Links & Law - Information about legal aspects of search engines, linking and framing

Hyperlink & Search Engine Law News  Decisions & Court Documents Worldwide Legal Resources (Hyperlink & Search Engine Law Articles) Linking Law Cases Search Engine Law Publications by Dr. Stephan Ott Technical    Background

Other cases or things of interest


Link to: Korean Friendship Association - British Telecom v. Prodigy  - SBC Communications v. Frames Patent? - Kalk v. Fairfield Language Techs. - Mark Maughan v. Google - US- President George W. Bush - A miserable failure? - Google v. China - Internet Gambling Bill - National Association of Recording Merchandisers, Inc. v. Sony Corporation of America, et al. - ASCAP v. Travelfinder - SEC Interpretation: Use of Electronic Media - The Putnam Pit, Inc. v. City of Cookeville - ACLU v. Miller - Center for Disease Control Links - Message to Bankers and Examiners - Hyperlinks & Law in China - State Department Link - Protection of Minors on the Internet and Search Engines in Germany - Government search engine links  Michael Bradley - Lane's Collectibles v. Yahoo, Google - NeoMedia Technologies, Inc. v. AirClic Inc / Scanbuy(TM), Inc. - "Terms and Conditions of Sale" / "Privacy Policy" provided by hyperlink create binding contract



Link to: Korean Friendship Association


Seems like North Korea's government doesn't even have enough money to pay for bandwidth. Boingboing posted an item about a North Korea tourism promotion video on the [North] Korean Friendship Association's website. The NFA works for the understanding of the North Korean culture and fully cooperates with the Committee For Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries in Pyongyang. Boingboing has hundreds of thousands of readers, so the pointer caused an unprecedented spike in traffic to the KFA's website.

An hour later the video was replaced and clicking on the link to the video led to the following message:


"Due to some inconsiderate people linking directly to our multimedia we were forced to take the content offline since it generated too much traffic. This kind of careless linking to high-profile sites is typical of the internet where people no longer respect that such links could make free content less available. We will never charge money to pay for the bandwidth, so if people are going to expect high-quality content they should make their own copy of the large file and share it from their own server."


The message was replaced some time later by the following:


"Access to the requested object was denied. We are sorry we had to take this popular movie offline, to conserve bandwidth. Some websites that exist only for pointing fingers and people's amusement, and not to explore culture, has recently begun to link directly to this file and other large multimedia files. This resulted in poor quality of our normal services. We encourage people to share files on the internet to conserve resources, and we are considering expanding our selection of free multimedia content (Flash, MP3 and MPG/ASX/ASF) to make as much as possible available to as many as possible so that they may learn about our culture. The logical course of action is to use P2P technology such as found in the Bit-Torrent system. We will announce when the use of such system is available. In the mean time, we have to restrict access to some areas. Please check back in one week. Thank you for your attention and letters of support."


British Telecom v. Prodigy

British Telecommunications (BT) claimed it owns a patent to hyperlinks, which it filed back in 1976 and was granted in 1989. BT demanded from several Internet service providers that they pay licensing fees on hyperlinks. In, what BT called a test case, Prodigy, the oldest online access service, was sued. An initial ruling by a New York federal judge in March 2002 carefully analyzed the technological claims in British Telecom's patent. On August 22, 2002, US judge Colleen McMahon ruled that ISPs did not infringe the patent filed by BT.  

