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Denmark: “Deep Linking” Under Fire by Newspaper Publishers

Danish newspapersBlogging journalists in Denmark are up in arms over a renewed effort by Danish newspaper publishers to stop websites like Google News from linking to individual articles rather than a newspaper's homepage. They call this “deep linking”, and it is precisely what bloggers usually do. Regardless of what is considered normal practice around the world, the Danish Association of Newspaper Publishers insist they only want homepage links, so they can better control the user experience.

Specifically, the Danish Newspaper Publishers Association are frustrated that Google News in Denmark wants to list and link to articles of Danish newspapers without paying them royalties.

Danish blogger, Peter Svarre writes, “AAAARRRRGH!” upon reading arguments against Google News.

I don’t really know whether I am in a state of shock, despair or outright frustrated rage, but after reading an article in Politiken I just realized that the traditional Danish media or at least the editorial board of [newspaper] Berlingske Tidende seems to have understood nothing and learned nothing of the last five years development on the Internet. What seems to be common sense and ordinary street knowledge for media and advertising people in New York is apparently exotic, dangerous, and threatening lore to the established Danish Media industry.

There was a similar dispute in Belgium in 2006-7, when newspapers there took Google News to court and according to Finfacts threatened to fine them €1 million a day if they kept linking. In Denmark, there are also precedents. In 2002, the Danish Newspaper Publishers Association took a Danish web company, Newsbooster, to court for emailing links to news articles to their customers. Newsbooster was forced to shut down.

Blogger Ricco Førgaard at Fiskeben.dk [Da] said in May:

Det er tydeligt, at disse såkaldte medier ikke har forstået en pind og ikke er kommet ud af 1994 endnu. De har ikke forstået, at det er trafikken på hjemmesiden, som sælger de (irriterende) reklamer, som efter sigende skal være med til at financiere nyhederne.

It's clear these so-called media haven't understood anything and haven't moved beyond 1994 yet. They haven't understood that it's the traffic on their website that will sell those (annoying) commercials, that will supposedly be financing the news.

On Medieblogger, Lars K Jensen quotes [Da] from a recent email discussion on the mailing list of the Danish Online News Association (DONA), where the chief legal adviser from the Danish Union of Journalists, Anne Louise Schelin, responded to a question about the official rules for citation and linking.

Schelin advised, that one should never link to anything but a website's homepage, even in an email to colleagues about a specific article. The only redeeming factor would be whether a link could be considered “loyal,” she said, referring to a Danish court case between two real estate websites from 2006.

Others on the mailing list vehemently disagreed. One called it “nonsense from the fax generation”. Blog editor of Politiken newspaper, Kim Elmose published his response in his personal blog Mediehack, calling the resistance to deep linking counter productive, and pointed to the irony that most Danish journalists use Google News as a tool themselves.

Lars K Jensen asks in Medieblogger:

Tilbage sidder jeg med spørgsmålet: Hvad er et illoyalt link? Hvem definerer, hvornår et link er loyalt eller illoyalt?

Et link er vel et link?

And now I am left with the question. What is an un-loyal link? Who defines when a link is loyal or not?

Isn't a link just a link?

* Photo above of Danish newspapers is by Jacob Bøtter on Flickr.

  • http://www.simoncolumbus.de Simon Columbus

    So if I buy a newspaper, cut out a specific article (like my grandmother always does when my school appears in the regional news) and send it to somebody else via mail that should be a crime?

    I always knew grandparents were destroying the media.

  • http://www.theroadtothehorizon.org Peter Casier

    I am interested in articles. Not in newspapers.

  • http://www.solanasaurus.com/ Solana Larsen

    Simon: Your grandma should mail you the whole newspaper, and not tell you which page the article is on ;-)

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  • http://wizzardsblog.wordpress.com Richard

    Do the Danish newspapers realise that these individual links are still driving traffic to their sites irrespective of what link readers follow?

    If I’m directed to an individual link on a site, if I find the site has other stuff that grabs my interest I’m likely to stick around for a while whilst I’m there or bookmark the site to return at a later date.

    You’ve still got me as a visitor to your site whether it be to the homepage or the article itself.

  • http://www.jasonfry.net Jason Fry

    I wrote about this issue for the Wall Street Journal Online back in 2007: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB117821484698091141.html. (I hope Anne Louise Schelin will forgive me for the sin of not dumping folks on the Journal’s home page and expecting them to find a 18-month-old article.)

    The newspapers’ position was insane and self-destructive then; it’s insane and self-destructive now.

  • http://bloggasm.com Simon Owens

    This is why I have a hard time feeling sorry for newspapers, even though I used to write for them.

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