Should Copyright Law Also Cover Hyperlinks?

The U.S. Copyright Office recently proposed a seemingly small addition to copyright law that bears some huge implications. It wants to enable copyright holders to protect unauthorized versions of their work from hyperlinks. You read that right: it could soon be illegal simply to link to certain content.

Think about that for a second. Let's say you find a YouTube video that uses some random Miley Cyrus song as a soundtrack, but the maker of the video never got permission to use the song. You link to that video in a blog post. Boom—you just broke the law.

In fact, this very law could be applied in the lawsuit Quentin Tarantino filed against Gawker Media for linking to a leaked script. Of course, advocates for a free and open web do not like this idea at all. The Digital Public Library of America wrote in a blog post, "We hope you'll agree that linking is an essential—perhaps the essential—element of the open web, and that we must work together to keep that option fully available to us all." They make a good case.

What do you think? Should copyright cover hyperlinks? Is copyright—a century-old solution to intellectual property protection—even relevant any more? Or should we adopt a more modern system, like Creative Commons licenses? Talk it out in the comments.