Linking is just too risky

University of Bergen assistant professor of law Knut Martin Tande was recently interviewed about his doctoral thesis on “Linking to other people’s material on the www” and possible infringements on intellectual property law. The punchline is saved until the last paragraph (my transl.):

“”And your doctoral thesis will be published on the web, so that we can link to it?”

“No, it will be published as a book, and won’t be posted on the web. At least not yet,” the candidate smiles. He knows how to defend his intellectual property, this man”.

Indeed. Take a look at his official university homepage (to be fair, there’s a brief description of the thesis posted another place on the university’s website). I’m afraid this is quite representative of Norwegian professors’ web presence. I guess most of them a) don’t see the point, or b) would like to be left alone as much as possible. I’m afraid that Mr. Tande comes in the a) category, although it might appear obvious to others that it should be possible to link to a thesis about linking. If he had posted drafts while he was working on it, it might even have become a better thesis. Who knows?

2 thoughts on “Linking is just too risky

  1. His thesis seems to take the view that linking to material on the web somehow affects the copyrightholder’s control over his/her own material. I have a hard time understanding how a link can affect control over published material. The link simply points to the material which the copyrightholder has published on the web of his/her own free will. The material can also be removed at any time, and altered at any time. None of this is affected by inbound links, as far as I know.

    From reading the description I get the impression that the whole argumentation in this thesis is completely at odds with the one fundamental characteristic on which the web is built: the sharing of information.

    In that perspective it almost seems natural that the assistant professor’s website does not share much information.

    I can’t decide whether or not I feel irritated by the fact that the public will have to pay to access the information in the assistant professor’s thesis by purchasing his book. On the one hand, the public has already paid for the creation of this content through the taxes that have gone to pay Mr. Tande’s salary while he wrote it. On the other hand, if he doesn’t put it on the web I guess he doesn’t want the public to read it that badly. For my own part, while there is plenty of valuable information out there to spend time on, I guess I don’t mind much that I won’t be able to read the whole thing.

  2. It is pretty bad science to argue that a link infringes copyright. That is like arguing that book stores are infringing on the copy right by selling books. On the Internet, there are plenty of links to both free and pay-per-view material, and it is the author’ls choice to decide whether it is free or not.


    1. No harm to anyone that it is hard to read the thesis.

    2. While Dr Tande is unlikely to make money from his thesis, it is probably a very wise idea to minimize access to it. For his career it is better to have no reactions to his thesis than having people punching holes in his arguments.

    3. If the thesis had been good, it would have been smart both for him and his university to provide free access to it, as that would increase their scientific reputation leading to invited lectures, more citations, easier recruitment of other scientists, better students, etc.

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