Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Blogspace vs. NPR 521

jonkl writes "National Public Radio's linking policy at has caused a fuss within the blog community that's hot and getting hotter. The policy's simply stated in two sentences: 'Linking to or framing of any material on this site without the prior written consent of NPR is prohibited. If you would like to link to NPR from your Web site, please fill out the link permission request form.' This is buried, of course, in a page linked to the site's footer, but somebody noticed and mentioned it to Howard Rheingold, who passed it on to Cory Doctorow of Cory wrote scathing commentary, calling the policy 'brutally stupid,' even 'fatally stupid.' The outrage is spreading; this has to be a rough day for the NPR ombudsman who's deluged with email by now... ~24 hours after Cory's report." Reminds of the KPMG policy.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Blogspace vs. NPR

Comments Filter:
  • Web Indexing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by filth grinder ( 577043 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:40PM (#3730904)
    So, when does NPR start suing Google, Alltheweb, and others for indexing, and even worse, CACHE-ING their site.

    Damn Pirates!
    • So, when does NPR start suing Google, Alltheweb, and others for indexing, and even worse, CACHE-ING their site.

      As soon as some idiot repeals the DMCA, which grants these sites permission to do these things.

  • linking? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Principito ( 312430 ) <mwp&sdf,lonestar,org> on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:40PM (#3730907) Homepage
    Did we (slashdot) ask permission to link []
  • Why oh why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jhaberman ( 246905 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:41PM (#3730915)
    I just can't wrap my brain around something like this. What is the point of being on the web if you don't want people to visit your site? Provided, you actually want people to visit your site, don't you want to get your information out to as many as possible? (bandwidth issues not withstanding) Ergo, wouldn't you want every possible site that might be interested to link to your content?

    Tough to think there is something you could refer to as "old fashioned" in regards to the web, but I can't find another way to describe it...

    • Re:Why oh why? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 )
      What is the point of being on the web if you don't want people to visit your site?
      Exactly my words. ;-) And what about those wonderful things called ``search engines'' that let you type in a query and take you straight to the page that matches? Must they be illegalized? Back to the old days of chaos where everything is there but nobody can find it. It's really funny to see how many people think that shooting yourself in the foot is great policy. Or it would be if it weren't so sad.
    • I always ask myself that very same question whenever I see these linking articles come up. Maybe they don't understand that linking isn't the same as copying? Or maybe they want people to sift though a dozen pages of banner ads and popups to get to the content?

      Anyway, they should realize that if they don't want people to access their content, they shouldn't be putting it on the fscking World Wide Web.
    • What a shame... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bcwengerter ( 416056 )
      ...if it weren't for someone (I'm assuming) breaking the linking policy, I wouldn't have been able to find out about their wonderful fleece pullover []. Think of all the money NPR could be losing! Seriously, though...if valid, how far could this extend? If I need to ask their permission to link to them, would I also need to ask their permission to tell other people about the site?
    • by hagardtroll ( 562208 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:00PM (#3731101) Journal
      Why don't this just do away with their domain name and have everyone visit them with via their IP address instead. No use making it easy for anyone.
    • by melquiades ( 314628 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:06PM (#3731151) Homepage
      I used to work for a regional public radio network's web shop, and we had some contact with NPR. They are a fairly slow-moving, bureaucratic organization -- partly because they are controversial and always under attack, and partly because their board of directors is made up of their several hundred member stations. For both these reasons, they tend to be a bit overprotective.

      However, they're not completely backwards or out of touch with the web -- not by a long shot. They were online before most companies realized it was important, and were one of the first major media outlets to start giving all their content away -- free! -- online.

      In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the stupid policy in question was penned by some lawyer in the early days of the web, when the answers to these questions were a lot less clear.

