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Deep Trouble

Do the links on your site lead to home pages? If not, your business could face legal risks.

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This story appears in the January 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Among the many gray areas of law, "deep linking" definitely demands the attention of any entrepreneur with a Web site. Deep linking is the practice of hyperlinking to a page several jumps into another Web site rather than to the site's home page. For example, linking directly to 's small-business desktop page at www.dell.com/us/en/bsd/products/line_desktops.htm instead of Dell's home page at www.dell.com constitutes deep linking.

It sounds harmless enough, but when surfers bypass a home page, it often means bypassing the site's paid advertisements, bringing up some hairy trespassing and copyright issues. Ticketmaster.com sued Tickets.com over its deep linking into Ticketmaster.com's site for events that Tickets.com doesn't offer tickets for. In August 2000, a judge ruled that Tickets.com could continue its linking practices, but left the door wide open for Ticketmaster.com to pursue its complaints of copyright infringement. In short, the gray area hasn't become any clearer.

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