I have seen on several sites notes similar to

The creation of hypertext links pointing to the ... site is subject to the prior written approval ...

Is this notice legally enforceable? (or legally makes sense at all)

A hyperlink is an address, so it would be similar, I believe, to disallowing someone to list an address (on a map for instance).

Since Internet is (usually) not limited by country boundaries I will not tag it with a specific country, but if there must be one I would mostly be interested by EU.

  • Just to be clear - they're not referring to specific pages or areas of the site which are intended to only be accessible thru a pay-wall or login, but to the entire site (home page and all)? – brhans Sep 13 '18 at 16:07
  • I agree with the legal answer given, although I suspect that one can make a page that someone might link to inaccessible to third parties. – ohwilleke Sep 13 '18 at 17:38
  • I've never noticed something like that, and I'd be curious to know why they don't want unauthorized links pointing to them. – reed Sep 13 '18 at 17:46
  • If I wanted to do this I'd try to include something copyrighted and/or trademarked in the URL. – Consis Sep 14 '18 at 8:01
  • @reed: monnaiedeparis.fr/en/legal-notices is an example among others. As for why I do not know. – WoJ Sep 14 '18 at 11:04

Is it possible to forbid linking to a site?

No. It would be quite childish and out of touch to aspire to that level of control. Publishing a website/page for permanent, wide open access is inconsistent with prohibiting accessing it from certain venues, such as hypertext links.

The prohibition of linking to a site is an attempt to enforce a certain degree of selective privacy. As such, it would not be enforced by U.S. courts, and it would be laughable if other jurisdictions proceeded differently. In United States v. Forrester, 512 F.3d 500, 510 (9th Cir. 2008), the court wrote that

e-mail and Internet users have no expectation of privacy in the to/from addresses of their messages or the IP addresses of the websites they visit because they should know that this information is provided to and used by Internet service providers for the specific purpose of directing the routing of information.

That rationale is equally --or perhaps even more-- applicable to a publisher, since in this case browsers and/or the publisher himself post(s) his URL (the equivalent of a "from" address of emails) "for the specific purpose of directing the routing of information".

A hyperlink is an address, so it would be similar, I believe, to disallowing someone to list an address (on a map for instance).

That analogy is inadequate because it overlooks essential differences between a web address and a physical (be it home, office, etc.) address. A web address is used for obtaining information which the initial publisher deliberately makes available to the public. By contrast, the act of having one's physical address registered somewhere else serves no such purpose whatsoever.

Another important difference between a hyperlink and a physical address is that "consuming" a hyperlink simply cannot annoy or harm the initial publisher (except in the extreme scenario of Denial-of-Service attacks), whereas a common knowledge of a person's address may make that person vulnerable to harassment, trespassing, larceny, and other unlawful acts.

A better analogy with hypertext links would be bibliographical references, since both are types of text strings for directing the consumer to a (or "the") source of information. Neither text string causes detriment to the author/source of that information. Can you imagine if bibliographical references were forbidden by statute or by the author of that information?

The mere difference that a bibliographical reference needs to be copied/pasted, whereas it suffices to click on a hypertext link, cannot permit treating the permissibility of hypertext links any differently than the permissibility of bibliographical references.

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    Last I checked, most legislatures are fully empowered to write "childish," "out of touch" and "laughable" laws. – bdb484 Sep 13 '18 at 20:08
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    @bdb484 Yes, and your point is ... (?). Or is that your pretext for voting down this time? – Iñaki Viggers Sep 13 '18 at 20:48
  • My point is that the question asks whether the policy is enforceable in the EU, and your answer instead explains that you don't like the policy and wouldn't like a law that enforces it. – bdb484 Sep 13 '18 at 21:11
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    @bdb484 Then apparently you are not reading the entire answer, where I (1) explain the rationale used by U.S. courts; (2) discuss the shortcomings of the hyperlink-map analogy; and (3) propose the closer analogy of hyperlink-bibliography. Instead, your "method" of nitpicking few isolated words and ignoring the rest really does not help the OP decide what aspects to consider when analyzing a policy/initiative. The OP is well aware that "Internet is (usually) not limited by country boundaries", and --as you can see-- his specification as to the EU is definitely not central to his inquiry. – Iñaki Viggers Sep 13 '18 at 21:58

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