December 16, 2008

Ridiculous copyright notice for online Mandarin dictionary

The online Mandarin dictionary created by Taiwan's Ministry of Education is arguable the best non-commercial Chinese dictionary online. Even including commercial dictionaries, it is still one of the best. If the dictionary were in the public domain, there would be a lot of interesting things that could be done with it. For example, the dictionary has been converted into a format readable on Palm PDAs. This is most likely in violation of copyright, so it is probably not in circulation now.

I checked the copyright info for the dictionary to see if there were any possibility of using the dictionary content. I found that not only does the National Languages Committee reserve all rights to the dictionary material, they require permission to link to their websites! And they only grant permission to link to the entry page of each site, so you presumably can not link directly to a word definition.

This is another case of taxpayer-funded content produced for the public good that nevertheless restricts those taxpayers from making full use of that material.

Here's the key statement:
You are welcome to establish links to the homepages of NLC reference websites for non-commercial, research and educational purposes after gaining approval from the NLC. Fill out an application form (in doc format) and submit it to the NLC for approval.
(Note: Based on the Chinese version of this note, the comma after "non-commercial" is erroneous.)

According to the ridiculous wishes of the dictionary maintainers, I won't link to the dictionary here.


  • It is pretty ridiculous. Linking to a website cannot be considered a breach of copyright and doesn't require permission from the publisher of the website. Linking to, or even copying, a single entry from the dictionary would also be acceptable as fair use.

    By Blogger David, at December 16, 2008 9:43 PM  

  • A surprising number of websites have policies like that against deep linking. There were several cases a few years ago, mostly targeting search engines, that revolved around this, and AFAIK they were all thrown out, given that the links are to openly accessible pages.

    Still, pretty silly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 16, 2009 9:24 AM  

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