posted Dec 28, 2000

Free Links, Only $50 Apiece
Free Speech
12/28/2000; 4:08:36 PM 'Online news sites are turning to a novel way to make some extra cash: requiring fees for links.

'The Albuquerque Journal charges $50 for the right to link to each of its articles. Localbusiness.com and Latino.com are more generous, and permit one to five links without payment.'

I know!  Let's do everything we can to make sure nobody ever visits our site!  First we'll start by charging for links. Then after people get used to that, we'll charge people to follow those links. Then we'll see about charging people to see those links on all of those other nasty third-party sites.

'The iCopyright.com license agreement also restricts what can be said about the content of the linked-to article. If you sign up to pay $50 to link to, say, an Albuquerque Journal article, you agree not to say anything "derogatory" about "the author, the publication from which the content came, or any person connected with the creation of the content or depicted in the content."'

When I figure out why the heck anybody would even think of this, I let you know. To rephrase my point a little less sarcastically, the Albuquerque "Should'a Taken A Left" Journal are trying to induce economic friction at the wrong place, where people enter the site. Where there's friction, you can charge money. Unfortunately, while charging on entry is the easiest thing to do, it's still the wrong thing to do; people are likely to simply leave (or in this case, never link at all). Much better to make it difficult to leave, ideally by making the content so compelling that paying is better then the alternative of not having it. So, not only is it an attempt to constrain what we can say about the Journal, it's stupid too.

The free speech aspect is of course why I put this story up (attempting to ensure that we can't say anything bad about "the author, the publication from which the content came, or any person connected with the creation of the content or depicted in the content."), but the business model is truly strange.  What's the deal with a newspaper trying to make us pay them for the privileg of constraining our speech like this?

 

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