Aside

No Link For You! – Inane Website Terms & Conditions

Disconnect the server!

I normally don’t post anything but photography on here but this was a topic just too good to give up. Earlier this morning I was reading a post on a UK blog entitled “15 more sites that forbid you from linking to them“. After having a chuckle at the list and the stupidity of trying stop people linking to your website I got thinking “Surely Australian websites aren’t this silly are they?”. Oh how wrong I was.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of law. I do however inhabit the real world and from my personal perspective these terms & conditions are utterly inane.

Don’t Link Here

I kept the idea basic. Find Australian websites that had Terms & Conditions that either banned or inanely denied you linking to their website. I did not have to go far. And yes I am breaking their terms & conditions by linking their terms & conditions pages here. The irony does not escape me.

Vodafone AU

This is one of my favorites. It’s the age of the social web, Vodafone Australia is active on twitter and nearly every single page on their website has a “Share” button with which to spread the link to your friends on a myriad of social networks. Surely these guys have a sane linking policy? Not according to their Web Site and Online Services Terms of Use page (emphasis mine):

You must not however reproduce, frame, transmit (including broadcast), adapt, link to or otherwise use any of the Content, including audio and video excerpts, except as expressly permitted by statute or with Vodafone’s prior written consent.

Got that kids? Before you hit that share button make sure you get the written consent from Vodafone. Or else.

Update: 16th November 2011 – Rechecking the website Vodafone has changed the wording to allow linking (assuming they like what they see). It now reads;

“You may link to this site from other websites provided that you must permanently remove any such link if requested to do so by Vodafone in its absolute discretion. You must not otherwise reproduce, publish, perform in public, communicate to the public or make an adaptation of the Content, including audio and video excerpts, except as expressly permitted by statute or with Vodafone’s prior written consent.”

Fairfax Digital

Again I’m not kidding here. These guys control some of the biggest news websites in Australia including The Brisbane Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Not a day goes by when I don’t see someone post a link to one of their sites on Twitter, Facebook a blog etc. Yet deep in the bowels of their Fairfax General Conditions of Use page we find this little excerpt:

You must not link to the Fairfax Network from any other website (or otherwise authorise any other person to link from a third party website to the Fairfax Network) without our prior written consent.

By now no small part of Fairfax Digital’s traffic must come from links being spread via social media. These guys must be giving out a lot of letters of consent or a lot of web users are technically in the wrong.

Harvey Norman

Yes the tech giant of Australia. Surely they know enough about the internet to figure out these sort of terms & conditions are just really, really dumb? Apparently not. Behold this excerpt from the Harvey Norman Terms and Conditions page:

We do not permit any linkages to this website without written permission.

Get the feeling you’re going to need a filing cabinet full of written permission slips to use the internet now?

Update: 19th Aug 2011 – Rechecking the terms & conditions page today it seems Harvey Norman has quietly removed this entry. Common sense prevailed?

Update: 7th December 2011 – Harvey Norman has moved their Terms & Conditions page and has unfortunately decided to go down the slightly inane path again. It now reads:

“(2) The Publisher reserves the right to prevent third parties from linking to this website.”

Virgin Australia and V Australia

This one honestly came as a big shock to me. I love these guys. I use their services all the time, they are very active & friendly on twitter and are possibly one of the most customer friendly companies I know. However if you want to link them to your friends you’re apparently out of luck according to the Terms of Use/Site Disclaimer page:

You must obtain our written permission to make any hyperlinks with this website.

Bugger. Seems like a lot of effort to go to simply to show my friends and family the awesome people who I choose to fly with.

Update: On the 4th of May 2011 Virgin Blue became Virgin Australia (still different to V Australia). Updated the names and link above. Name might have changed, silly terms & conditions remain the same.

JetStar

Fortunately for Virgin their competition isn’t much better at this game either. Their Terms of use page even has a sub heading about linking to them but unfortunately the meat of the statement is:

You must not link to this site without obtaining the prior written approval of Jetstar Airways or Jetstar Asia Airways

Oh well. No traffic for you as well then I guess!

Everyone Does It!

Well no they don’t. The logic behind these terms & conditions seems to be to prevent sites these companies don’t like from linking to them and as such have gone for the lazy option of a catch-all “written consent” requirement. Other companies have a far more rational approach to things. Let’s have a look shall we?

Optus

As much as I might rubbish Optus for their terrible service in my area they do seem to have this issue figured out straight. Here’s what their Copyright Notice page has to say on the subject of linking:

You are welcome to link to this web site

Well that seems to sum it up pretty nicely don’t you think?

Prime Minister of Australia’s website

I honestly thought I was going to find all sorts of draconian linking rules on government websites. I was utterly wrong. They had the most readable and sensible conditions I had ever seen. Let’s have a look at the Prime Minister of Australia’s About this site which has an entire section on “Guidelines for linking to this website”. I won’t reproduce it in full here (several paragraphs worth) but it is worth the read if for nothing else this statement:

Deep linking is permitted, however this can create maintenance overheads as the page to which you link may become unavailable or move

Again simple facts. Yes you can link, just be aware that your links may break in the future if they move things around. Pretty straight forward statement is it not?