      Hopefully this exposure will wake them up, and get their policy re-grounded in reality.
      • Isn't it all public domain anyway? I paid for it, I damn well better be able to use it. Millitary supplies aside, if I paid for it, it's mine.
        • You paid for a rather small portion of it: most NPR funding is no longer from tax dollars. Whether that small portion gives you complete control over all their content is highly debateable. But the fact is, under this policy: their content IS still fully accessible, just not in the direct way that you happen to preffer.
    • By the same token, if someone doesn't want to be linked to, then by all means, don't link to them. Link to their competitor. If they have no competitor, then link to something that they probably disagree with, as in the example below.

      With all due respect to NPR [], I think their policy is shortsighted and arrogant. However, I will not link to NPR [], but to their competition [] instead.
    • I don't excuse the current policy at NPR's web site, but I can see one
      possible reason for the policy. Linking directly to information on their
      site (or any site for that matter) can put that information in a position
      to be quoted out of context.

      Linking can often be used to present evidence for one side of a debate or
      discussion. If used badly, this habit can misrepresent facts as given,
      where an overall story might bring a reader to a different conclusion.
      • Re:Context... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by SN74S181 ( 581549 )
        Actually, linking to NPR's website is a good way to keep their content from being quoted out of context. Quoting it out of context is easier if there's no link to the attributed source.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:43PM (#3730930)
    I agree that framing is different from linking: it loads the page into your browser, as the poster observed, which linking doesn't; and it provides the material in a different form and context. I've seen frames which made it look as if the inner frame material belonged to the outer-frame owner. That last, I think, goes beyond the permissible. (The more polite people using framing to box off-site material will provide a link reading "If you wish to see this material without frames, click here.")

    But though framing is different from linking, should it be treated different legally? I think not: Cory points out how it can be useful.

    And it absolutely should be legal to provide deep linking. That too provides material out of context, to be true, but it's the author of the material who chose to present it that way. The best defense against that is to provide a home page link on every page.

    Another interesting point : what about linking increasing the bandwidth costs of the person linked to? I've noticed this happening a lot. 1) Popular blog gives a link to some obscure but interesting personal site. 2) Site gets a lot of hits. 3) Site owner's ISP takes the site down for exceeding its bandwidth quota for the month.

    Whose fault is this, and what should be done about it? I think I'd favor a technical solution that would deliberately clog requests if they exceeded the quota, but wouldn't actually take the site down. IOW, pretty much what happens when the web is being slow anyway, only with a clear error message saying that was the reason: you could try again later when traffic was slower.

    • Thank you, Anonymous Coward, for posting an exact copy of Meriadoc's comment Cory's discussion board []. Maybe you really are Meriadoc??
    • Say what you want, but a URL is a URL.

      The legal concept of 'Deep Linking' is flawed, since it assumes you are using some kind of 'special URL'.

      URL's are pointers. Either you point to the front door or you point to another area, they're still all pointers.

      For example,
      You can get to the Starbucks thru the Parking Lot, the Mall or the service entrance. If the service door is open and there's a sign saying Starbucks, people will walk in it. If the door is locked, then people will use the Mall or Lot. If there is a sign saying, 'use the door in the Mall', people will be REDIRECTED to where Starbucks wants them to go.
  • by T.Monk ( 585143 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:43PM (#3730931)
    i thought the spirit of NPR was freedom of communication? or was i misled?
  • by bsdfish ( 518693 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:44PM (#3730940)
    So we'll /. NPR and thus demonstrate to them that linking really *is* harmless, right?
  • Links on NPR (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Target Drone ( 546651 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:44PM (#3730942)
    From the NPR linking policy: It is important to note that contains links to other sites

    What do you wanna bet that NPR doesn't bother checking another sites linking policy before they link to it.

    • Re:Links on NPR (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      From the NPR linking policy: It is important to note that contains links to other sites

      What do you wanna bet that NPR doesn't bother checking another sites linking policy before they link to it

      They linked to my site, and it resulted in 16 gigs of overage for the month at $12/gig. I didn't have that, and so my site got shut down for two and a half months. By then, I lost most of my regular visitors and it took a year to get about as many back.

