By Steve Outing
I’ve been writing about the intersection of news media (and especially newspapers) and the Internet for many years, and there are some things that just drive me crazy. One is when a newspaper decides that it doesn’t want anyone linking to its content on the Web, yet it publishes the content freely on its website. Talk about dumb.
So here’s yet another example of such bone-headedness by a newspaper. The Santa Barbara News-Press had its lawyer send a cease and desist letter to a website that was linking to its paid obituaries — which it publishes in a free-access area of the site. The Santa Barbara website edhat.com was providing links to the obituaries (not copying them). In other words, it was steering traffic to the paper’s website.
First, so what if edhat.com is seen as a competitor to the News-Press. It’s Dumb with a capital D to turn away traffic that people want to give you.
Second, the threaten-them-with-a-lawyer approach is DUMB with all-caps. The reasonable way to prevent a competitor from linking to you (not that I can imagine a rational reason why you would want to do that on free-access online content) is to use technical means to block traffic that’s referred by the competitor’s domain. That’ll put an instant stop to them linking to you.
(Thanks to Amy Gahran for pointing this out.)