Focus on Technology: Web-linking: A liability issue?
Linking and framing
In general, a company can legally link to another Web site without the agreement of the target Web site. After some early struggles with whether such linking was appropriate, it appears from recent judicial opinions that no permission is needed from the target to place a hyper-link on your company's Web site. In fact, many Web sites encourage such linking. As diverse a group as Amazon.com and the Financial Times of London both expressly permit linking. On their Web sites you will find explicit instructions on what linking they deem acceptable. Amazon will even pay a commission on sales from referred users.
Framing of another's Web site within your Web site is more questionable. When framing, the target Web site pages appear inside a "frame" or box which can contain your name and site headings. To a user unaware of the frame, it can appear that the content of the target Web site is really one and part of your Web site. This can be seen to be copyright infringement by creating a new and unauthorized derivative work. In addition, the targeted/framed Web site might also charge misrepresentation and various other claims based on unfair competition due to the potential confusion which would be created in a user's mind as to the source of the content.
When linking to a target there are several key cautions:
Your liabilityHaving decided to link to another Web site, are you liable for information or activities on that target site? This is an area of developing law. However, so long as it is clear that the user has left your site and is at another site, and that you have not endorsed or otherwise recommended or guaranteed the target site, there would seem to be no reason to impose liability for merely linking two sites.
To avoid liability in linking to another site:
Of course, if you are setting up a Web site you should be sure to have legal advice for all of the main issues including linking, Web hosting agreements, privacy policies and other matters.