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One Year Ago: Wins Round in Hyperlink Dispute

By Nora Macaluso E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
Aug 15, 2001 2:47 PM PT

Originally published on August 15, 2000 and brought to you today as a time capsule.

One Year Ago: Wins Round in Hyperlink Dispute

A U.S. court denied a request Monday by Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch, Inc. (Nasdaq: TMCS) for a preliminary injunction against in a case that involves linking Web sites without express permission.

U.S. District Court Judge Harry L. Hupp acknowledged that Ticketmaster had other claims against, but set them aside for a later stage of the proceedings, Ticketmaster said.

The ruling was the second blow for Ticketmaster in the case. In March, Hupp ruled that had the right to link its site to Ticketmaster pages, a practice known as hyperlinking. In dismissing four of Ticketmaster's claims, Hupp said that "hyperlinking does not itself involve a violation of the Copyright Act."

In explaining his decision, Hupp compared the practice to using a library card index to get reference to particular items. "There is no deception in what is happening," he said. Ticketmaster subsequently filed an amended complaint.

'Beneficial Effect'

"We are gratified that the court once again ignored Ticketmaster's rhetoric and instead focused on the facts in a thoughtful, well-reasoned opinion that ultimately benefits consumers and protects the tremendous freedom the Internet offers," said president Tim Kelley, who noted that the judge found there was a "beneficial effect in the referral of customers" to Ticketmaster from the Web site.

Countered Ticketmaster General Counsel Brad Serwin, "This was only one motion in the course of a very long and complex lawsuit. We continue to believe that's 'spidering' of our Web site and deep linking without authorization are violations of our terms of use, constitute an unlawful trespass on our personal property and result in unfairly using our intellectual property to build its business."

Rulings Favor Plaintiffs

The ruling, said Serwin, is "in conflict" with recent decisions involving eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) and Napster that sided with big companies in disputes over whether smaller rivals could use technology to grab information and use it on their own Web sites.

In the eBay case, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in May against competing auction site Bidder's Edge, saying eBay was likely to succeed at trial on its claim that its rival was trespassing when it sent automated search "bots" into eBay's site. The judge also agreed with eBay that the searches -- some 80,000 to 100,000 requests a day -- could be slowing eBay's site.

eBay sued Bidder's Edge in December after negotiations aimed at a licensing agreement collapsed.

In the Napster ruling, a judge initially sided with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), ordering the controversial online music company to stop making files of copyrighted music available for download. The RIAA, which represents music publishers, says record companies and artists are entitled to royalties when their songs are accessed by others.

One day after the ruling, however, the federal appellate court in San Francisco issued a stay of the judge's decision.

That's the Ticket

Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch is a network of sites that help people locate events and entertainment in cities across the United States. The Pasadena, California-based company also operates, an online dating service., headquartered in Costa Mesa, California, provides information about and tickets to sporting and entertainment events.

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Big tech companies are abusing their monopoly power and must be reined in.
Stronger regulations to protect consumer data definitely are needed.
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Outdated antitrust laws should be updated prior to serious regulatory efforts.
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