  • September 10, 2002: Richardson, Tim, Hyperlink case 'not on priority list' - BT CEO, The Register:
    "The head of BT is waiting to hear back from lawyers in the US before deciding his next move concerning the telco's claim to own hyperlinks."
  • September 5, 2002: Donner, Irah / Juran, Belinda, Who Invented Hyperlinks? Summary Judgement for the Defendant in the BT Case, Hale and Dorr LLP:
    "As discussed in our April 17, 2002 Internet Alert, British Telecommunications plc (BT) sued an Internet service provider (ISP), claiming that use of hyperlinks infringes a BT patent." 
  • August 26, 2002: Osborne, Brian, BT loses hyperlink patent suit,
    "British Telecom has lost a patent lawsuit against Prodigy Communications."
  • August 23, 2002: US-Gericht sieht in Nutzung von Hyperlinks keine Patentrechtsverletzung, Heise:
    "Der Telefonkonzern British Telecom (BT) hat seine Patentansprüche auf Hyperlinks nicht durchsetzen können."
  • August 23, 2002: Richardson, Tim, BT loses hypertext claim, The Register:
    "BT has lost its legal challenge to charge US ISPs a fee for using hyperlinks."
  • June 21, 2002, Richardson, Tim, Ruling on BT hyperlink patent expected soon, The Register:
    "The future of BT's claim that it owns the patent to hyperlinks should be decided soon." 
  • May 2000, British Telecom's 'hyperlink' patent action,
     "There has been a great deal of media interest in British Telecom's US patent infringement case against the ISP, Prodigy. A recent court decision on the construction of the patent's claims probably leaves Prodigy in a more favourable position than BT." 
  • April 17, 2002: Donner, Irah / Juran, Belinda, Who Invented Hyperlinks? IP Audit Uncovers Potentially Valuable Patent, Hale and Dorr LLP
  • March 15, 2002: Richardson, Tim, BT mulls adverse ruling over hyperlink patent, The Register:
    "BT's legal battle with US ISP Prodigy over the telco's claim that it owns the patent to hyperlinks received a knock yesterday, following an initial ruling by a US Federal Court."
  • March 14, 2002: Sandburg, Brenda, Defining Ruling in Key Internet Case,
    "In a case closely watched by intellectual property lawyers, a New York federal judge Wednesday issued an initial ruling that may undermine British Telecommunications Inc.'s claims that it owns rights to the use of Internet hyperlinking."
  • March 14, 2002: Delio, Michelle, BT Linking Suit Dealt a Blow, Wired:
    "British Telecom had set out to prove in a U.S. federal court last month that it developed and holds a patent to the hyperlink technology used to whisk Web users from one site to another."
  • February 14, 2002: Delio, Michelle, Move Over, BT: He Invented Links, Wired:
    "Nobody should be more outraged over British Telecom's claim that it owns the patent to hyperlinking than Bob Bemer, who believes he may be the world's oldest, living computer programmer."
  • February 12, 2002: Delio, Michelle, Why This Link Patent Case Is Weak, Wired:
     "It may be a long time before British Telecom knows whether it lucked out or lost big in the legal sweepstakes. But even if it wins its court battle, experts said the British telephone company has already lost the war." 
  • February 12, 2002: Hyperlinks gehören uns,
    "Patente auf Internet-Basistechnologien sind umstritten. Doch dieser Fall gilt als besonders absurd: Die British Telecom meint, anno 1976 den Hyperlink erfunden zu haben - und klagt nun bei Providern auf Lizenzgebühren."
  • February 11, 2002: Delio, Michelle, Judge Dubious About Link Patent, Wired:
    "The British telephone company had set out to prove in a U.S. federal court Monday that the company developed and holds a patent to the hyperlink technology used to whisk Web users from one site to another."
  • February 7, 2002: Linking Patent Goes to Court, Wired:
    "It may sound far-fetched, but a U.S. federal court will hear preliminary arguments next week to determine if this most elemental of Internet activities is the business property of a lone company, protected in the form of a patent."
  • February 7, 2002: Warner, Bernhard, Auchard, Eric, BT in Fight to Establish Web Surfing Patent, techTV:
    "Imagine if one company held the right to collect a fee each time an Internet user clicked on a website link and jumped to another webpage."
  • November 23, 2001: Loney, Matt, Date set for BT hyperlink case, ZDNet:
    "BT has been given a date for its lawsuit, in which it claims ownership of the patent for hyperlinks - the basic building blocks of the Web."
  • December 17, 2000: Hyperlink-Patent: British Telecom macht ernst, Heise:
    "Der Telekom-Konzern British Telecom (BT) macht nun offensichtlich ernst mit dem Patent auf Hyperlinks, das die Firma für sich beansprucht."
  • December 15, 2000: Richardson, Tim: Prodigy to fight BT’s shameless’ hyperlinks patent lawsuit, The Register:
    "Prodigy Communications Corp has reacted angrily to BT's hypertext links lawsuit branding it "blatant and shameless"."
  • December 14, 2000: Richardson, Tim, BT launches US hyperlinks legal action, The Register:
    "BT - which owns the patent to hypertext links - has begun its legal fight to claim back millions of dollars in licensing revenue from US ISPs."
  • October 2, 2000: Patent auf Hyperlinks zweifelhaft, Heise:
    "Laut dem New Scientist dürfte das von der British Telecom (BT) 1976 eingereichte Patent auf Hyperlinks nicht mehr lange Bestand haben."
  • July 3, 2000: Lambert, Nancy: Does British Telecom Own Hyperlinks?, NewsBreaks
  • June 21, 2000: Mieszkowski, Katharine: Stop the Web! We own those links!, Salon:
    "British Telecom claims it has patented hyperlinks, but one of the icons of Web history tells a different story."
  • June 20, 2000: British Telecom beansprucht Patent auf Hyperlinks, Heise:
    "Ein Patent auf Hyperlinks, auf die kleinen, anklickbaren Text- und Grafik-Bereiche in Web-Seiten, die zu weiteren Informationen, anderen Seiten oder Servern führen?"
  • June 19, 2000: Richardson, Tim: BT claims ownership of hyperlinks, The Register:
    "British Telecommunications (BT) claims it owns the patent to hyperlinks and wants ISPs in the US to cough up hard cash for the privilege of using them."

