It seems that some media companies don’t like people linking to them. They want to charge to be linked to. The history of the Web is such that website owners have always linked to content on other pages – ones they don’t own – without needing permission or paying for the privilege to do so. The Web is the public square.
That does not mean that the Web is public domain. You can’t steal or appropriate whatever you want for your own purposes just because it’s out there. Intellectual property rights still apply online.
But where is the line?
I think the line is clearly intent. Are you being helpful and does your link benefit the site you are linking to without detracting or impinging on their right to profit from their own content? If so then I’d say you are good for your link.
Linking has always been seen as a form of payment. When you link to another website you are essentially benefiting them in the search engines because that link could be counted by Google, or another search engine, in its search ranking algorithm and could potentially benefit the other site by pushing it up in search rankings. But you are benefiting the other site as well in another way. Traffic.
If you send traffic to another website because you link to it then that’s payment. That new traffic could very well purchase something.
So I really don’t understand these media companies that are complaining about being linked to. And, remember, if it’s true that you are benefiting those websites you link to then it’s true that sites linking to you are providing you with unpaid benefits as well. Why complain?