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Runner's World and LetsRun.com reply to Politech on deep linking



A few observations:
1. It is polite to link to the ad-bedecked version of the article if it is 
stable and available.
2. If a stable version of an ad-bedecked page is absent but an ad-free 
version is available, it is reasonable to link to the ad-free version. (The 
existence of a stable runnersworld.com ad-bedecked page, at least until 
very recently, is in dispute here.)
3. It is near-trivial to configure a modern web server to grep the Referer: 
field and refuse deep links, even to the granularity of redirecting all 
visitors from LetsRun.com to the runnersworld.com home page.
4. Even if it is impolite to link to an ad-free version of a page, such 
rudeness does not rise to the level of legal wrongdoing. It is 
inappropriate for a publisher to threaten legal action against deep 
linking; it is a mean and spurious threat.
5. This case may be an example of a young, clue-impaired associate at a law 
firm being too eager. Allen Tullar, esq. certainly didn't know what he was 
talking about in his demand letters. 
(http://www.letsrun.com/2002/legalletters.htm) If Runner's World were to 
admit that Allen was far too hasty, I'm certain that LetsRun.com would be 
gracious and link to an ad-replete version of the article in question.

Previous Politech message:
http://www.politechbot.com/p-03526.html

Politech archive on deep linking:
http://www.politechbot.com/cgi-bin/politech.cgi?name=linking

-Declan

---

From: "Burfoot, Amby" <Amby.Burfoot@Rodale.com>
To: "'declan@well.com'" <declan@well.com>
Cc: "Tullar, Allen" <atullar@gmle.com>
Subject: Runner's World and Letsrun
Date: Tue, 14 May 2002 16:52:13 -0400

Declan: This may in fact be what the Johnsons told you--
that we do not produce a stable, or archived link--but it's simply not true.

Moreover, they know this, as they frequent our site,
constantly barrage us for links and attention, etc, etc.

We've asked for nothing but a link to our page with nav bars
and advertising, same as their other links to pages of other
sites with nav bars and advertising.

So I ask you, who's not playing fair here?

I have made a phone call to the Johnsons this morning.
They have not returned my call. I have also emailed them.
No return.

We have no interest in threatening them or their site.
It's the Internet after all. There's little we can do about
their site, except insist that they not violate our rights
by linking to pages that don't contain key business information.

Amby Burfoot; amby.burfoot@rodale.com
Editor, Runner's World Magazine
ph: 610-967-8444; fax: 610-967-8883
33 East Minor St., Emmaus, PA 18049
Visit our Web site at <http://www.runnersworld.com>

---

From: "Robert Johnson" <robertjohnson@letsrun.com>
To: <declan@well.com>, <robin@roblimo.com>
Subject: Re: deep linking/etiquette
Date: Tue, 14 May 2002 14:15:08 -0700

I am one of the co-founders of LetsRun.com and saw your comments on 
http://www.politechbot.com. Declan spoke with my brother earlier today.  I 
just wanted to clarify a point or two.

We certainly would follow etiquette and would have been happy to link to a 
page with ads on it. There's nothing wrong with trying to make the web 
financially viable and we have ads on portions of our site.

Declan is  correct in stating why we linked to the Printer Friendly version 
of the website. We did so because in the past that was their only static IP 
address (as things shifted when it went from daily news to archives).  As a 
prominent webmaster of another well-funded website that also deep linked to 
the Printer Friendly version (but didn't receive a threatening letter 
perhaps becaue they have a financial relationship with eachother) wrote us 
to privately voice support said:

"If what they're upset about is your linking to the 'printer friendly' 
version, I'm guilty too. The reason I've been doing it that way (but will 
stop doing so immediately) is that 1) when they first did their redesign, a 
lot of the anchor tags weren't working so even if you put in the #chat at 
the end, it would just go to the top of the page and ) Linking to that 
version was the best way I could think of to separate out the chats. I 
wasn't doing it with malicious intent :-) "

Same with us. We'd be happy to do it but now that this whole thing has been 
blown up by their lawyer, we are torn as to what to do as their is an 
important principle to stand for and that is of course deep-linking in 
general which there lawyer seemingly claimed was illegal.