December 13, 2000: Complaint

Text of the patent

Also see the Decision Section: March 13, 2002 and August 22, 2002


SBC Communications v. Frames Patent?

In 2002 British Telecom (BT) lost its legal challenge against Prodigy to charge US ISPs a fee for using hyperlinks. A court ruled that ISPs do not infringe a patent filled by BT more than 25 years ago. BT had asserted that the U.S. patent 4,873,662 covers hyperlinks (Also see a compilation of articles for further information on the case).

Now SBC Communications claims that it owns the right to links that stay visible on the page during navigation. SBC sent an e-mail to the site demanding a licence fee. If the claim would be valid, SBC could demand fees from every company that puts links in frames.

  • Petty, Scott, "SBC Communications "Frames" On-line Sellers By Seeking Royalties For Patent Covering Internet Frames", King & Spalding:
    "SBC Communications, Inc., the U.S. Baby Bell in the West, has asserted that it is the exclusive owner of a technology for "structured document" browsing - the use of frames to provide hyperlinks to documents displayed by a browser." 
  • April 30, 2003: SBC Getting Aggressive With Frames Patent, Slashdot
  • January 31, 2003: Orlowski, Andrew, Evidence torpedoes SBC web patent, The Register:
    "In regards to your article on SBC Communications attempting to enforce their patents on frame presentations, I can assure you there most definitely IS prior art."
  • January 30, 2003: Koerner, Brendan, Can You Patent Common Features of the Internet?, Slate:
    "Telcom giant SBC is sending cease-and-desist letters to hundreds of Web site operators, accusing them of infringing on an SBC patent covering "frames," those stationary menus that innumerable Web sites employ to help users navigate sites."
  • January 29, 2003: Gillmor, Dan, SBC's patent claim on Web navigation is way off course, Mercury News:
    "There was widespread satisfaction in the Internet community last summer when a federal judge tossed out an outrageous claim by British Telecom that it had a patent on hyperlinks, the clickable words and pictures on Web pages that take you to other pages on the Net. BT's ``invention'' was neither new nor original."
  • January 21, 2003: Bowman, Lisa, SBC stakes claim on Web frames patent, CNet:
    "SBC Communications is claiming a wide-ranging patent on Web frames that could affect hundreds of sites that use the technology."
  • January 21, 2003: Goodwins, Rupert, US company claims millions over site-nave patent, ZDNet Australia:
    "Every Web site that uses a common form of site navigation could be hit for thousands or millions of dollars in licence fees, claims a US company holding a patent on the idea."

You can read the letter at the website.


Kalk v. Fairfield Language Techs.

According to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware ruling from April 22, a plaintiff cannot establish personal jurisdiction over a non-resident party merely because a link to that party's web site is featured in an online directory geared to the forum (defendant's website was mentioned in the Delaware Immigration Directory's website). Absent evidence that the defendant sought to be listed in the directory, there is no basis to conclude that the defendant has "purposefully availed" itself of the forum, the district court held.


Mark Maughan v. Google

On March 25, 2003, Mark Maughan, a certified public accountant with the Brown & Maughan firm, googled his name and found some "alarming, false, misleading and injurious results" about himself and his firm. Specifically, he alleges that the search results falsely represent that plaintiffs Maughan and/or Brown & Maughan have e.g. been disciplined for gross negligence. The plaintiff's attorney, John A. Girardi, claims that the error was created because of Google's PageRank algorithm. His argument seems to be based around the idea that Google provides "snippets" of text from a website when it creates its search engine results listings. In his view PageRank "reformats information obtained from accurate sources, resulting in changing of the context in which information is presented." To better illustrate this case, consider another example. My website features articles about several lawsuits. In some of them Playboy was the plaintiff. If someone searches for my name "Stephan Ott", it is possible that Google would list my website with the text snippets: "Stephan Ott ... Playboy .... illegally published copyrighted materials". Would any search engine user believe I'm a playboy that offers illegal material? Without clicking on the link to my website, I doubt it, but Mark Maughan doesn't. His lawsuit seeks an injunction to force Google to discontinue use of the PageRank system as well as requesting unspecified monetary damages. Yahoo! and AOL-Time Warner were also listed as co-defendants. Well, someone better tell the plaintiff that the PageRank algorithm only is one factor that determines on which position a website is listed within the search results (see Technical Background: Search Engines).


  • March 22: Google Sued Over PageRank, webpronews:
    "A man in Southern California is irate over the results of “Googling” his name. Mark Maughan, certified public accountant of the Brown & Maughan firm, believes the search results for “Mark Maughan” contained “alarming, false, misleading and injurious results.”
  • March 19, 2004: Accountant "Googles" Himself, Sues for Libel, NBC 4:
    "A South Bay accountant who said an Internet search engine returned "alarming" information about him and his firm sued Google, AOL, Time Warner and Yahoo! Friday for libel."


US- President George W. Bush - A miserable failure?

