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Sites that ban you from linking to them. Still. In 2010

June 29, 2010 39 Comments

The Guardian has poked some fun at the Edinburgh Fringe website for banning people linking to it in its terms and conditions. This is more than a year after I revealed that most newspapers banned deep links, as did brands like Apple, Royal Mail, Channel 4 and, er, the Association of Online Publishers (most of those subsequently removed the offending clause after I pointed it out).

All that culminated in the hilarity of my attempts to get the Royal Mail to post me the paper licence they insisted I needed to link to them.

But here are some more sites that still think they can - or should - ban people linking to them in their terms and conditions of use. YOU ARE ALL CLOWNS.

Independent: "Third parties must not deep-link to, or frame or use other techniques to enclose any part of the Website."

Vodafone: "You, and any persons you allow to use the Service or the Content through your access to the Service, are not allowed to: -  ... include or create links (including deep-links) to or from the Content and/or the Service;"

Ticketmaster: "You also agree not to deep-link to the site for any purpose, unless specifically authorised by Ticketmaster to do so."

TimeOut Tickets: "You also agree not to deep-link to the site for any purpose, unless specifically authorised by to do so."

Kent Online: "You also agree not to deep-link or frame to the site for any purpose, unless authorised by KM Group."

News International jobs: "Illegal and/or unauthorized use of the Services, including ... linking to the Website is prohibited."

Anglo Irish bank: " Any unauthorised linking to this Site is also strictly prohibited. Please note that ... linking to it may be in breach of statutory or common law rights which could be the subject of legal action."

The new Times website: "Illegal and/or unauthorized use of the Services, including ... linking to the Website is prohibited. " (Well, there is a paywall I guess ...!)

Easyjet: "You are permitted to provide and maintain a Link to the easyJet Website Homepage only at URL You may not direct the Link to any other webpage contained within the easyJet Website.

Jimmy Choos: "Unless authorised in writing by JCL, JCL expressly prohibits linking of any part of this Site to or from any other Sites (including so-called "deep-linking")."

Thanks to Chris Coltrane for pointing out the Guardian link.

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  4. 10 more sites that stupidly try to ban you from linking to them
  5. 10 sites that say it’s OK to print their pages – but not photocopy them

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  • Seriously? I fail to understand why this still happens.

  • netscr33n says:

    Building brands in the digital sphere is about being present and interactive - firms that behave in this way clearly lack customer experience and fundamentally digital brand marketing strategy that embraces how consumers want to communicate.

    it strikes me that firms that do this have unintegrated legal, online, brand and marketing teams.

  • "You must not partake in the activity that fundamentally the entire web is built on"

  • Steve says:

    I do not understand?! Why not allow deeplinks? surly this will bring more people to your site.
    The only reason I can see is low rank, or offensive sites linking and pulling down your own rank is this right?

    • Dan says:

      Well that's the thing... low rank or offensive sites linking in to your own can NEVER negatively affect your rankings... Google employees have confirmed this several times.

      It's been a myth in SEO circles for quite some time that a competitor could easily sabotage a site by inundating it with links from phoney and wholly questionable outside sources (and a few years ago it may have been true to an extent), but it's a situation Google have clarified quite some time ago, and refined their algorithms to deal with.

      The only situation where an illegitimate incoming link could conceivably affect the page rank of a site is if it was part of a link exchange, where the site in question reciprocates and provides a link back to the questionable site.

      This obviously will never be the case with the kinds of sites mentioned above. I'd have to agree with the majority consensus here that these bizarre terms of use arise from ill-informed legal departments with little to no grasp of the mechanics of the online realm. It's the old 'Sony Syndrome', where one hand hasn't got a clue what the other is doing.

  • Moxy Park says:

    To my mind, this just has to be ignored. It's written by people who don't understand the web, so their points aren't valid, enforceable or binding in any way.

    And yes, they are all clowns :D

  • Sean Clarke says:

    I think this comes from a misunderstanding about "deep linking" - see how many of them say 'frame to' as the next prohibition. (Lawyers, you know, love to say the same thing twice "goods and property" "right and proper"). I think this comes from - as you all say - someone who doesn't understand the web trying to express a prohibition on iframing these people's pages. Which in truth probably is wrong.