      Had they asked before linking, I would have said no. It was supposed to be a small, intelligent discussion forum for those of us who choose not to work high-wage jobs.

  • Deep Linking law? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mr Guy ( 547690 )
    How many times does this need to come up before there is a conclusive precendent set? It seems there needs to be a nice hard fast ruling on deep links.

    Google on linking: []
    Searched the web for linking suit settle.
    Results 1 - 10 of about 12,500. Search took 0.15 seconds

    It seems to me companies keep settling just to prevent the law from ever being decided on by a judge. Deep linking should not be a website's ATM.
  • Stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MagPulse ( 316 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:46PM (#3730953)
    It's trivial to block linking by looking at the referrer field and only allowing access if it's empty or from

    Why would NPR rather sue people than just prevent it at the source?
    • It's trivial to block linking by looking at the referrer field and only allowing access if it's empty or from

      But doesn't want to block linking. They just want to be able to opt-in first.

  • by zaren ( 204877 )
    But I really don't get this whole "blog" thing. When did it become so popular, and why? Yeah yeah, there's the whole "freedom" and "empowerment" lines, but I still don't get the attraction of putting what seems to me to be a diary online for the world to see. Can anyone else provide me with a clue about this phenomenon?

    I guess the web pages I put up when my wife was pregnant with our first child was a sort of blog - I should get around to re-posting that somwehere, actually... but as a geek with a wife, two kids, and a mortgage, I don't seem to have the lifestyle that would make good blog material anymore.

    Let "them" know you're not a terrorist []
  • by phong3d ( 61297 ) <> on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:46PM (#3730962) Homepage
    I hope you filled this [] out before deep linking to their site.

    Wait... I just deep linked to a link prohibiting deep links! Ack! My brain!

  • Kinda Odd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by godoto ( 585752 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:46PM (#3730963)
    With all that legal linking nonsense, it's funny that they don't even have a robots.txt file on their site.
  • I keep saying you oughta be licensed to use the internet, and you should have to pass a basic intelligence test to qualify.
  • by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:47PM (#3730970) Journal
    This is clearly a case of freedom of speech. Let's see NPR try to bring charges against someone for linking to their site. It'll be laughed out of court. It's a basic right for someone to be able to publish publically available information, such as a universal resource locator.

    Just ask 2600.

    • "It's a basic right for someone to be able to publish publically available information, such as a universal resource locator."

      That's not entirely true. There have actually been court cases where they have ruled that linking to a URL can be infringing. Some of these include Starbucks, Religious Technology Center v. Netcom On-Line Communication Services, and US Intellectual Reserve Inc vs. Utah Lighthouse Ministry Inc. Here's a good article about the topic [].

    • This is clearly a case of freedom of speech.

      Yep, NPR can put anything they want in their policies. Enforcing it, on the other hand...

  • Work Around (Score:3, Insightful)

    by UPSBrian ( 470009 ) <> on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @02:48PM (#3730984)
    OK, they don't want me to link them. So istead I will set up a dynamic mirror on my server and link to that.

    I'm not sure which is worse, a goofy policy like that, or that 'I' pay for NPR as a Tax-Paying citizen of the U, S, of A and am not free to utilize the information that 'I' paid for in way 'I' want to.
    • I'm not sure which is worse, a goofy policy like that, or that 'I' pay for NPR as a Tax-Paying citizen of the U, S, of A and am not free to utilize the information that 'I' paid for in way 'I' want to.

      Well, for one thing, they're not taxpayer-funded, aside from a couple of percent from competitive grants. For another thing, even if they were taxpayer-funded, this would hardly a unique example of access limitations to taxpayer-funded information.

      (I also think it's a really dumb thing for them to do, but your objection is a bit simplistic.)