Here is what you have to do: Go to Google's main page and type in "MISERABLE FAILURE". The search engine will direct you to the biography of the president on the White House website. Try and see it! The trick is possible because Google searches more than just the contents of web pages - it also counts how often a site is linked to, and with what words. Thus, members of an online community can affect the results of Google searches - called "Google bombing" - by linking their sites to a chosen one.

  • December 7, 2003: "Miserbale failure" links to Bush, BBC:
    "George W Bush has been Google bombed: Web users entering the words "miserable failure" into the popular search engine are directed to the biography of the president on the White House website."
  • December 6, 2003: Google überrascht bei der Suche nach erbärmlichen Versagern, Heise:
    "Die Eingabe der Formulierung "miserable failure", die im Deutschen die Bedeutung "erbärmlicher Versager" hat, bringt bei der Suchmaschine Google Erstaunliches zutage. Auf Platz eins findet sich die Biografie des amtierenden US-Präsidenten, George W. Bush."

Adam Mathes first used a bomb to ensure that whenever anyone typed the phrase "talentless hack" into Google they got the site of his friend Andy Pressman. 


Google v. China

In its effort to control the flow of information, the Chinese government blocked access to the Internet search engine Google in September 2002, because it could bring up links to e.g. pornography or content associated with the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong. Typing in Google's address produced an error message, as if the page did not exist. After some days users were routed to an array of other search engines in China. 

Chinese users were also blocked from using AltaVista's search engine, but not from Yahoo. Yahoo's China-based affiliate had agreed to voluntarily block access to certain sites to comply with Beijing's rules.

Google is accessible in China again at the moment.

  • September 14, 2002: Kahn, Joseph, China Seems to Refine Bid to Restrict Web Access, New York Times:
    "China apparently has refined efforts to block access to popular United States-based Internet search engines, again allowing access to Google but selectively blocking access to specific content; continues to block access to Altavista; users can find references on Google to banned spiritual movement Falun Gong and other censored topics, but efforts to call up references fail and can cause Internet browser to fail."

  • September 12, 2002: Kahn, Joseph, China Toughens Obstacles to Internet Searches, New York Times:
    "China is conducting unusually strong campaign to funnel Chinese Internet traffic away from United States-based search engine Google and onto sites government deems friendly and safe."

  • September 10, 2002: More on China's redirecting of Google to third-party sites, Politech

  • September 9, 2002: Olsen, Stefanie, China blocks search engine AltaVista, CNet:
    "The Chinese government has blocked access to search engine AltaVista as part of its campaign to prevent citizens from accessing material deemed unsuitable and threatening to the ruling Communist Party."

  • September 6, 2002: Knight, Will, Google mirror beats Great Firewall of China,
    "China's widely criticised blocking of the web's most popular search engine Google can be defeated by viewing a strange Google mirror site through a mirror, New Scientist has discovered."

  • September 3, 2002: Lyman, Jay, Google Responds to China Ban, Newsfactor:
    "Google could not provide the number of Chinese users of its search engine, but said in a statement it is working on restoring service to "millions of Chinese users."

  • September 2, 2002: Google in China anscheinend in Ungnade gefallen, Heise:
    "Seit dem vergangenen Wochenende ist Google, beliebte Suchmaschine auch für chinesische Netznutzer, von China aus nicht mehr erreichbar."

  • August 13, 2002: Hu, Jim, Yahoo yields to Chinese Web laws, CNet:
    "Yahoo on Tuesday defended its decision to sign off on voluntary content limitations in China, a move that critics say opens the door to online censorship by the Web portal." 

  • August 9, 2002: Yahoo! Risks Abusing Rights in China, Human Rights News:
    "Yahoo! Inc. risks complicity in rights abuses if it remains a signatory to China's "Public Pledge on Self-discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry," Human Rights Watch said today." 

  • July 16, 2002: Yahoo unterwirft sich freiwilliger Zensur-Verpflichtung in China, Heise:
    "Immer mehr Internet-Portale in China unterzeichnen offensichtlich eine freiwillige Erklärung, nach der so genannte subversive Inhalte künftig gesperrt werden, berichtet die in Hongkong erscheinende South China Morning Post." 

Replacement of Google with Alternative Search Systems in China - Documentation and Screen Shots, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Law School

Google Mirror: elgooG


October 2003 Update:

Dynamic Internet Technology, a research firm striving to defeat online censorship, conducted tests that found Google omits results from the government-banned sites if search requests are made through computers connecting to the Internet in China. Google presumably is cooperating with the Chinese government's censorship efforts to smooth the way for expansion plans in Asia.

The Chinese government lashed out at Google two years ago when it temporarily blocked access to the company's main search engine before relenting under public pressure. 

