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Law Firm Uses Copyright Claim To Say You Can't View Its Website's HTML
Anolonda




msg:3480361
 12:36 am on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

Looks like it's time to update the privacy policy on my clients' sites.

[techdirt.com...]

 

bunltd




msg:3480437
 2:20 am on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

LOL, that's too funny.

Um, don't they realize that by visiting the site, you have a cached copy located on your computer? Oh noes! I don't want to be sued... Hmm, how would they know?

LisaB

Marshall




msg:3480477
 3:25 am on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

Lawyers?!

I believe it was Shakespeare who said "first thing we do is kill all the lawyers."

(Sorry lawman if you're reading this.)

Marshall

Stefan




msg:3480483
 3:53 am on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hilarious. No apparent understanding of how webpages work whatsoever. If the page renders, you're viewing the markup language code (html). If you don't want anyone to view the code, why would you put it online? It would be better to just copy it to a floppy disc and throw it out the back door ;-)

vincevincevince




msg:3480490
 4:06 am on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

They have it back-to-front.

Copyright exists on the thing which was created.

They created HTML code and transmitted that HTML code to the user; certainly indicating their willingness to allow the visitor access to the HTML.

They did not grant an explicit permission for the user to render that HTML code into a web page using a browser, which would be creating a derivative work.

They'd do best to send their files as .txt text/plain; to avoid confusion.

Habtom




msg:3480494
 4:24 am on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

Shouldn't they be displaying the user agreement in their index page? Are we supposed to read all the terms and conditions of all sites before accessing them?

In addition, you should not make any copies of any part of this website in any way since we do not want anyone copying us.

Ok, that doesn't sound like it is written by a law firm, and that is a nice reason for not being copied.

We also do not allow any links to our site without our express permission . . .

ok. If I have to link I guess, I would link to their terms and conditions page which seems to be more interesting than the rest of the stuff.

We do not permit our website to be “spidered”, or a program run through the website, for purposes of obtaining email addresses to be used in commercial email campaigns.

And everybody else does. Couldn't this has been written better?

We do permit search engines to access our website for purposes of indexing search results.

And now, that is how you tell search engines to spider or not to spider the website. What if that was "We do not permit . . ." I bet the search engines will index the site and their terms and conditions? Have those people heard of robots.txt?

Habtom

john_k




msg:3480846
 1:59 pm on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

This seems to be a going trend.

General Motors recently announced that the owners manuals in its new models, the books that you keep underneath all of the junk in the glove compartment, will have an itty-bitty notice stating that it is forbidden, by anyone other than a certified Mr. Goodwrench technician, to open the hood of the vehicle to look at the engine.

Of course the vehicles will still have the little levers under the dash that allow drivers to easily pop the hood while cruising down the freeway.

john_k




msg:3480848
 2:03 pm on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

Seriously though, this looks like more "legal" evidence that software program code should be covered by copyrights, and not by patents.

phranque




msg:3480871
 2:18 pm on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

that is also assuming that software program code and markup text are equivalent.

Quadrille




msg:3480879
 2:24 pm on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

we do not want anyone copying us.

That was never written by a lawyer.

It's not 'lawyer language', and I never heard of a lawyer using a misinterpretation of the law as a threat.

And it was not even written by anyone who knows a thing about copyright.

Is this a spoof?

Gibble




msg:3480946
 3:27 pm on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

General Motors recently announced that the owners manuals in its new models, the books that you keep underneath all of the junk in the glove compartment, will have an itty-bitty notice stating that it is forbidden, by anyone other than a certified Mr. Goodwrench technician, to open the hood of the vehicle to look at the engine.

So do I have to close my eyes when I fill up the washer fluid reservoir? Check my oil? Need a boost? Or change a light?

LifeinAsia




msg:3480958
 3:33 pm on Oct 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

So, since a browser technically "reads" the source HTML to render the page, does that mean they're going to sue Microsoft and makers of all the other browsers of people who visit their site?

If I was stupid enough to be a client of theirs, I also would be interested in suing anyone who pointed out that fact on their web sites!

skibum




msg:3481569
 2:51 am on Oct 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Crazy but

The law firm doesn't even allow its own clients to say they're represented by the firm without permission.

Lots of businesses have things like this, at least publicly, but the rest of it is just crazy.

balam




msg:3482026
 3:20 pm on Oct 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Nerd revenge can be so funny...

Seems the law firm in question is using an open source CMS - which, according to assertions made by said firm, is actually copyrighted by the firm (as well as other third party code, such as Google's Urchin tracking JS) - and have left all the default settings in place.