  • qnq says:

    I boycotted the HSBC bank in Australia for that very reason. And sent them an email telling them so. Muppets.

  • Patrik says:

    Seriously, what a bunch of Muppets. They clearly have missed the whole idea behind the web. I don't know if I should laugh or cry...

  • tomasz. says:

    what are they actually going to do about it? is there anything they can do?

  • It would be interesting to know if anyone has actually had legal action taken against them for this!

  • durakje says:

    A C&D letter -- i.e. the mere hint of having to spend an outrageous amount of money to engage a solicitor -- usually suffices to scare people off.

    The national railway company in Belgium is just one of many sites sending threatening letters to people. In 2010. FFS.

  • Alan Gains says:

    They have. I remember a forum I used to frequent getting legal threats because we kept linking to news stories from one site or another, can't really remember what. By the end of that nonsense, we could barely tell the gist of the story.

  • NickPheas says:

    The UK Hydrographic Office, a tax funded division of the Royal Navy dedicated to tide planning and cartography has:

    "We allow inward text links directly to pages hosted on this site as long as the link, when activated by a user, displays that page full screen in a fully operable and navigable browser window and not within a frame on the linked website."

    Better than it used to me. You used to be told to email asking permission to include a link to their front page.

    I can sort of see the point that they want to make sure we don't build a business charging people for their publically available data, but it's phrased badly.

    • Ian Turton says:

      I think that they are trying to prevent you from under cutting their monopoly on selling public data - after all if their site was any good why would some one pay for your site. Of course I haven't check the UKHO site in a while (since they were trying to charge the UK Academic sector millions of pounds for public data) so it might have improved.

  • Iralie says:

    Wonder if search engines can be talked into not breaking the terms and conditions of some of these sites by not linking to them, then the effect that'll have on their visitors and terms a month down the line.

  • Scaryduck says:


    "Hyperlinking to this site, is not permitted without the express prior permission of Sellotape®."

  • Anthony says:

    Hey, you're deeplinking their TOS !

  • tim says:

    Oh've tricked me in to violating their terms of service by linking me deeply in to their websites! I guess...well...just about nothing will happen to me...

  • Synchronium says:


    The thing is, this extends far more than just them losing traffic from people clicking the links. Search engines use the number of links a site has (along with the link title to determine relevancy and how authoritative the linking site it) in order to rank a site in the results. All things being equal, the site with the higher number of links (with the same title) will rank higher than t'other if that particular keyword (the link's title) is searched for.

    Also, it's practically impossible for bad sites linking to a good site to bring down the good site in the search results. If that were possible, we could all set up our own bad neighbourhood of sites and link to competitors or other stuff we wished weren't in the search results for whatever reason.

    Read this for more info:

  • [...] by this post by Malcolm Coles on websites that ban users from linking to them, I decided to scope out the terms [...]

  • Andrew Denny says:

    Did you ask permission from these companies before you wrote about them?

  • steeroy says:

    Sites like Facebook and Google's image search wrap linked pages in a frame. Wonder if they get many complaints about it?

  • sara says:

    The most ludicrous of the list are the ticket sites. HELLO! How many times has somebody mentioned a cool band or show in their blog and linked to the ticket site. Not to mention the bands and shows themselves. This is how you market in the new world (that apparently some people haven't accepted yet). Perhaps someone should share that info with the lawyers.

  • Chris says:

    Why can't these companies run their websites in they want to? If they want to charge for a private members' area, then let them have a go. Why get so excited by the fact that a commercial business doesn't want people linking to them?

  • Kp says:


    On the flip side though, I've very recently had people e-mail me asking for permission to link to my site. I have no such anti-link TOS on any of my websites but have since added disclaimers on some of them to encourage people link even if the intention is to slam what I've written.

  • Scott says:

    Sadly, there are plenty folks out there who still don't realize how ridiculous this is. And even more who don't grock the silliness and self-defeating logic carried over from other media that dictate they protect their content so tightly that no one can access it. (Largely, these are the same folks who think all their content is equally important and propriety or can't be bothered to distinguish what lives on the public side of the the wall and what can/should live behind a login.)

    Remember the late '90s, when girlie mags were up in arms over Google indexing their pay content (before most of them realized they should put it behind a login wall)?