    • by Niscenus ( 267969 )

      Assuming you are a tax paying citizen, you should be informed that even if you pay $1000 (including withheld on the W2), less than half of a penny goes into supporting both public radio and television, and even including state taxes, you still haven't paid a full cent. The funneling of tax goes to stations in need of self-support on a case by case basis, everything else, from your favourite programmes to your favourite hosts are funded by people that pledge a donation during drives. You're probably not even paying enough for the cost of electricity to parse through the database and send a copy of the article to you.

      Additionally, there is a permit you may request for mirroring under most circumstance if you ever actually intend to go through with it (more so for those that actually would like to mirror, as I doubt you could).

  • <sarcasm>
    With the power of /., I will link []
    anything [] I want [] from NPR's []

  • These are the same people who lobbied congress with Clear Channel when the FCC was going to open up short range radio channels for public use. (Schools, community centers, public groups would be able to transmit low power FM frequencies, so your town city or whatever could put up it's own public radio station.)
    NPR didn't speak up when the FCC was holding hearings asking for comments and conducting studies, they waited until after the FCC had made up it's mind to grant the frequencies, and then cried wolf, saying that they'd interfer with NPR's. The FCC said too little too late, and pointed to studies that were conducted showing contrary to NPR's unbased claim. So NPR lobbied congress and got them to stop the FCC.

    NPR has always been a control freak. There's nothing new about that.
  • Get's me a hell of a lot of page views don't it? [] [] [] []
  • If they lose money by 'deep linking', then they should just filter by HTTP Referer: and redirect people to the front page, or maybe an interstitial advertisement or something.

    Legal policies and lawsuits are exactly the wrong approach to take. The whole point of web advertising is that you want as many people as possible to see the ads. If you forbid people to link to your site, even the front page (as NPR's policy seems to do), then you lose traffic and revenue. Not to mention the negative publicity that you'll get from web community sites (like /. or Fark)...
  • Their "linking policy" will have absolutely no affect.

    1. It's a matter of free speech.
    2. Linking has been shown to be legal [] in the courts (the article linked to includes more issues than just linking - you want the 7th paragraph.)
    3. Last but not least, it's completely anti-net, and braindead.
  • Revenge.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by sporty ( 27564 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:01PM (#3731112) Homepage
    The perfect revenge is to put up a website explaining your policies about requiring permission to sending you cookies to your browser.

    Secondly, send a cease-and-decist letter to to stop setting cookies while you browse their site.

    Maybe then they'll learn, that if you put information free to the public, without authentication, what the hell are they to expect?
  • by aengblom ( 123492 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:06PM (#3731152) Homepage
    STOP! THINK! Why would NPR do this?

    The reason is that NPR hosts high-bandwidth audio material and the website archives many of the shows. NPR doesn't care if you link to a text article, but if I create

    and then offer DIRECT links to the .ra files than NPR's got a problem. I can make money off of NPR's work and cost them a fortune.

    You may agree or disagree with the policy, but at least understand that NPR has some pretty legetimate fears. Personally, though, I don't see this as a legitamate solution, but it's understandable.
    • Well, and if they had half a clue, they can set up their web server so that audio files can only be accessed when accessed from their site.

      I also don't see the problem. NPR is a public radio station. They aren't supported by advertising but by member contributions. If your has a nicer layout and causes more people to listen to their audio, all the better. If you make a dollar in the process (I doubt it), you will hopefully have the good sense of donating some money to them. Also, you should have the good sense of not using their trademark ("NPR") in your web address because that they can legally control.

    • If this is the case then they can solve this problem is one of two ways: either by making use of cookies, that has to be set via some main page, or making sure the referrer is actually the site itself. You can extend the set up so that when traffic originating from outside the site tries to make direct access to the resource, it would get sent to some main page or the html index page above the document in the directory hierarchy.
    • by thing12 ( 45050 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @04:14PM (#3731699) Homepage
      Yes - exactly. If anyone actually took the time to look at the Link Permission Request page they might see that what they are really referring to when they say links is links to the audio content. They're example text: (e.g., "Listen to NPR's David Kestenbaum's report on the Space Shuttle, originally broadcast on NPR's All Things Considered® April 4, 2002").