They're now hosting pirated Harry Potter, Britney Spears, real pr0n, faux pr0n...

Demaestro




msg:3482065
 4:10 pm on Oct 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

This claim is clearly bordering on ridiculous. It is a shame some other claims that are equally as silly aren't recognized as such.

This is a direct result of allowing people to push the fringes of the law to encompass things it was not meant to. Now look at the claims being made.

The thin edge of the wedge was allowed to slide under and now we see what follows behind it.

As we all sit back and laugh at these claims, just pray in real life that a judge with less knowledge then these lawyers doesn't get to hear this case.

[edited by: Demaestro at 4:13 pm (utc) on Oct. 19, 2007]

balam




msg:3482158
 6:14 pm on Oct 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm surprised we've missed this, or at least that no one has mentioned it: The law firm in question is a Pubcon exhibitor [pubcon.com].

An interesting chance to call this firm to task...

Brett_Tabke




msg:3482181
 6:38 pm on Oct 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Please leave the law to the lawyers.

You can put anything you want in a soft license or terms agreement. By putting it in their TOS - they claim complete and unconditional copyright over the code to the fullest extent of the law - this is an extremely smart move for code they bought and paid for.

I interviewed John Dozier a few weeks back and will be posting that video next week.

Demaestro




msg:3482237
 7:51 pm on Oct 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

Brett... yes you can put what ever you want in them... It doesn't make it legally binding though.

They aren't having you agree to the terms before transferring their HTML to your computer. I already have a copy of their site on my computer before the page even has time to render.

They can't assume I will browse the TOS page if it isn't forced on me before I access the content.

If I don't agree to the terms am I bound by them?

Brett_Tabke




msg:3482489
 2:58 am on Oct 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

>It doesn't make it legally binding though.

It absolutely makes the copyright legally binding and the claim of intellectual property public. Soft licenses were fought for and won in the 80's. Microsoft has never lost a soft license usage agreement case in their history. Running code from a website is not so different than running code from a cd.

It does NOT mean they are going to take action against you if you do so. However, if you reuse the code or do end up in a copyright, or intellectual property dispute with them - they have this tool in their legal bag to use.

> viewing html source code

Is 100% identical to those computers that came with builtin disassemblers and monitors to view and analyze code. Just because you can view code gives you zero rights over that code, other than the soft license rights you agreed to when you used the site.

> visiting the site, you have a cached copy located on your computer?

Very true - and has nothing to do with what is claimed in the TOS.

>No apparent understanding of how webpages work whatsoever.

They have a perfect understanding of it and why the condition of service is included.

> If the page renders, you're viewing the markup language code (html).

If you are seeing the html source code, instead of the rendered page - something has clearly gone wrong.

>They created HTML code and transmitted that HTML code to the user;
> certainly indicating their willingness to allow the visitor access to the HTML.

Access and use as intended - yes yes yes. Analyze and use not as intended - no.

>assuming that software program code and markup text are equivalent.

So javascript is just markup? What about tricky css hovers - or display afters - or other action based "markup"?

> This claim is clearly bordering on ridiculous.

You need to realize, the only thing being claimed is copyright and intellectual property. This is no different than a song writer claiming copyright against being sampled.

>An interesting chance to call this firm to task...

Ya, they should get an award for sticking up for webmasters and site owners. I look around the web, and there are very few people sticking up for our independent intellectual property. Quite the opposite really. I salute anyone taking a stand for publishers, site authors and website owners.

In the end, this line in their tos only means that if an issue surrounding intellectual property of code ever comes up, they have this tool in their bag to bring into a case. It is not an offensive weapon, it is a defensive tool.

vincevincevince




msg:3482513
 3:27 am on Oct 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Brett, whilst what you say makes perfect sense to the average lay-person, it ignores the fact that the web pages are hypertext which has been marked up and transformations from plain text, if any, are the choice of the end user. We have browsing capabilities ranging from plain hypertext such as telnet terminals, through text-based such as lynx, to minimalist embedded browsers which pick and choose tags, all the way to high-end presentational rendering found with IE7 and Firefox.

Even the most advanced renderers treat markup differently, but yet they are all correct (if not standard-based); underlining the fact that marked-up hypertext is what is published and not the 'page as rendered' because such a thing does not exist.

