Wednesday, July 8, 2009

US Judge Wants to Ban Hyperlinks

Sadly, the United States judicial system is a complete and utter failure. America's entire legal system is an utter failure, actually - but that's outside the scope of this post. The reason? Well, it's because of judges like Richard Posner. Posner has suggested banning, not only hyperlinks to copyrighted material, but "paraphrasing" copyrighted material, as well!

As regular readers know, The Weirding joined the small crusade against the Associated Press (AP) when they decided to back this idea of disallowing "paraphrased" articles. The AP charges sites for carrying their syndicated content and frequently changes URLs so their content cannot be used properly. While a case for plagiarism can be made from posts which include too much of the original information, "paraphrasing" articles is literally what one does when one reads source material, then puts it into one's own words!

Of course, any post based solely on one article or source is not a quality post; even we bloggers have to remain at least as consistent as to require two sources - the original source and a second source to back it up. For the most part, bloggers who actually know their subject(s) are unlikely to plagiarize a news article or other post, and proper form dictates including a link to the original source if it is important enough to warrant further reading. If it is not, then "paraphrasing is not only acceptable, it's expected - it is actually correct form!

To be sure, we bloggers depend on actual reporters and their stories to feed our posting frenzies. After all, I certainly cannot be in Iraq to cover the war, as well as in Washington, to cover how politicians there are responding to it; if I write a political blog, this would be a serious problem, were it not for the regular articles and reports on these matters I find, both online and off-. Yes, I am "paraphrasing" a lot of the stuff I read, but I am also tempering it with my personal outlook(s) on the matter and its related subjects.

Of course, this assumes the blogger is doing it right: bloggers are not reporters. Bloggers may write articles, but mostly, they post entries. While actual articles provide substantive information concerning a topic, entries are not subject to such strict decrees. In better blogs, these are actually divided into such departments.

While Weird Ink maintains a very specific definition of "Blogging," not everyone adheres to it (yet) - though they should; since people continue to confuse journalism with journaling, such confusion as to plagiarism and content theft persist. Given our definition, the process simply does not allow for paraphrasing to become plagiarism, as the information itself is but a portion of the entire document, serving only to explain the subject at-hand. In the above example, Weird Ink assumes the blogger is not only passionate about the subject(s) he is covering, but knowledgeable; basically every post will be tempered by that knowledge, making it nearly impossible to simply "reword" someone else's article.

All of that aside, there is the matter of legalities and the Web, and Posner's delusional "ideas" perfectly illustrate why no one wants the government policing the Net. This Posner obviously has no fucking clue how the Web works and is just regurgitating someone else's nonsense - probably in exchange for a substantial donation to his political funds. Hyperlinks are the very foundation of The Web - it's why it's called the Web! As in, "a web of information, logically or casually connected for further exploration." When employed correctly, these links lead visitors to more information on subjects mentioned in the text.

Sometimes this information is crucial to the topic(s) at-hand, while other times, it's just a little more detail. In some cases, the links are purely gratuitous. Hyperlinks, more than any other method or medium, can set the mood, and provide the tone, for whole websites - such as, which really pioneered the Blogosphere. Beginning as a hidden partition on an employer's servers, used hyperlinks as absolutely crucial sidelines to the main event; you had to follow the hyperlinks to know what was being said. Many times, the links Suck authors provided were snarky, pointed jabs only other dot.Geeks were likely to get. Toward the end, more of these links became sponsored. went through the tragic, modern-day blog's life-cycle some 10 years before The Blogosphere even existed. Their clever use of hyperlinks to enhance and enrich their original content made Suck a prominent dot.Com during the Dot-Com Boom. Unfortunately, was also a high-profile dot.Com Bust, and that's even more interesting: actually sued someone for deep-linking to their content! That was basically the end for the snarky up-and-comer. helped shape the Web as we know it, bringing deep-linking issues and the art of hyperlinking to the fore, yet few people online today even know this - even die-hard dot.Geeks and Cyberculturalists are apt to overlook this point. Their eventual fall stood in stark contract to their rebellious beginnings, as in the end, exploited their pioneering design for minimal profit, then turned to "creative" litigious means to stave-off the inevitable.

The site's rise and fall is quite possibly the least-reported and most important footnote to all of Web history. In its too-short time, Suck perfected the snarky observational quality of today's blogs, showed the world how to use hyperlinks, and then sold themselves out harder than those parents did that Japanese girl they pimped to pay her phone bill! It was an entire (if somewhat accidental) social statement which perfectly manifested the Net, itself. Posner and people like him have absolutely no idea as to any of this and this is the most important story in Web history; this constitutes the non-legal "precedent," where the Web is concerned. This is why we don't want them making laws regarding it: they don't know from Shinola about it.

The Weirding encourages deep-linking, providing technical information for all pages published, which includes hyperlinked Name Tags, allowing webmasters and posters to link directly to the relevant information within a page. For example, by clicking the link "", you will come directly to this paragraph! This makes it much easier for Netizens to use the information we provide, not just see it. That's how the Web was always supposed to be used! More and more sites these days are embracing this ideology, providing APIs to webmasters who want to incorporate the API providers' content into their websites. This is the direction in which we, the Netizens, are moving and we do not need brick-and-mortar lawyers fucking it up, thank you.

While Posner's arguments have met with a resounding thud across most of the Web, there's nothing new here. This "deep-linking copyright violation" nonsense has been posited before and only flies in places like Texas.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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