URL linking suit: "Lawsuit Threatens Future of the Web"


>                  March 3, 1997
>                       Lawsuit Threatens Future
>                       of the Web
>                                     By John C. Dvorak
>                       The greatest threat to the World Wide Web
>                       appeared last week as CNN, Dow-Jones, Time,
>                       Times-Mirror, Washington Post, and Reuters
>                       sued Total News in an attempt to prevent Total
>                       News from linking to their sites. The
>                       stupidity and danger of such a suit seems
>                       beyond the comprehension of these media
>                       companies--that is, unless they know exactly
>                       what they are doing and are out to destroy the
>                       Web from within. In fact, that is the only
>                       logical explanation I can think of for this
>                       lawsuit.
>                       At first I was convinced that this group is
>                       simply naive as to the workings of the Web.
>                       Linking is a part of the Web. It is the Web.
>                       The executives who filed suit claim that Total
>                       News is "republishing" when in fact it is
>                       merely linking. So the suit is based on a lie
>                       or deception. It's obvious that these six
>                       large media companies, which should have some
>                       clue as to the functioning of the Web, either
>                       do not understand it at all or are hatching a
>                       sinister plot to kill the Web. If this case
>                       goes to a judge who cannot understand the Web,
>                       then all linking could be challenged. The Web
>                       dies. The old media continue to print on
>                       paper.
>                       Total News -- A Good Site
>                       I've checked Total News, and it has the best,
>                       most organized links to newspapers around the
>                       world that I have yet seen. Total News is a
>                       classic new-wave metasite. In its frames are
>                       meta-advertisements, which may surround the
>                       linked site. This is a trend that is going to
>                       continue. To me this is no different than a
>                       newsstand that sports a poster promoting
>                       Macy's and sells newspapers and magazines,
>                       too. In fact, when you link to CNN, for
>                       example, you get a CNN advertisement in the
>                       frame; the CNN ad banners are served as usual.
>                       Exactly how that "damages" CNN is a mystery to
>                       me. If there were 100 sites like Total News,
>                       among them taking, say, 100,000 additional
>                       users to a site, exactly how does that hurt
>                       any publisher? It doesn't. In fact, the linked
>                       sites should be paying Total News a
>                       commission. Total News is actually increasing
>                       their business. I mean, how dumb are these
>                       people? Not that dumb. Something else is
>                       afoot. You don't sue someone for increasing
>                       your business.
>                       Use a Browser, Go to Jail
>                       We all know that Total News is not
>                       republishing anything. It's the Time server
>                       sending the Time content to my computer, not
>                       Total News. Total News is just giving me a
>                       link to click on. If publishers with Web-savvy
>                       personnel, such as the Washington Post,
>                       pretend that they do not understand this, then
>                       how will a judge? When this suit goes forward,
>                       then AltaVista, Excite!, Yahoo!, and all the
>                       search engines that provide links could be
>                       instantly out of business. You want to find
>                       something? Forget it. Anyone who says Time is
>                       their favorite link and puts a URL of the Time
>                       site on his personal page could be sued for
>                       copyright violation, too. The frame issue will
>                       be lost in the shuffle. And what's the
>                       difference between framed and nonframed
>                       browsing? If these sites want to reject links
>                       from Total News, that can be done
>                       programmatically with a number of
>                       technologies. Obviously, that's not what they
>                       are after.
>                       Something Is Wrong
>                       Furthermore, if these six publishers don't
>                       want to be linked, they can close their
>                       connectivity with a password. But their
>                       behavior is like a publisher dropping leaflets
>                       from an airplane, then complaining when people
>                       pick them up and read them. The whole thing
>                       doesn't make a lot of sense. Something is
>                       fishy.
>                       This threat to the nature of the Web is not to
>                       be taken lightly. Pressure must be put on the
>                       Gang of Six to back off immediately.
>                       Take Action
>                       It's important that we do something, including
>                       considering a boycott against these
>                       publishers, as well as a letter-and-fax
>                       campaign. Also, contact your legislative
>                       representatives (by letter or fax) and let
>                       them know how you feel. Otherwise, forget
>                       linking and forget the Web. This is not
>                       trivial. These publishers are big and smart.
>                       This isn't a case of them being plain stupid
>                       and naive, even though it's been made to look
>                       that way. These are no lightweights. They are
>                       worried sick that the Web will fundamentally
>                       change the nature of their business, and they
>                       want to put a stop to it. This is their first
>                       attempt to protect themselves and their future
>                       as "old" media. It won't be their last
>                       attempt, either.