Deep Linking, Shallow Thinking

Published 12 years, 11 months ago

So a few weeks ago you might have noticed a bit of brouhaha that surrounded the new Terms and Conditions for Orbitz.com, set to go into effect today.  For anyone who missed or forgot about it, a refresher:  in Section 6, you find this wonderful bit of total cluelessness:

We reserve the right to require you to remove links to the Site, in our sole discretion.

Linking to any page of the Site other than to the homepage is strictly prohibited in the absence of a separate linking agreement with Orbitz.

So under their Terms and Conditions, it would be forbidden for me to point to a press release that announces Orbitz suing some former employees; or to their mangled-markup list of press releases; or, for that matter, to a medium-resolution JPEG of the Orbitz logo (which is rather ominously referred to in the Terms and Conditions as a “Mark of Orbitz”, which sounds like something that might have been mentioned in the first draft of the Book of Revelation).

It should be noted, however, that Section 4 of the old Terms and Conditions contains this amazing little gem:

You agree not to create a link from any Web site, including any site controlled by you, to our site.

Because nothing could be worse than increasing traffic to your site.

So yes, this post is in complete violation of the both the old and new Terms and Conditions for Orbitz.com.  And if I had ever been, or ever planned to be, a customer of Orbitz—thus agreeing to said Terms and Conditions—that might actually bother me for a second or two.  But, as they say:

If you do not accept all of these terms, then please do not use these websites.

Boys, you got yourselves a deal.

  • Published
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  • 15 responses so far

  1. I thought no-one used such linking policies any more!

  2. About a month ago I heard that Sainsbury’s require you to apply in order to get a permission to link.

    http://sainsburys.co.uk/link_your_page/

    The only worry I can imagine them having is a link bound to unflattering title, which then associates them with nasty words in search engines. Try for example, ‘f*ckwit’ in Google and the first result will be John Prescott, the British Deputy Prime Minister.

  3. Maybe they’ve done it to counteract some angry reactions from dissatisfied customers?

  4. YOu know, Boing Boing has their own special linking policy as well.

  5. Hey Eric,

    Can they actually do that? How can one company prevent another’s web site from linking to a public web page?

    I’m sure some idiot attorney would take on the case for Orbitz, but legally would they even have a leg to stand on?

    Isn’t that the open nature of the web? Or am I missing the point completely?

    Thanks for this good info. I will let my readers (almost all in the travel industry) know to avoid Orbitz.com like the plague.

    Sincerely,

    Christopher Lee
    http://www.jumpseatnews.com
    http://www.rikter.com

  6. I have always preferred the method of linking to a site’s home page. That way I can include a huge list of instructions on how to find a document. Go here, then click on X item in the upper left (with a blue background) and then click on Y in the upper left and look for the words “What are URI’s for anyway?”. What’s wrong with that?

  7. Hi!

    I was wondering about what will happen when they contact you about these links you have here and want them removed, and you refuse. What can they do about that?!

    I mean, is there some presedence in in cases like this? (I wouldn’t think so, I have never heard of something like this), but what do I know :)

    Oh, btw, thank you for teaching me CSS.

  8. Perhaps the thinking behind policy is to provide some sort of protection(?) against those who would creat a travel web site which say, scrapes Orbitz and other sites and puts together a comparison chart. That way, they could insist the site removes the links and comparisons.
    Eg kayak.com does this sort of thing, but they have an agreement with Orbitz, I think, and with many other sites.

    Or maybe they are clueless. I’m not sure.

  9. This reminds me of the 1985 U.S. Senate hearings on record labeling, in particular when Frank Zappa called the PMRC demands “the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation.” Incredible.

    I’ll just have to Orbitz and golink elsewhere.

  10. I just Googled “orbitz travel” and got back 2 links to the website. The first was the home page, the second was not. Naughty Google! :P

  11. This, as with everything on the internet, is wide open to abuse. How are they going to tell you are linking to them, by searching every site on the face of the planet for links to their site? Or, the more logical answer, by checking their server logs and checking the referrer? The thing is that the referrer is just a part of the HTTP header sent to the web server when you request a page and as such can be faked. I could connect to their server saying that http://www.microsoft.com/obitz_sucks.html was linking to them, then write a script to repeatedly hit their server using this as the referrer and randomly generate the IP & browser so it looks like they’re been flooded with different visits from that page. Of course that would be naughty and I’m a good boy so I won’t do that. Fun thoght though ;-)

  12. This all seems like Microsoft vs Ticketmaster deja vu. If Orbitz wants to forbid deep linking, they can programmatically redirect from references outside their domain. It appears to me that they are softening their linking policies. I still believe, however, that the onus is on the linkee not the linker.

  13. I suspect this sort of thing is brewed up by the lawyers, to cover their clients in case anyone ever tries to sue them for something. Once people think they might need something, and it costs nothing to put it in, it’ll go in. That’s why terms and conditions are inevitably huge documents.

    So don’t worry folks, this will never actually affect any of us, except for the amusement we’re gleaning over the gap between the internet, and many people’s understanding of it.

    The 2004 Olympics website had a similar thing going on.

  14. Mr. Meyer,

    Your request to link to our site and use the Mark of Orbitz is approved.

    Thank you for using Orbitz,
    The Orbitz Legal Department

    [This comment might have been more believable if it hadn’t come from a Comcast IP address. -E.]

  15. At least they allow you to link to the main page. I’m reminded of a similar condition posted by Hutchison Whampoa on it’s webpage. I just checked, and hey, the ridiculous condition is still there! It reads:

    No person, whether an individual or a body corporate, shall create or establish a hyperlink to the HWL Corporate Website by hypertext reference or imaging without the written permission of Hutchison.

    Please note that I can’t give any links, lest Eric gets into legal tussle with them. Just do a Google search on the name, go there, and click on the “Copyright 2003 bla bla bla” at the footer to see for yourselves ;-)

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