking could completely screw up the internet. For example, how could you trust that someone is right if they can’t back it up with a link to the original source (imagine the students doing their dissertation without ANY reference to where they got the content from). Or how about our very own field of the search engines! How would the search engine rank if links had nothing to do with it, it’s a whole separate blogpost right there. Do these sites even know what impact it could have on their search engine rankings and traffic? Or do they have some special deal with Google…

I’m sure that when Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, he sure as hell didn’t  mean for links to be restricted, I dug up this article by Tim (yeah we are so on first name basis) about Links & Laws where he says “There is no reason to have to ask before making a link to another site” but at the same time “You are responsible for what you say about other people, and their sites, etc., on the web as anywhere”. This of course makes totally sense. In my head (and this is just an interpretation of what it says in his article) it simply means if you don’t want people to view it don’t put it on your sodding website.

At the end of the article he says “It is difficult to emphasize how important these issues are for society. The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, for example, addresses the right to speak. The right to make reference to something is inherent in that right. On the web, to make reference without making a link is possible but ineffective – like speaking but with a paper bag over your head.“

Hear Hear, indeed like “speaking with a bag over your head”, OR like playing Pictionary when someone asks you “who told you that”, and you have to reply; “Ehm, first word, you get it through a little hatch in your door. Yes, Post! Second word, you go there to work and sit with your computer, yes Office. BUT HUSH don’t say it all together, you might not be allowed to!!

** If you know of other websites that has a “no linking policy” please feel free to add them in the comments and I’ll try to make one big list, also I have only looked into UK websites, I’m sure there are loads all over Europe.

About Lisa Myers

Lisa Myers runs her own SEO & Social Media Agency; Verve Search based in London (UK). She is also founder of the SEO blog; SEO-Chicks.com and was co-founder of State of Search.