Do Deep Linking Rules Change If It's An MP3, Not An HTML File?

from the and,-if-so,-why? dept

There’s been some talk today on various blogs after the producers of the public radio show This American Life sent an email to someone who set up an RSS feed linking to their MP3s, asking him politely to take it down (which he did). He makes it clear that this wasn’t a legal “nastygram,” but it also seems clear that the next step most likely would have been such a nastygram from the lawyers. A few details are important to understand what happened here. The radio show previously allowed a streaming RealAudio version of the show, but if you wanted to download a copy that you could take with you, it required you to pay money (and get a DRM-encumbered version). Recently, they changed the streaming RealAudio version to an MP3 version, to allow people with other audio players to listen. In other words, they voluntarily put up an MP3 version on their site. The guy who created the RSS was simply pointing to it. He was linking to perfectly legal content that was placed online by the copyright owners of that content. And they threatened to call in lawyers to stop it. As he notes in his own writeup, he decided to follow their wishes, even though he’s pretty clear they have no case, should they want to pursue it. U.S. courts have found, repeatedly, that if you put something online in a free and open manner, there is absolutely nothing wrong with anyone linking to it — even if it hurts your business model. A separate issue, of course, is whether or not this effort really does hurt their business model — and, again, at the link above a decent case is made for why that’s not true. It’s the same problem too much of the entertainment industry seems to have: pursuit of short-term profits at the expense of long-term viability, undercounting the promotional value of the content and focusing only on the immediate fees it can bring in.

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Comments on “Do Deep Linking Rules Change If It's An MP3, Not An HTML File?”

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Search Engines WEB (user link) says:

What Cause of Legal Action Do They Have

The lawyers are predisposed towards using tactics that will “Pre Filter” those who are Statistically more likely to respond to their clients’ wishes with just one letter implying action…

Sort of like Social Darwinsm –

the easy people demand less resources to comply – you save your Artillery and your valuable time to focus on the more recalcitrant – and escalate the war as your opponent requires

Republican Gun (user link) says:


How pathetic it is seeing liberals show their true self. Sorry about the political soapbox, but don’t others find it funny that a liberal show on a liberal radio station was using DRM to make money. Then when they realized that the stifling DRM content wasn’t moving, they moved to a better MP3 format which worked, hence causing a kneejerk reaction and a C&D letter.

? says:


You put something online for free, get pissed when somebody links to it.

Don’t the intellectuals (which is how they think of themselves) at TAL realize that if they allow people to link to their content that more people will be driven to their content, and be exposed to their content, and as a result, TAL will have a chance to grow its fan base?

When are these smarty pants types going to learn that allowing people to link to your website is just as good, if not better than “word of mouth” advertising that every business owner, and entertainment program cherishes so much?

And these are the people who think that Bush is stupid!

Shohat says:

Mike ,stop shoving legalities everywhere

They freely provide content , counting on that people will also visit a site . It’s all good and fair , and doing so in mp3 format makes it even better .

A guy linked directly , so they get a bandwidth bill , but no income , so they asked nicely to remove .

But NOOOOO ! OMG !??!?!? HE has the right ! He has a case ! It’s legal !!! He will win in court ! Why should he lift a finger to help a fellow man , while he can legally use them ?!?! Let them change their business model !!!

You are such a capitalist ass .

Anonymous Coward says:

Terminate all financial support public radio!

It is a disgrace that your donations to public radio are going toward this? How many times do you have to pay for it? Once involuntarily as a taxpayer, a second time as a donator, and now a third time to line the pockets of the DRM companies? Where are our digital rights as the people writing the checks for this nonsense.

Write your representatives and ask them to terminate all funding for public radio.

17h (user link) says:

Re: Terminate all financial support public radio!

WTF!? are you crazy? maybe, just maybe, you could do something *really* proactive and *contact TAL yourself* and tell them how it should be done then, as you obviously know better than they do.

IMHO, the actions of this one group are no more reflective of the entire public radio community than the actions of (say) SUSE are reflective of all Linux distros. Why throw out the entire nursery (baby included) with the bathwater? Maybe I’m just missing something, but this doesn’t make any sense on SO many levels.

The way I see it, if it upsets you (which there is a certain amount of justification for) that TAL uses DRM, *TELL THEM THAT*. We get upset that “Big Content” pushes DRM on us and treats us like criminals because we feel that we are intelligent enough to make our own decisions, and that they should “give us some credit”, but maybe we should turn it around and give groups like TAL some credit. Maybe, just maybe, there are real people who work there who ACTUALLY CARE about this stuff. Maybe, just maybe, if enough people write/call/email them and complain that we feel that the DRM isn’t doing them any good, and *offer some alternative suggestions*, they will switch. After all, this is NPR, not Sony. Give them *some* credit for all of the hard work they do to provide free non-commercial radio?

DV Henkel-Wallace says:

"Deep linking" is a stupid term

Mike, I’m sorry you’re using “deep linking” — it’s another nonsense word like “microchip” and worse, supports the broken thinking of the people who coined it.

It’s just a link like any other, and is how the web works. The people who think there’s a distinction between a link to some so-called “main” or “entry” or “start” page are the same nitwits who thing your time should be wasted with a “splash page.” Please, don’t offer them legitimacy.

paperrhino says:

Read the article and the TAL web site before react

First of all, TAL sent a polite letter and did not call the lawyers. Saying that that would have been the next step is pure conjecture.

Second of all, the reason why TAL is DRMed is because they don’t own the copyright to most of the content in the show (see the show’s web site:, there are links in the archive that explains this). If you listen to the show you know that it is a series of stories by different people each week. Those people retain the copyright to their story. Some of those copyright owners demand payment for each download which explains why some episodes are only available from Audible. Others only allow streaming of the content, not direct download which explains why it is streaming MP3 instead of a plain old MP3.

Consequently, TAL is stuck in a bad position where they can’t provide a one size fits all access to their shows.

Now as to why they allow their own contract to be written in this way scatter brained way, and the validity of the lawyer threat are entirely separate issues but I think the posting above and many of the comments are taking this well out of hand.

Petréa Mitchell says:

It's a security issue

Reading TAL’s description of how this is all supposed to work, it seems to me that the problem is best seen as a security hole. If TAL doesn’t want people downloading files which are available through its Web site, those files should not be available for download through its Web site. Shooting the messenger won’t fix the actual problem of people downloading those files.

OTOH, having read TAL’s explanations, Mr. Udell should have contacted TAL to explain the security problem, rather than making it easy for everyone to take advantage of it.

Yes, the world would be a better place if TAL could have contracts that didn’t require it to cripple its downloads with DRM, but that’s a whole different issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

What should be upsetting to people is NOT the DRM, NOT the fact that they asked for a link to be removed. BUT SHOULD BE that they threatened lawyers based on IP rights violations when there were NO IP rights violations going on.

If you’re going to get mad, get mad at the fact that the webmaster for the site doesn’t have a clue about what she is talking about in her cease and decist letter.

anonymous coward says:

I’m waiting for the Streisand Effect to kick in and their deep links will be on every blog from A-Z…

When will corporations realize that communication sent to a blogger will definitely end up on his/her blog? Bloggers are attention-starved and you are giving them content by which they can gain attention. The only defense against bloggers is ignoring them. Nobody would have seen this lone loser’s blog until this whole shit storm was created by PRI.

I’ve always loved the phrase: “Hoisted by their own petard.”

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