-Robert Johnson
LetsRun.com

PS. RUnnersworld.com has evidently changed things (we're not sure when) so 
that you now can link to the regular version of the article immediately. 
They could have done this or just written a simple code (my brother did one 
in 8 minutes today) preventing people from linking to the Printer Friendly 
version instead of threatening to sue.

---

Date: Tue, 14 May 2002 17:39:58 -0400
To: declan@well.com
From: Dan Horn <danhorn@umich.edu>
Subject: Re: FC: Slashdot's Robin Miller: Linking should be etiquette,
   not law

Declan,

Looking at the two letters that runnersworld.com's attorney sent, and their 
failure to respond to letsrun.com's second email, it seems apparent that 
the runnersworld.com folks made a mistake.  Looking at their second email 
(when they specify their allegations), the attorneys say:

"The hyperlink, when clicked on, produced a verbatim copy of an interview 
with Peter Snell originally published on runnersworld.com.  That interview, 
reproduced in its entirety, was stripped of all Rodale ads and navigational 
information and aids.  Contrary to your assertion, to the extent that the 
entire article was reproduced by letsrun.com, that republication hardly 
constitutes fair use.
[...]
Letsrun.com has not created a hyperlink to Rodale's runnersworld.com website."

It is pretty obvious that the runnersworld.com folks clicked on the link, 
saw their article without the familiar runnersworld.com ads and other 
visual garnish, failed to look at the location bar in their browser, and 
assumed that letsrun.com was hosting the file.  My guess is that once 
letsrun.com pointed this out (in their second letter), the red faced 
runnersworld.com lawyer simply stopped responding.  While this doesn't 
compare to the Dallas Morning News lawsuit, this is a prime example of what 
can happen when copyright holders pursue infringements with unrestrained zeal.
At the very least, the runnersworld.com lawyers owe letsrun.com an apology.


Oh, and in response to Robin Miller's claim that slashdot never links to 
printer-friendly pages, check out 
http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/05/19/0020235&mode=nested . The 
"spoke yesterday" link points to a (now nonexistent) printer-friendly page 
at salon.com.

Dan

---

Date: Tue, 14 May 2002 18:03:28 -0400
From: "James Maule" <maule@law.villanova.edu>
To: <declan@well.com>
Subject: Re: FC: Slashdot's Robin Miller: Linking should be etiquette,
	not law

The "forced to listen to ads" already infects voicemail. When's the last
time anyone activated a new, updated, or replacement credit card?

"While we are updating your account, we have for you an offer blah blah
blah [for what seems to be eternity]. If you want to take advantage of
this great offer for [repeat it], press one. If you do not want to take
advantage of this great offer [repeat it], press two."

Press 2.

"Are you sure that you really want to pass up an opportunity ......."

These things must be written by the same people who don't take no for
an answer until they're hauled into court for harassment.

After all, if everyone played and worked by rules of (n)etiquette,
lawyers would have far less work to do. It's a wonderful ideal to expect
people to conform to etiquette, kindness, common sense, and integrity.
Unlikely. Some people just need to be hit with the judge's gavel... and
even then it can take several trips to the woodshed.....

---

From: Amos Satterlee <asatterlee@inta.org>
To: "'Declan McCullagh '" <declan@well.com>
Subject: RE: Slashdot's Robin Miller: Linking should be etiquette, not law
Date: Tue, 14 May 2002 18:26:02 -0400

Declan:

While I can appreciate the reasoning behind the Slashdot linking policy, I
find it to be significantly destructive of the hypertext raison d'etre when
a site like Slashdot represents that a link will go to a particular article
but instead goes to the homepage of a site. I find this not to be a question
of ethics -- etiquette has nothing to do with ethics -- but a certain kind
of economic back-scratching.

Clearly there are competing trends. Clearly sites need to be able to pay for
themselves. However, using inappropriate legal threats does no one any good.