It is that aspect of the user agreement which goes too far, the part which forbids the user to read the hypertext - because whatever form the reader views it in, it is still a valid representation of hypertext, even if that is as 'source'. To put it another way - viewing the un-rendered hypertext and understanding the semantics yourself, as written, is exactly the same as viewing the IE7 rendered hypertext and having IE7 pick some representation of some of the semantics, just two ends of one sliding scale.

And it is good that they want to take a stand for our intellectual property rights; but they need to do so in a way which is technically and not just legally accurate.

victor




msg:3482609
 8:03 am on Oct 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thewy say:
As you may know, you can view the HTML code with a standard browser. We do not permit you to view such code...

The key issue seems to be viewing the HTML code with a standard browser.

Non-standard browsers (older versions of IE? Safari? alpha-testing screen readers?] are not permitted to use the site (at least not the HTML parts of it).

That's a hugely anti-web and anti-accessibility stance they are taking.

And it does not work.
if I have a user agent (let's use the proper term for a browser) that transforms their HTML into XML, I would be permitted to view that XML according to their TOS. Provided of course my user agent was a standard one.

One quick download of Firefox and a DOM viewer add-on and the problem is solved.

callivert




msg:3482895
 8:09 pm on Oct 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

FWIW, when I saw "standard browser" I assumed that Safari, etc were included in that category.

Brett_Tabke




msg:3482916
 8:34 pm on Oct 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

You are trying to look at a legal issue with tech eyes. Browsers, and source viewing is not what this is about. What it is about is protecting the code from misuse.

When "five-n-dime-phentermine-site.com" puts up their ripped off code and they end up in court over it - they have a great tool at their disposal to enforce their copyright and intellectual property rights.

It isn't about code usage, or viewing - it's about who owns the code on ones site regardless of the techinical gimmickry involved. The line between C source code, generated binary code, and readable text/html code is dubious.

Quadrille




msg:3482989
 11:08 pm on Oct 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's all tosh.

I know of no copyright law that stops you looking, it's making a copy that matters.

And if they think the act of using a browser, with it's automatic creation of a temporary file, will stand up in court, they don't need phenteramine - they need anti psychotic drugs.

The law in most countries permits taking a copy 'for personal use', anyway. Do any countries NOT give that particular 'fair use'?

They're Going Quietly Bonkers. ;)

Essex_boy




msg:3483275
 12:53 pm on Oct 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

Whats Lawmans take on all this?

lawman




msg:3483280
 1:02 pm on Oct 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

lawman doesn't do this kind of law. BT has his stable of lawyers advising him and should have more pertinent info than I.

Webwork might have something to add - dunno.

[edited by: lawman at 1:03 pm (utc) on Oct. 21, 2007]

Habtom




msg:3483284
 1:03 pm on Oct 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

It is not an offensive weapon, it is a defensive tool.

A fresh insight to the issue I guess.

I checked the HTML source (oops I am not in the us though) and there is nothing special about it. I could even spot a few things which badly needs some improvement.

>> Whats Lawmans take on all this?
What is the guarantee he won't send you a bill for this legal consultation?

Brett_Tabke




msg:3483358
 4:21 pm on Oct 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

> I know of no copyright law that stops you looking,
> it's making a copy that matters.

However, intellectual property rights and soft licenses do restrict the usage of the code.

Quadrille




msg:3483365
 4:30 pm on Oct 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

Can they stop you looking at it?

ronin




msg:3483752
 9:36 am on Oct 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

As you may know, you can view the HTML code with a standard browser. We do not permit you to view such code since we consider it to be our intellectual property protected by the copyright laws. You are therefore not authorized to do so.

Hmmm. Well, I've looked at the markup for the front page. Quite honestly, it's amateurish at best. (They paid for it?!)

They don't include a doctype declaration, they make extensive and unnecessary use of layout tables, they use deprecated display-oriented elements like <b>, they combine XHTML self-closing elements such as

<hr align="left" />

with code taken from HTML 4.01 such as

<table width="100%" class="newNav" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0">

And look at this - they nest headings inside paragraphs(!):

<p><h1> <snip> </h1></p>

Basically, it looks like it was put together by a couple of cowboys. It's the equivalent of having your office decked out with shoddily manufactured, second-rate furniture. Excuse me for asking again in total disbelief - they paid for this markup?

I hope for their sakes they are better at doing their jobs than they are at sub-contracting web design.

No wonder they don't want anyone looking at the markup. The whole thing is at best an embarrassing joke and at worst a gross public relations folly.

[edited by: lawman at 10:33 am (utc) on Oct. 22, 2007]

This 35 message thread spans 2 pages: 35 ( [1] 2 > >
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