  • September 25, 2004, Google Bows to Chinese Censorship, Wired:
    " Google's recently launched news service in China doesn't display results from websites blocked by that country's authorities, raising prickly questions for an online search engine that has famously promised to "do no evil."
  • September 21, 2004, Google omits controversial news stories in China,
    " The internet's most popular search engine Google has been accused of supporting Chinese internet controls by omitting contentious news stories from search results in China."


Internet Gambling Bill

A proposed bill to ban Internet gambling would have required Internet Service Provider to remove hyperlinks to Websites that offer gambling. The bill did not pass in the Senate.

  • October 23, 2002: Leach Bill fails to pass in Senate, Casino News:
    "As was widely predicted, H.R.556 – the “Leach Bill”, which would have effectively outlawed Internet gambling within the US – has failed to pass in the US Senate."
  • October 1, 2002: Batt, Tony, House vote one hurdle for Internet gaming ban, Las Vegas Review-Journal:
    "As the House prepares to vote today on legislation to ban Internet gambling, a South Dakota senator has introduced similar legislation in the Senate." 


National Association of Recording Merchandisers, Inc. v. Sony Corporation of America, et al.

The National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) filed a lawsuit against Sony Music and Sony Corp. of America in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. NARM accused Sony, inter alia, to illegally steer customers to its online stores by including hyperlinks on music compact discs. In November 2001 NARM withdraw its lawsuit.

§     November 30, 2001: Statement On NARM’s Withdrawal Of Lawsuit Against Sony:

 "The NARM Board of Directors has voted to withdraw its pending lawsuit against Sony Music over the use of hyperlinks on CDs that direct retail customers to label controlled sites. In the nearly two years since the litigation initially was filed, the landscape and the facts surrounding digital distribution of music have changed dramatically."

  • February 3, 2000: Rosencrance, Linda, Music retailers: Sony promotions amount to antitrust, CNN:
    "A national music retailing association has filed a lawsuit against Sony Corporation of America, alleging that the company is illegally forcing retailers to direct their customers to Sony's online stores, where they can purchase CDs."
  • February 1, 2000: News, Bloomberg, Sony’s Music Unit Sued Over Customer Steering, New York Times:
    "Sony Music Entertainment was sued by retailers who say the company illegally steers customers to its online stores by including hyperlinks on music compact discs."
  • January 31, 2000: Retailers Sue Sony, Wired:
    "Sony Music Entertainment, one of the world's biggest music companies, forces record stores to sell CDs that drive consumers to Sony's online stores, a group representing music retailers alleged in a lawsuit on Monday."
  • January 31, 2000: Macavinta, Courtney, Music retailers charge Sony with unfair competition, CNet:
    "A retail industry group is suing Sony Music Entertainment, alleging that the company is strong-arming retailers to point their customers toward its online shops."



ASCAP v. Travelfinder

ASCAP demanded a fee from Travelfinder for linking to other musical sites.

  • July 1, 1999: Sprenger, Polly, Music Licenser Shakes Down Web, Wired:
    "ASCAP, an organization that collects licensing fees for musical performances, is asking webmasters to pay for the right to link to online music, even if it is stored on another site."


SEC Interpretation: Use of Electronic Media

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued guidance on the use of electronic media including some comments on hyperlinks from Issuer's Website to third-party information and reports.


The Putnam Pit, Inc. v. City of Cookeville

According to a court decision in the Middle District of Tennessee, the publisher of the online newspaper Putnam Pit has no first amendment right to force the government of Cookeville to link from the city’s Website to his own. Prior to the request from Putnam Pit, the city had not refused a link to others who had wanted one. Putnam Pit had alleged viewpoint discrimination, because the denial was based on the controversial content of the Putnam Pit website, which is critical on city politics in Cookeville.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth District reversed and remanded the decision with respect to the First Amendment claim concerning the city’s Website.

Putnam Pit was once again denied a link by a October 15, 20001 jury verdict. Putnam Pit appealed the decision.

Short Summary

For legal documents visit the Putnam Pit website.

For legal analysis see Horwood, James / Hopkins, Peter / Stein, Alisa, Municipal Web Site Liability Under the First Amendment, Municipal Lawyer

Also see the Decision Section: July 19, 2000 and September 21, 1998


ACLU v. Miller

A federal district judge issued a permanent injunction preventing enforcement of a Georgia law (HB 1630) which criminalized online anonymous speech and the use of trademarked logos as links on the World Wide Web. The Court agreed with the ACLU, Electronic Frontiers Georgia and others that the statute is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. 

