Online publishers are taking legal action against what is known as deep-linking, or linking beyond a homepage directly to a specific article on a website.
In the most recent example, attorneys representing Rodale, the publisher of Runner's World magazine and the runnersworld.com website, warned two brothers who started the LetsRun.com website to "immediately cease and desist the unauthorised and infringing publication of an article and any other Rodale content copied by LetsRun.com without permission from Rodale".
The letter, signed by Allen Tullar, an attorney representing the publisher, warned Weldon and Robert Johnson to remove the article and that legal action would follow if they failed to do so.
"Rodale is prepared to take any and all necessary steps to protect and enforce its rights under the US Copyright Act," said the letter, which claimed that the article in question, a Peter Snell interview, had been reproduced in its entirety on LetsRun.com.
Even though many legal experts have said that deep-linking can violate copyright and trademark laws, no US court has yet restricted the type of deep-linking under discussion.
In a recent Ticketmaster versus Tickets.com court case, the following summary was issued: "Hyperlinking does not itself involve a violation of the Copyright Act since no copying is involved.
"The customer is automatically transferred to the particular genuine web page of the original author. There is no deception in what is happening.
"This is analogous to using a library's card index to get reference to particular items, albeit faster and more efficiently."
However, Giga Information Group analyst Rob Enderle insisted that the issue has not been fully addressed. "We feel that copyright rules would apply and it is likely that LetsRun.com is exposed," he said.
Enderle maintained that this is not a sure thing and suggested that web-based intellectual property may need extra language to ensure that the content is not pulled from the site without permission.
In an earlier instance the Dallas Morning News became infuriated over deep links to its newspaper articles.
The Belo media company, the owner of the newspaper, sent a letter demanding that BarkingDogs.org, a proactive news website in and around the Dallas area, remove all deep links to the DallasNews.com site.
Explaining that the Belo content is protected by US copyright laws, the letter stated: "Accordingly, we must request that you cease and desist from any unauthorised use of the Belo content including, without limitation, allowing users of BarkingDogs.org to deep link directly to the Belo content or from posting, without prior written permission, any other Belo content on BarkingDogs.org."
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