  • jean-luc says:

    Terry Rossio's and Ted Elliott's marvelous site, rendered increasingly inaccessible by their batshit crazy webmaster, who insists that the 'site is A-OK'.

    It also features a page where you're not allowed to linger because, well, let me quote the webmaster -- 'We have a 'random quote' feature that serves a new quote every 10 seconds. Amongst the rotating quotes is a request/reminder to please not view the quotes for more than a few minutes, tops; say 20-30 quotes. But yesterday, someone either intentionally or inadvertently left the quote window open for a staggering 613 quotes. That person caused the server to run a program for over 90 minutes and they probably weren't even in the room.'

  • Neil says:

    I've always been fond of this site:
    which not only says "Links to this site may not be used on any commercial site" but follows up with "Any other public use of these pages requires the written permission of George Roberts. Your use of these pages in part or in full by quoting or by providing links without written permission CONSTITUTES YOUR AGREEMENT TO PAY GEORGE ROBERTS THE SUM OF $1,000 FOR EACH USE OF EACH PAGE IN PART OR IN FULL."
    (Emphasis mine - that upper case stuff is actually lower case on the site..)

  • William says:

    FWIW DirectGov says

    Directgov welcomes and encourages other websites to link to it as the main UK central government website. You can use the linking code and images provided below to link to Directgov. By linking to Directgov you are deemed to have signed up to the terms and conditions.


    Restrictions on sites which can link to Directgov

    We do not permit a website to link to Directgov if it contains material which is libellous, defamatory, pornographic, obscene, or is in any way a breach of the laws of England and Wales or infringes any third party intellectual property rights.

  • Tomasz: It's never been tested in court directly, so who knows if it's enforceable.

    As to Durajke and Alan Gains's points, however, that doesn't mean they haven't got lawyers who would ask you to stop. This is fairly unlikely to happen ... I'm not expecting any letters even though I've deep linked to the examples.

    Scaryduck: That is just idiotic. Most of the other examples seem badly drafted lawyer idiocy aiming to stop iframing that goes too far. Going straight out and banning all links is stupid. And unenforceable. I wonder what happens if you link to them without visiting the site to know what the T&Cs say ...

    Andrew Denny: No, I didn't ask permission - this year or when I wrote a similar post last year. I did ask the royal mail for my paper licence - see the link at the top of the page ....

    William - Direct gov are one of the ones who don't like photocopying

  • Cass Heaphy says:

    I am presuming all of these websites use their robots.txt file to disallow all user agents and meta robots in the header to prevent crawling and indexing of their content - thus preventing search engines from indexing their content - which would break their T&Cs with automated linking?

    Who in their right mind would want targeted, relevant and qualified search traffic?

    These websites are genius - a vanguard of forward thinking futurists who can see the inherent dangers of letting their customers actually find them and use the information resource they have created. Stop the madness now!

  • Susie Porsz says:

    I think I know why this is... By deeplinking, you are by-passing their homepage which is the main area they can make ad revenues so they would rather you direct to their home page and then people browse to find the relevant page. Of course, most users will quickly leave a site if they cannot find the page they wanted so it defies logic when it comes to customer satisfaction but, as ever, seems to come back to money.

    There are also plans afoot for the National Licensing Authority (owned by the national newspapers) to start charging companies a license to be able to send links, but it's not finally decided yet. After all, they are all losing increasing amounts of money from ad sales so have to try and get the money back somehow. Finger's crossed they won't be allowed to!

  • [...] Sites that ban you from linking to them. Still. In 2010 » malcolm coles - Links? No thanks say a range of major brands such as the Independent newspaper, Vodafone, Ticketmaster and easyJet [...]

  • [...] You might have noticed that we link to a lot of other sites at the Big Bad Blog. But you probably are not aware exactly how brave we are to do this. Linking to some websites is against their terms of use, and there’s a list of (some of) them here. [...]

  • [...] most recent blogpost is a must read, giving you a list of examples of UK websites that has such “no linking [...]

  • Andrew says:

    This is great! Overpaid lawyers will have written these t&cs without having a clue about the internet, links or anything else. They were also probably charging about 10 times the amount that an SEO bod would get paid to do this.

  • [...] Press to do so.” And if you think we’re crazy for instituting these policies, check out this collection of sites that ban you from linking to them. If a policy’s good enough for Jimmy Choo, it’s good [...]

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