  • 1997: Miller, Christopher, Courts Rule That Georgia and New York Internet Censorship Laws Are Unconstitutional:
    "Following the enactment of the Federal Communication Decency Act (CDA), eleven states have passed laws regulating content on the Internet. These laws were challenged in federal district courts in two states this past summer."
  • Rothman, David, The Internet Police Law: The Day the Sites Went Out in Georgia?:
    "Linking your Web site to anyone else's without permission? Be glad you're not in Georgia--or be worried if you are."
  • July 19, 1996: Mendels, Pamela, ACLU Fights Georgia Internet Fraud Law, The New York Times:
    "A new Georgia law that seeks to prevent people from misrepresenting themselves on line is coming under fire from civil libertarians and others who argue that it could severely curtail free speech in cyberspace."
  • July 1, 1996: Kuester, Jeffrey, Cyber-Sheriff’s in Town:
    "On July 1, Georgia becomes the first state to criminalize explicitly the use of certain Internet e-mail addresses, domain names, and Web pages. According to critics, HB1630--dubbed the "Internet Police" law--criminalizes the use of an e-mail address that includes a name other than the name of the mailbox owner, as well as the use of domain names and hyperlinks on a Web page without first obtaining permission from the owner of any included trademark, trade name, logo, legal or official seal, or copyrighted symbol."
  • 1996: Faber, Joseph, Regulation of the Internet: A Lesson in Reaching Too Far

Overview over EFGA’s Lawsuit against the State of Georgia

Text of HB 1630

Also see the Decision Section: June 20, 1997


Center for Disease Control Links

On March 9, 2002, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) removed a National Prevention Information Network (NIPN) website link to the Coalition for Positive Sexuality (CPS) website called, which offers information about birth control, abortion and sexual orientation. Some groups demanded the website link to to be restored.

  • March 20, 2002: Federal agencies urged to keep linking to healthy-sex site, Politech
  • March 13, 2002: Baim, Tracey, Who is policing the sex police, Windy City Times:
    "The Coalition for Positive Sexuality (CPS), a grassroots, all-volunteer sexuality education organization, denounced the CDC's and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's decisions to remove links to CPS's sexuality education website,"
  • March 9, 2002: McCullagh, Declan, CDC Sex Site Has Some Eyes Sore, Wired:
    "The staid folks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been caught in a political flap after they linked to a -- gasp! -- site that advocates a "positive attitude towards sexuality."

  Online Policy Group – Action Alert


Message to Bankers and Examiners

This bulletin highlights the risks and provides risk management guidance concerning banks' weblinking relationships with third parties.


Hyperlinks & Law in China

There is not much information available about how China's internet law deals with hyperlinks. Computer World Hongkonk reports a case against ISP Soho: "The Court ducked the issue as to whether hyperlinks may constitute copyright infringement by simply holding that no law in China definitively provides that hyperlinks constitute copyright infringement." Another articles mentiones the case Liu Jinsheng v Sohu Aitexin Infor-Tech (Beijing) Co Ltd. The defendant was held liable for three hyperlinks to websites, that contained an anauthorized translation of Don Quixote.


State Department Link

Until a reporter inquired about it, the State Department Website had provided a link to a Republican National Committee Website despite federal laws prohibiting government resources from being used for partisan purposes.


Protection of Minors on the internet and Search Engines in Germany


March 2005 Update: German Search Engines create a self-censorship-organisation


The German internet search engines, Lycos Europe, MSN Germany, AOL Germany,, T-Online and T-Info have joined forces to create a self-censorship organisation under the hood of the German FSM (the "Voluntary Self-Control for Multimedia Service Providers")  to systematically tackle the removal of links to web content banned by German law. The project especially aims at automating the filtering out of URLs on the index of Germany's Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPJM). Forbidden in Germany and restricting the freedom of speech are e.g. child pornography, certain other types of pornography (like bestiality), right wing extremist "hate" sites, incitement to commit crimes, race discrimination, treasonable conduct as an agent for sabotage purposes or glorification of violence.

There will be a centralized server containing a blacklist of banned URLs. Germans will still be able to use the non-German editions of the search engines, thus having access to the "censored" material, just as they have now.

  • February 25, 2005, Search engine providers practice self-regulation, Heise:
    "In Berlin today the search engine providers Google, Lycos Europe, MSN Deutschland, AOL Deutschland, Yahoo, T-Online and t-info announced the creation of a self-regulatory organization under the umbrella of the "Voluntary Self-Control for Multimedia Service Providers."
  • February 25, 2004: Krempl, Stefan, Suchmaschinen filtern jugendgefährdende Angebote, Telepolis:
    "Deutsche Suchmaschinenbetreiber geloben in einem Verhaltenskodex, rund 1000 vom Bund indizierte Websites in einem Akt der Selbstkontrolle nicht mehr anzuzeigen."
  • February 24, 2005: German Search Engines Selfregulating, Slashdot
  • February 24, 2005: Selbstzensur der Suchmaschinen - Schluss mit Porno, Stern:
    "Eine Vereinbarung großer Suchmaschinenbetreiber in Deutschland dürfte einigen Staub aufwirbeln: Künftig soll der Zugang zu rechtsextremistischen oder pornografischen Webseiten deutlich erschwert werden."
  • February 24, 2005: Selbstregulierung der Suchmaschinenanbieter, Heise:
    "Die Suchmaschinenanbieter Google, Lycos Europe, MSN Deutschland, AOL Deutschland, Yahoo, T-Online und t-info haben heute in Berlin die Gründung einer eigenen Selbstregulierungsorganisation unter dem Dach der Freiwilligen Selbstkontrolle Multimedia-Diensteanbieter (FSM) angekündigt."