      They did go about this all wrong by using very broad wording. I can't imagine that they don't want people linking to their html pages freely (e.g. It seems like everybody here is flying off the handle over what really is nothing. The linking policy has an intent, and I'm certain that the wording of it will be changed - within a week at most - to match that intent.

  • I will call in as usual, but this time I will refused to give any money until they change this policy.

    While we're on the subject, ever notice how many "commercials" there are on "commercial-free" NPR? I hope that the executive recruiters from the Corn Fairy (is that like the Tooth Fairy?) or whoever they are die long slow deaths.

  • I have always felt that framing someone else's website inside yours is, in fact, something a bit vicious.

    • Framing someone elses website. In my opinion is a cheap way out to make your site seem like it has more content and also it is really anoying because you dont know where you are on the web. The only time I would recomend framing someone else website (is eather with there permission) or for your own personal webpage that you use to access your favorate site.
  • It isn't public property, it's the state's property. If it were "public property" any American would have a legal right to link to the content.
  • Google lists 20600 pages [] that link to Imagine having to approve all those requests? Argh!
  • N Public R (Score:2, Insightful)

    by binarybum ( 468664 )
    This seems like a strange approach for an organization to take that is largely nerd supported. Many Private businesses aren't nearly as stingey and foolish. Why would a "Public" station that depends on listner support attempt to build a barrier between itself and its supporters?

    Why is censorship becoming the answer more and more rather than creativity? If they're worried about people bypassing adds and the like by direct linking to their media files, why not build ads into those files or just mention in those files that the content you are receiving is from a listner supported organization that needs your help if (and only if) you

    • appreciate
    the services they provide.

    Spitefull fooey []

    • Why would a "Public" station that depends on listner support attempt to build a barrier between itself and its supporters?

      #include <MHO.h>

      I think the 'P' in NPR might now mean "public" as in "public toilet" and "public housing". For something that's "public", it sure has it's own agenda..
  • watchingyou? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sys49152 ( 100346 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:22PM (#3731287)
    For no good reason I viewed the source of the permission form. Ironically, the form's action tag is:

    Not only that, but the high-tech folks at NPR use this form to generate an email. The recipients are listed in a hidden field on the form. So if you want to give the ombudsman a break, you can send your thoughts directly to the people who evaluate the link requests:,,,
  • by TheFlu ( 213162 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:24PM (#3731300) Homepage
    I have no problems with linking to my site from anywhere, but when other sites frame my site and try to present my information as their own, I don't particularly enjoy that. Here's how you can prevent "framing":

    <script language="JavaScript">
    if (self.location.href != top.location.href) {
    top.location.href = self.location.href;
    // -->
    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:32PM (#3731365) Homepage Journal
      Side effect: anti-framing scripts will sometimes crash browsers (even with javascript disabled!) on YOUR site, preventing them from reading YOUR content entirely.

      Better might be to plainly label each of your pages, so even if they wind up framed elsewhere, it's obvious whose material it is.

      • Side effect: anti-framing scripts will sometimes crash browsers (even with javascript disabled!) on YOUR site, preventing them from reading YOUR content entirely.

        Proof of this claim, please? Maybe I haven't tested enough user agents, but simple, direct "frame-breaker" scripts have never crashed anything on my tests. I'm mildly calling bullsh!t until I see a little evidence forthcoming on this matter. Your claim may be true (please prove me wrong), but it's very, very fuzzy.
        - skeptical


    Instead of flooding the ombudsman's mailbox with outraged email.
    Why doesn't the word get spread to simply fill out the form, and
    leave your negative comments in there?
  • by rMortyH ( 40227 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:27PM (#3731327)
    It makes sense for an organization to dislike deep linking because

    A. It can make their content appear to be someone else's and

    B. They have no control over broken links when they change their content and this makes their site look broken and stupid.