I would recommend that sites manipulate their servers so that a deep link
first displays a pop-up advertisement. The benefits of this would be:

-- it allows the proper use of the hyperlinking technology for content
presentation, which benefits both the content-user and the content-provider.
-- it allows for proper economic support of the content-provider. Such
deep-link pop-ups should carry premium rates because they will be displayed
in response to a high-incentive click.

My 2 cents.

Amos

---

Date: Tue, 14 May 2002 19:25:30 -0400
From: "J.D. Abolins" <jda-ir@njcc.com>
Subject: Re: FC: Slashdot's Robin Miller: Linking should be etiquette, not law
X-Sender: jda-ir@pop.njcc.com
To: declan@well.com

Although not a subject of lawsuits (yet) but what about "deep linking" in 
the form of bibliographical references for articles and books?

How long will it be before it will be argued that authors who try to help 
the readers look up the sources of referenced materials by giving the most 
direct link to the Web item should instead just give the URL for the site's 
entrance page? Hey, why should the readers deprive the site of eyeballs for 
the ads just because they want to check somebody else's references? What's 
more important, that article or the ads that make it possible for the 
article to be up on the Web? (Actually, this question raises interesting 
debates if people get caught up in trying to choose one over the other 
depending upon their view of commerce.<g>) The gall of some people! <g>

Or, just as bad, there could be the argument that lynx and other 
non-graphical browsers should banned (perhaps with an exemption for 
visually handicapped users) because they strip out all those ad graphics.

I agree, to a point, with Robin Miller that it is good to have an etiquette 
of linking. Definitely, make sure that some attribution is made to the 
other site so that people don't think it is one's own material. Also 
considering context of the linkage. For example, I have used software 
product box images on the Princeton PC Users Group site whenever were're 
having a presentation by the vendor's reps. A link to the software 
product's Web page is provided so the PPCUG site visitors can get more info 
on the product being presented. In this case, there is a mutual benefit for 
the group and the vendor. If, however, if I get into criticism of a vendor 
on my Web site, I'd be more careful with how I link. Not only a matter of 
etiquette; it's to protect my legal tuchus by not providing an easy target. 
(E.g.; forgo the image but link to the vendor's entire page or photograph 
the box of software which I had purchased.)

But sometimes, the situations defy etiquette approaches. Sometimes, there 
is no way to get a referenced Web article with its surrounding ads except 
by giving the entrance URL and saying, "Select News link, then scroll down 
for article title <insert name>. If it's not there, then use the site's 
search function for this keyword....." The best one can do in that case is 
to provide teh deep link and note the main entrance page's URL.

There are some ways sites that are so upset about deep linking can help the 
situation:

1. There is coding that, in many browsers, can detect if a content frame 
page is loaded without its surrounding frames and can load them 
automatically. Therefore, the deep link surrounds the article with the 
current set of ads. I know there is such code for JavaScript.

2. If using frames with ads and navigations links surrounding articles' 
frames, include a link to the site's entrance page, copyright notice, and 
whatever else in the same frame as the articles. If the article is 
deep-linked, the viewer will be able to navigate to the site's intended 
page if she so desires. (If not, we hope there will be no law requiring a 
quota of ads viewed for each person in the USA. <g>)

3. If deep linking is really a big issue, it is possible to set up a Web 
site so that people have to enter by an entrance page. Declan already 
mentioned Wall Street Journal as a good example. Oh, the ROBOTS.TXT and 
other methods for restricting well-behaved Web spiders are a big help.

J.D. Abolins

---

Date: Tue, 14 May 2002 16:39:43 -0700
From: "Denise Howell" <DHowell@chrm.com>
To: <declan@well.com>
Subject: Re: FC: Slashdot's Robin Miller: Linking should be etiquette,
	not law

Hi Declan,

Very nice Wired News article and follow-up.  I blogged a bit more 
here:  http://bgbg.blogspot.com/?/2002_05_12_bgbg_archive.html#85087943

Denise M. Howell
(blog) Bag and Baggage, http://bgbg.blogspot.com
(firm) Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May, http://www.crosbyheafey.com
355 South Grand Avenue, Suite 2900
Los Angeles, CA  90071
(213) 457-8090 (direct line)
(213) 457-8080 (fax)

---




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