Verhaltenssubkodex für Suchmaschinenanbieter der FSM


Government search engine links 

Searches for "John Kerry" on certain government agency websites (Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services) have provided links to Republican websites, that criticise Kerry, as the top results in June 2004. Both Departments pointed the finger at the government's official Web portal,, which maintains their search engines., for its part, blamed the error on a technical glitch...

  • July 15, 2004: Kerry-Bashing durch Regierungs-Suchmaschine,
    Der US-Regierung wird Suchmaschinen-Optimierung der besonderen Art vorgeworfen. Die Suche auf den Seiten verschiedener Ministerien nach dem Begriff "Kerry" soll parteipolitisch motivierte Ergebnisse erbracht haben.
  • July 14, 2004: Wolfe, Elizabeth, Gov't Search Engines Link to Kerry Critics, AP:
    Searching for "Kerry" on the Department of Homeland Security's Web site Tuesday afternoon turned up an unexpected top hit: a Republican attack on the Democratic presidential candidate.


Michael Bradley 

According to the criminal complaint, which was unsealed in San Jose in March 2004, Michael Bradley attempted to defraud and extort money from Google by developing a software program that automates fraudulent "clicks" on "cost-per-click" advertisements utilized by Google. Bradley said he would sell the software to spammers if Google did not pay him about $150,000. He was arrested in March and unsuccessfully pled not guilty to the charges (extortion and wiretap fraud) against him. A federal grand jury in San Jose returned an indictment at the end of June 2004, charging him with one count of interfering with commerce by threats and 10 counts of wire fraud.

  • June 25, 2004: Cullen, Drew, Man charged over Google blackmail attempt, The Register:
    A California man who claimed to have software which automatically clicked on Google cost-per-click ads has been charged with extortion and wiretap fraud.
  • June 25, 2004: Schuldspruch für Google Erpresser,
    "Der Programmierer Michael Bradley der Google im März dieses Jahres zur Zahlung einer größeren Geldsumme wollte, wurde von einem Geschworenengericht wegen erpresserischer Handlungen und wegen Betrugs für schuldig befunden."
  • June 24, 2004, Man indicted in Google fraud scheme, ZDNet:
    A California man was arraigned on Thursday on federal extortion and wire fraud charges arising from a software program he claimed could allow spammers to defraud Web search company Google Inc. of millions of dollars, federal prosecutors said.

Also see the Criminal Complaint and the United States Attorney Northern District of California Press Release: Computer Programmer Arrested for Extortion and Mail Fraud Scheme Targeting Google, Inc.


Lane's Collectibles v. Yahoo, Google

A consortium of advertisers (led by Lane's Collectibles) have filed a class action suit in Arkansas against Yahoo, Google and 9 other search engines in February, accusing the Search companies of over pricing ads and colluding to keep ad prices high. The lawsuit also alleges that Internet search engine companies knowingly charged for fraudulent clicks.

In the pay-per-click model that Google and Yahoo use, advertisers pay each time a user "clicks through" on an ad listed alongside search engine results. But the number of clicks with ill intents is rising.  A fraudulent clicker can rack up fees for a business rival or try to generate ad revenue for himself. Last November Google filed a suit against Auctions Expert International LLC for clicking on ads Google supplied to the company's site.

Click fraud has become a growing problem in the search industry. Google even said it is "the biggest threat to the Internet economy." Google and Yahoo won't give a public estimate of the number of bad clicks. Some people estimate that between 5% and 13% of all clicks are fraudulent and for some key words on certain search engines as many as 80% of clicks might be fraudulent. Google refunds advertisers for "unusual clicks" and "invalid click activity".

Lan's filed the lawsuit February 4, 2005 and the defendants on March 30 asked that the case be moved from state court to federal court.


  • April 5, 2005: Google and Yahoo! accused of click fraud collusion, The Register:
    "Google, Yahoo! and other players in the search business have become embroiled in a lawsuit which involves overcharging for pay-per-click online advertising."
  • April 5, 2005: Google & Co. im Zusammenhang mit Klickbetrug verklagt, Heise:
    "In den USA sind insgesamt elf namhafte Internet-Firmen -- darunter Google, Yahoo, AOL, Ask Jeeves, Lycos und Walt Disney Online -- wegen angeblicher Unregelmäßigkeiten bei der Vermarktung von Online-Anzeigen verklagt worden."