    C. Framing someone else's site is bullshit, and people who don't like it can do what it takes to stop it.

    However, is it really all that hard to redirect foreign deep links to the main page? Is it? Or to send the not founds there so they don't just send most people to microsoft? Come on kids, read your docs! Learn your trade!

    If you still want the search engines to deep link, it's a little more work, but it can't possibly be more of a hassel than a lawsuit you probably won't win.

    As for the main page, I think it's as simple as asking for 'the right not to be refered to', which it's been shown repeatedly that you just don't have.

    If only people would quit wasting time and just move on to something beneficial, like harnessing the power of stupidity, the earth would be a better place.

  • by BitHive ( 578094 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:28PM (#3731330) Homepage
    Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2002 12:26:45 -0700
    Subject: Link Permission Request


    It is trivial to tell your webserver to check the referring page of a
    visitor. If the visitor is referred to from an address that is
    *not*, you can deny them access, or redirect them to a page
    explaining why does not allow hyperlinks.

    While this is really lame, it would address your bandwidth cost concerns
    without resorting to such ineffectual assertions that linking is
    "prohibited". That's wishful thinking.

  • If you don't want just anyone linking to your web site, just make the initial page a dead end that requires a password protected account to gain access to the deeper pages. And make those all pages dynamic to that deep linking would be a waste of time. Either that or get your heads screwed straight and learn how the Web is supposed to work.

    And finally, for NPR: IANAL but I suspect that you'd lose if you wanted to pursue enforcing your linking policy via the courts. At best you could just jeopardize your public funding. If I'm not mistaken, the ``P'' stands for Public, right? Not Private (as in club).

    These organizations crack me up.

  • by infohord ( 311979 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:35PM (#3731373)
    I work for a small local government doing web developement. From accross the state we get together once a quarter to share ideas. One time we had a bunch of lawyers come and give a presentation. I got alot of information out of it and we actually discussed this topic. The lawyers say that linking is a problem and point to some of the existing deep linking precedints (M$ vs TicketMa$ter). They recomended putting such a policy on our websites. We argued that this is against the concept of the web but they argued back (don't remember all of the argument).

    I believe that if you look at a lot of sites, especially large comercial sites they will include this policy.
  • Make More Sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Luminous ( 192747 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:36PM (#3731376) Journal
    Wouldn't it make more sense for NPR to write a policy that OK's all links but allows them to reserve the right to block links from specific referrers?

    This gives them control, allows sites to get the links you know NPR is approving, and only requires technical response to deal with abusers.
  • Waitasec... didn't Slashdot just violate NPR's linking policy by linking to their linking policy?

    The other irony is, if everyone filled out those damn requests to link to NPR's site, NPR would be so deluged with such requests that they would quickly abandon the policy.
  • I wonder what these [] bozos [] think about "Ask Jeeves", which frames every site it links to? My guess is that some [] Internet-illiterate [] management-type [] person [] at NPR [] wrote this policy after experiencing net plagiarism or something. That still does not excuse them []however.
  • In NPR's defence (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gilder ( 267022 ) on Wednesday June 19, 2002 @03:49PM (#3731506) Homepage
    Seems NPR has hit quite a nerve.

    What about The New York Times site? (free reg req'd, blah, blah) Their site is often linked to from /. and requires a reg. Free as it is, what purpose does it serve? To see who is reading what? Or to stop people from linking directly to their stories?

    Next /. poll, how many of those complaining pledge to NPR?

    Ever listen to NPR? Hear any ads? See any on their website? Even our precious /. has ads.
  • everyone, pick an npr link, fill out the form and then send them the form. you might also enclose a note saying that you're deducting a dollar from your yearly npr donations that year for each form you send in.
  • When you consider that they receive as much as 1/3rd of their funding from DIRECT taxpayer subsidy, and even more than that from inderect subsidy (the increased taxes all others bear because of their tax exempt status), to say that I don't have any right to link to any damn part of their website I want to is ludicrous.

    Get out of my back pocket, NPR, and REALLY become a private company, with private property, and get back to me.

Forty two.