By linking I meant to give exact instructions about how to find a specific page on the site, for a user with enough privilege. It can be a URL, or a demonstration of where you should click, etc.

The site don't have to be open to everyone. But they had no informations about their user's real identity. Everything they could get is at most an "I agree" checkbox during registration.

I'm not asking about whether they can remove the user posting or using the link, but is it possible to legally request removing the link itself (in other sites)?

My first guess is no. I think it is not directly related to copyright as the user didn't post the content, and your terms of service cannot affect other sites. But then I feel there are some quite similar things seemed possible, and someone must be already trying to do this. So is it? If yes, what are those terms called (a part of the copyright license or terms of service, or something else)?

@apsillers pointed out this may have something to do with the contract law. I think indeed this can be done between companies, or companies and employees. But (1) is it still effective if the site just let users to agree to the terms online? (2) If a user did it anyway, I think you can only remove the user in your site, or in theory you can let the user pay. But you still cannot remove things in other sites, because those sites didn't agree to the contract. Is that right?

I'm thinking about a license like this:

  • You can use the ideas in whatever way you want (they are not patented; or maybe they are, but the fact your site is describing them cannot be patented).
  • You cannot copy the articles directly (there is copyright).
  • You cannot refer to the explanations in this site in formal documents of a company, or prove this site has promoted this idea. Or a weaker term: you have to pay to do that.
  • You can rewrite the whole things, or don't leave explanations, or whatever.

This is indeed a bad idea which I thought it must be disallowed at first. But it seemed to be weaker than what a company can have with their employees.

  • 1
    So, you're asking if you can require all users to agree (e.g., to a nondisclosure agreement) not to share specific links? Indeed this doesn't have to do with copyright (URLs lack sufficient creativity to be protected by copyright), but it may have to do with contract law.
    – apsillers
    May 28, 2015 at 14:15
  • What you're trying to do is security through obscurity, which is a bad thing. The page could still be found by someone looking for it, or someone who is bored and clicking on your site. You should add, at the very least, basic password authentication to this secure page.
    – Jon
    May 28, 2015 at 22:54
  • @Chipperyman Let's assume it already had password authentication. And the users can probably use the informations there in any way they want. But they are disallowed to tell the information comes from an exact page.
    – user23013
    May 28, 2015 at 23:12
  • @apsillers Added the contract tag and some detailed questions.
    – user23013
    May 28, 2015 at 23:13
  • If you can't view the page without a password, why is it an issue? Just to settle my curiosity :)
    – Jon
    May 28, 2015 at 23:16

1 Answer 1



You are correct in that this is not related to Copyright. Copyright is meant to protect expressions of an idea.

An URL is simply an address, like a street address. Can you legally stop people referring to your home address? No. Can you legally stop people from passing by and looking at your house on the street? Also no.

A famous case related to hyperlink is Ticketmaster v Tickets.com (2000). Tickets.com used information Ticketmaster's website and deep-linked to there. The ruling established that:

  1. use of information is not infringing
  2. hyperlinking cannot be copyright infringement because no copying is involved.
  3. deep linking is not unfair competition

If you feel that it is necessary to avoid people linking to specific pages of your site, you may consider accomplishing this technically.


It does not matter whether your site is meant to be public or not. For example, an knowledge base meant to be shared internally in an organization, but accessible on the internet since staff are geographically distributed.

Again, you may think of it like a street address. A private corporate building meant for employees only. An address, like Room C, 16/F, Example Corporate Complex, 4321 Lucky Avenue can be shared like any other address. You cannot demand people to never refer to your office address. You can, however, setup a security post at the entrance and only allow certain guests to visit you.

In the case of a website, you may state in your terms that one cannot share access information to any external parties. This will include the sharing of any authentication data (e.g. password) which can be used to access content.

  • One thing is that in my case, the content doesn't need to be open to general public. And users have to agree to some terms before accessing those informations. This seemed to be a good answer to the case where it is open, and this case is more common. So if that makes a big difference, I'm thinking of splitting this question into two. But I'm not sure.
    – user23013
    May 29, 2015 at 0:03
  • @user23013 it does not mater if the site is meant for the general public or not. See my edit.
    – kevin
    May 29, 2015 at 2:58
  • 1
    I'm not a fan of using examples, but this one with the address and the security post is particularily fitting.
    – o0'.
    May 29, 2015 at 13:33
  • @user23013 "users have to agree to some terms before accessing those informations" - are you saying that on your website, users must normally accept your site's terms before they are given access to certain content, but that the other site is linking directly to that content and bypassing your terms acceptance page? If so, you can probably implement a technical solution using cookies: if the user doesn't already have a cookie from you when they reach your content page, redirect them back to the terms acceptance page, where they will get a cookie when they accept your terms. Jul 30, 2015 at 6:01
  • http:// www.example.com /if-my-address-is--an-original-haiku--then-would-it-infringe? ;-) Sep 1, 2015 at 22:17

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