September 2005 Update:

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Ark., has declined to overrule a federal district judge's decision to send the case back to Miller County Circuit Court in Texarkana, Ark., where it was originally filed  According to the court the class-action lawsuit by Lane's Gifts and Collectibles alleging ``click fraud'' by Google Inc. and other Internet companies should be heard in state court rather than in a federal courtroom. The suit was filed before President Bush signed legislation that funnels most class-action lawsuits to federal court.

July 2006 Update:

An Arkansas judge approved a $90 million settlement between Google Inc. and advertisers who claimed the Internet search engine company improperly billed them for clicks that didn't lead to genuine customers seeking their products (Google charges advertisers a fee each time a user clicks on an ad that is displayed on the search firm's website). Google was accused of not doing enough to protect advertisers from "click fraud" abuse.

The ruling can be found here.

In a court-ordered report, Alexander Tuzhilin, a professor of information systems at New York University, assessed Google's click fraud control mechanisms. He came to the following conclusion: "Google put much effort in developing infrastructure, methods and processes for detecting invalid clicks since the Click Quality team was established in 2003. These efforts were not perfect since Google missed certain amounts of invalid clicks over these years and it adhered to the doubleclicking policy for too long in my opinion. However, click fraud is a very difficult problem to solve, Google put a significant effort to solve it, and I find their efforts to filter out invalid clicks as being reasonable, especially after the doubleclick policy was reversed in March 2005."



NeoMedia Technologies, Inc. v. AirClic Inc / Scanbuy(TM), Inc. 

Early in 2004, NeoMedia Technologies, Inc filed a patent infringement lawsuits against AirClic Inc. and Scanbuy(TM), Inc. The lawsuit was dismissed in April 2004 by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, for lack of personal jurisdiction. An Illinois fedreal judge held that general jurisdiction cannot be established exclusively on the basis of a Website’s hyperlink to other sites that sell infringing products.

The websites of both AirClic and Scanbury allow users to submit contact information and later receive information about products and services. Scanbury's website also contained a hyperlink to another company (AESI) that sold products that incorporated Scanbuy software. AESI also sold software to Illinios residents. That was not enough to establish general jurisdiction in Illinoi. The court found that Scanbuy's website was more akin to an advertisement, simply trying to promote its business by attracting new customers. If personal jurisidiction would simply be based on Scanbuy's hyperlink to a website that is active in a forum, it would establish as precedent that any website owner who hyperlinks to a website that conducts business online would be susceptible to personal jurisdiction in every state and district. “It is therefore inappropriate for the hyperlink factor to tip the scales in favor of general jurisdiction in Illinois, when it would otherwise be lacking based solely on Scanbuy’s website,” the judge said.

Text of the decision

The court distinguished this case from LFG, LCC v. Zapata Corp., 78 F. Supp.2d 731 (N.D. Ill 199), a case in which a hyperlink was found to have created jurisdiction, by pointing out that, unlike here, the LFG website was a highly interactive portal website whose business it was to generate traffic to linked websites.


"Terms and Conditions of Sale" / "Privacy Policy" provided by hyperlink create binding contract

Hubbert v. Dell

An Illinois appeals court held that plaintiffs who purchased computers over the defendant's website were bound to an arbitration clause contained in the "Terms and Conditions of Sale,” even though they were not required to click on an “I agree” button specific to those terms of sale. To make their purchases, each of the plaintiffs completed online forms on five of the defendant's Web pages.  On each of the five Web pages, the defendant's "Terms and Conditions of Sale" were accessible by clicking on a blue hyperlink.  According to the court "the blue hyperlinks on the defendant's Web pages, constituting the five-step process for ordering the computers, should be treated the same as a multipage written paper contract.  The blue hyperlink simply takes a person to another page of the contract, similar to turning the page of a written paper contract.  Although there is no conspicuousness requirement, the hyperlink's contrasting blue type makes it conspicuous.  Common sense dictates that because the plaintiffs were purchasing computers online, they were not novices when using computers.  A person using a computer quickly learns that more information is available by clicking on a blue hyperlink."


JetBlue Airways Corp. Privacy Litigation

Plaintiffs brought this action against JetBlueAirways Corporation for alleged violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and violations of state and common law. In their view defendants violated their privacy rights by unlawfully transferring their personal information to Torch for use in a federally-funded study on military base security. The defendant contended that the policy could only be accessed and viewed by clicking on a seperate stand-alone link on the bottom of a JetBlue Web page and was not a term of the contract of carriage. The court rejected this argument, but did not discuss it in detail, because it found that plaintiffs werde unable to plead or prove any actual contract damages. 



Linking Cases

There have been a lot of lawsuits concerning linking, framing and search engine issues in the last years. In this section you'll find short introductions into the different cases and links to news articles about it. 

An overview over featured cases can be found here!

Latest News - Update 71

Legal trouble for YouTube in Germany

Germany: Employer may google job applicant

EU: Consultation on the E-Commerce-Directive

WIPO Paper on tradmarks and the internet

The ECJ and the AdWords Cases



Masthead/Curriculum Vitae
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