Feedback

I’d love to hear about what other inane website terms & agreements you’ve stumbled across. This “anti-linking” ones particularly caught my eye since they effectively entirely defeat the purpose of having a website especially in today’s age of social media link sharing.

Do you think we can somehow convince the companies listed above they need to hire a law firm maybe just vaguely in touch with today’s internet? That just maybe catch-all terms & conditions make you look like a company that thinks faxes are still the pinnacle of communication?

Oh and yes. Please feel free to link this article anywhere you like.

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10 thoughts on “No Link For You! – Inane Website Terms & Conditions

  1. I’m stumped as to why anyone wouldn’t want you to link to their page. Does their archaic board somehow think that’s plagiarism? The only scenario would be if – for some reason – a company or person you don’t approve of wants to link to you. For example…Vodaphone may not want incoming links from Playboy. Fair enough…they don’t want to be associated with a business of questionable intent. (PS – I don’t know what the thoughts are in AU…but in the US, there are a large number of people that think Porn is on par with Murder). But in such a situation, couldn’t you simply handle with a disclaimer along the lines of “We do not necessarily endorse sites, businesses, persons or otherwise that link to our content.” Simple.

    But alas….Occam’s Razor is inverted in the business world.

    • Some of the websites I looked did have a more regulated policy which denied linking from “graphic or unsavory” websites. A few others had policies that didn’t outright deny it but did say that you should ask them before linking.

      Olympus Australia for example has some rules and also requires you ask:

      http://www.olympus.com.au/content/view/29/65/

      How exactly the intend to ever be able to enforce these terms & conditions is beyond me. The concept is simply just not feasible.

      • I see similar behaviors in my own firm. Hell…I have trouble convincing our business development staff to spend time and money improving our web page (get professional photos, etc). The issue is that the higher ups – the managing partners and the like – tend to be guys who have been around the industry for a while. In many cases, this means they are older folk set in their ways. The “well this is how we’ve always done it” mentality somewhat hinders a company’s growth…especially in this day and age where people want to work with companies at the cutting edge – even if the only reason to work with said company is because they can brag about their associate being at the cutting edge.

        Eventually…the guys in charge will be of the generation that is used to changing so (Very) often that they will be more well suited towards staying up with the trends.

  2. I’m stumped as to why anyone wouldn’t want you to link to their page. Does their archaic board somehow think that’s plagiarism? The only scenario would be if – for some reason – a company or person you don’t approve of wants to link to you. For example…Vodaphone may not want incoming links from Playboy. Fair enough…they don’t want to be associated with a business of questionable intent. (PS – I don’t know what the thoughts are in AU…but in the US, there are a large number of people that think Porn is on par with Murder). But in such a situation, couldn’t you simply handle with a disclaimer along the lines of “We do not necessarily endorse sites, businesses, persons or otherwise that link to our content.” Simple.

    But alas….Occam’s Razor is inverted in the business world.

    • Some of the websites I looked did have a more regulated policy which denied linking from “graphic or unsavory” websites. A few others had policies that didn’t outright deny it but did say that you should ask them before linking.

      Olympus Australia for example has some rules and also requires you ask:

      http://www.olympus.com.au/content/view/29/65/

      How exactly the intend to ever be able to enforce these terms & conditions is beyond me. The concept is simply just not feasible.

      • I see similar behaviors in my own firm. Hell…I have trouble convincing our business development staff to spend time and money improving our web page (get professional photos, etc). The issue is that the higher ups – the managing partners and the like – tend to be guys who have been around the industry for a while. In many cases, this means they are older folk set in their ways. The “well this is how we’ve always done it” mentality somewhat hinders a company’s growth…especially in this day and age where people want to work with companies at the cutting edge – even if the only reason to work with said company is because they can brag about their associate being at the cutting edge.

        Eventually…the guys in charge will be of the generation that is used to changing so (Very) often that they will be more well suited towards staying up with the trends.

  3. The ‘do not link’ terms date back to pre-search engine days when site to site navigation was through bookmarks/favourites, webrings, or a hyperlink page (I recall coding my own homepage with all the commonly used links). Now we have google, and browsers that autocomplete a web address / history.

    Because lawyers were (and still are) conservative, they suggested you require written permission to link, just in case someone ran a defamatory or unsavoury link page.

    Then people cut and paste, or continue to use old web terms or old precedents. Until you investigated this, chances are they (and maybe even their lawyers) didn’t even read the terms.

  4. The ‘do not link’ terms date back to pre-search engine days when site to site navigation was through bookmarks/favourites, webrings, or a hyperlink page (I recall coding my own homepage with all the commonly used links). Now we have google, and browsers that autocomplete a web address / history.

    Because lawyers were (and still are) conservative, they suggested you require written permission to link, just in case someone ran a defamatory or unsavoury link page.

    Then people cut and paste, or continue to use old web terms or old precedents. Until you investigated this, chances are they (and maybe even their lawyers) didn’t even read the terms.

  5. Nope says:

    Interesting you should say this.

    But wouldn’t the label “share” and instructions to post to facebook be “prior written consent”? Whilst it may now be on the majority of pages perhaps it’s not on a minority.

  6. Nope says:

    Interesting you should say this.

    But wouldn’t the label “share” and instructions to post to facebook be “prior written consent”? Whilst it may now be on the majority of pages perhaps it’s not on a minority.

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