Linking to Printer-Friendly Pages: Bandwidth Theft?

By Deane Barker on February 19, 2005

Is linking to a printer friendly page as impolite as hot-linking to an image?

When you link directly to an image on someone else’s site, you use their content without exposing anyone to their advertising model or any navigation so that the person you sent there can explore the site. Printer-friendly pages, however, are a lot like direct image links in that there’s (usually) no advertising and there’s no navigation on the page.

So by sending someone to a printer-friendly page, you’re “using” their content without giving them any benefit. Is this true, or is my comparison flawed? And how long before sites start sniffing referrers on printer-friendly pages and disallowing those that didn’t come from the corresponding “normal” page?

What Links Here


  1. I am very resistant to registering to sites like the NYTimes, etc. Sometimes linking to a printer format page bypasses registration. I have tried to encourage sites like Real Clear Politics to link to articles at sites that do not require it. For example, sometimes they can find a NYTimes article on the Seattle PI

    The link to this article definitely includes all your ads. I teach Econ in a high school. I tell the kids, nothing is free. If there is something you like and no one is making money on it. It will disappear. Plus you are right, they can make minor adjustments to the links and put an end to it.

  2. Consider the alternative: NOT linking to that sites page. As an advertising-bases site owner, would I rather you send me readers, or send them to my competitor? I think the answer is obvious.

    (Of course, following this to its logical conclusion, no sites would have registration in the first place, rendering the whole question moot).

  3. For content providers there’s a much simpler solution – Media specific style pages. Use CSS to turn off non-content stuff when the page is being printed. Works in most browsers, even IE :)

    Also, if content providers would stop making users sign up to view free content it would remove the problem. Until then bugmenot will stay on my bookmarklets list.

  4. It seems like image hot-linking shouldn’t be that big a problem when you can configure your web server to prevent it (at least with Apache and .htaccess, as mentioned in the linked Wikipedia article).

    With printer pages, I agree with Glen that a print-specific css is a good way to handle it. That’s what I do, partly because it was easier for me than setting up print-friendly pages. I do like print-friendly pages when available (e.g. the NYT), and I don’t see any problem linking to one — it’s a publicly accessible web page, after all. And very often there are advertisements on these pages also now. I certainly wouldn’t grudge a link to print-friendly URLs on my own site if I had them.

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