Friday, November 04, 2005

Terms of Use - Creating Hyperlinks

Every Commercial Website, and most non-commercial websites that I've visited recently have a Terms of Use Page. The link to the hyperlink page is usually in small, microprint near the bottom of the page.

I'm sure each and every one of you have trudged through the legal babble that make up the terms of use. And if you haven't, shame on you, because apparently it's the first thing you are supposed to do when entering a website according to many Terms of Use pages.
Converge Wireless (1)
For Example -

Walt Disney's term's of use pagewhich cover's all of it's TV Stations, ABC, ESPN, etc., says "PLEASE READ THESE TERMS OF USE CAREFULLY BEFORE USING THIS WDIG SITE." There are 4175 words in this whole terms of use document.

There are 3080 words in the KNBC-TV terms of use. It begins with "Your Use of the Service and this Web Site is Governed by These Terms of Use
Please take a few minutes to review the Terms of Use. By accessing and using this Web Site, you agree to be bound by each of the Terms of Use and all applicable laws and regulations governing the Web Site. If you do not agree with any of the Terms of Use, you are not authorized to access or use this Web Site for any purpose.

At CNN dot com's legal page it takes 2814 words to tell you, for instance, that "CNN is a distributor (and not a publisher) of content supplied by third parties and Subscribers. Accordingly, CNN has no more editorial control over such content than does a public library, bookstore, or newsstand."

I feel sure that even if you did go to the terms of use page for curiosity or whatever, that you wouldn't even actually understand what you were reading. I don't, until the 5th or 6th read through. (btw
- any lawyer's reading this can disregard that last sentence per applicable provisions of literary architecture that are not applicable to the legal or contractual nature of this blog.)

One disturbing find I made searching through some of these terms of use pages was the forbidding by at least one company of creating text hyperlinks to any of their companys' websites across many different divisions within the company. Their terms of use ask that you send an e-mail or even write a snail mail letter(on some of their divisions) to a legal department to get permission to create a link to their site.

Since they restrict linking to their sites I just won't say who it is and certainly won't link to this company. I find this policy strange, if not outragous, being that the internet would not be able to sustain without linking. It's also odd that the company with this policy has recently bought up a bunch of internet based media properties. I can't imagine a situation in which they could handle every request for a link approval.

It's kind of like if McDonald's made the terms of eating a Big-Mac that you not tell anyone the locations of their restaurants.

I did manage to find some legal precedent to this denial of hyperlinking.

The American Library Association likens hyperlinks to the the Dewey Decimal System for catologing books. It's not an infringment on the book to tell the public where the book is. The linked article notes a case from 1997 where, "in an opinion striking down a Georgia Internet statute, a federal district judge suggested that the practice of linking is protected by the First Amendment."

But the article also warns of "deep-linking" past the front pages of websites to a specific place on a website. The home page of the website may have advertisements that could be inadvertantly bypassed by the deep-link.

Poznak Law dot com tells of how Microsoft settled out of court with Ticketmaster for deep-linking past the Ticketmaster home page.

It boils down to not infringing on copyrighted images, not plagerizing another site's materials, not linking another site in a defamatory manner. A simple hypertext link to another website is not something that it going to generally get you into hot water.

Any way, all this talk of Terms of use has prompted me to create my own terms of use page which you can find here.

Don't forget to read it in full! There are only 2659 words in it. Feel free not to understand until you've read it over 20 times.

(There are 748 words in this blog post!)

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