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Want to Link to Auto-Zone?
November 7, 2001 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Want to Link to Auto-Zone? Well make sure you read, fill out, and sign this form, then fax it back to Auto-Zone's legal team. A search on Google reveals that many companies have "Linking Agreements." Mostly large companies looking to protect themselves, presumably in part from being linked from 'the wrong sites'... is this a right that a website owner has, or should have?
posted by cell divide (39 comments total)

 
it's a question which ties into the whole DeCSS thing a while back, since links to DeCSS were ruled illegal at the time of the initial ruling.

i don't know. in my paranoid way, i worry that i'll one day be linked on slashdot for something or other, at which point the many NOC trolls with their many T3s will suck my bandwidth dry and cost me a lot of money; in that scenario, links should be conditional.

but on the other hand, it's not fair to be unable to link to someone else for any reason. a lot of weblogs as they exist today would need to go through legal hoops for their content, which would suck. i think i lean more towards links as expression: you can link to whomever you want.
posted by moz at 10:37 AM on November 7, 2001


What if a neo-nazi site linked to your site and said "great site," (let's just assume your site was not racist, but had some history of WWII or something, I don't know). Would you as a site owner have a legal right to tell them to take you off their list of links?
posted by cell divide at 10:48 AM on November 7, 2001


world wide web.

if you don't want it to be linked to, it shouldn't be public.

and if nazi's linked to my site, i'd hopefully see it in the logs so i could post a nice comment for them. "Welcome, visitors from Nazi Bob's House of the Chosen White Race, I'm shocked that you can read well enough to follow that link. I hope you all rot. All content on this site is mine, and i'm an godless liberal, whose words and pictures will infect your mind."
posted by th3ph17 at 10:53 AM on November 7, 2001


What if a nazi walked past your business and pointed to her friend... "That's a great place."

It's all the same. At least to me.
posted by silusGROK at 10:54 AM on November 7, 2001


No. You do not have the right to control someone else's content. However, you could test the referrer to see where a particular visitor is coming from and redirect them to somewhere more appropriate.
posted by kindall at 10:54 AM on November 7, 2001


cell divide: i think if someone came to my site from a neo nazi site, they would see that i've got nothing to do with neo nazis, so i'm fine (i think). on the other hand, i can always edit my .htaccess and deny people from a specific referring url.
posted by moz at 11:01 AM on November 7, 2001


A lot of the arguments against it, that I've seen, deal with the idea that creating a link is creating an interface for certain actions to take place - when 2600 changed their HTML links to plain text URLs, no one tried to prosecute them, because it would have become an issue of free speech.

A decent argument against it is that a link will cost the recipient in terms of bandwidth; such as the policy on FilePile not to link to them from here. A lame argument, that I've seen on a lot of legal sites, is that a company has the right to decide who views their copyrighted material; obviously so, but it's their responsibility to remove it from the public eye in some manner.
posted by skyline at 11:01 AM on November 7, 2001


When someone is driving down the street "lost", you are walking, they slow down to ask directions to "Bob's House o' Deep-fried Beef", and you are an avowed vegetarion, you have every legal right to direct, or misdirect Bob accordingly. Even if you protest the "house o' beef", Bob has no legal right stopping you from providing directions to their establishment. If you choose to add your own soapbox message, again they have no legal right to stop you. Until free speech is abolished, at the rate the US is going, I give it another 5 years...

As "Vis10n" said, a link is the equivalent of pointing your arm at something and saying; "hey! that's over there..."

Companies like that simply don't understand some of the most fundamental technologies involved in the thing called the "web", should we cater to their "legal agreements" when they aren't enforcable?
posted by jkaczor at 11:04 AM on November 7, 2001


Actually now that I think about it, this whole thread is illegal, since I linked to AutoZone without downloading the form, filling in the information, and faxing it back for approval. Oops.
posted by cell divide at 11:05 AM on November 7, 2001


>A lame argument, that I've seen on a lot of legal sites, is
>that a company has the right to decide who views their
>copyrighted material; obviously so, but it's their
>responsibility to remove it from the public eye in some
>manner.

No, actually I though copyright has to do with what people can "do" with the material. Even though something is copyright, it can still be "viewed". The public library proves this... However, you can't walk in, grab a bunch of titles and start photocopying them for further distribution. For your own use? Possibly...

A URI that is not password protected is a resource that has been placed available for public viewing. You still retain copyright. It is the equivalent of a sign on a building on the street indicates to people where your resources are available. They are usually free to see what you offer. They aren't free to steal...

That's it, if I can't get a new contract due to our economic times, I'm heading back to school, in coming years the legal system needs a large-scale injection of tech. savvy people... (I was a programmer, now a consulting architect, I've been doing this crap for 11 years now).
posted by jkaczor at 11:10 AM on November 7, 2001


"Dear AutoZone Sales/Marketting Drone:

I *LOVE* your site, and service, I would love to add it to my bookmarks collection, unfortunately my computer also acts as my homepage and web server.

As a consumer if I find it difficult to reach your service, I will no longer give you $$$. I can easily turn to a competitor, maybe even in my local yellow pages, and 'WRITE DOWN THEIR TELEPHONE NUMBER" for later use. I can even pass this number on to interested friends and associates.

I urge you to contact your legal department to rectify this oversight."
posted by jkaczor at 11:16 AM on November 7, 2001


Even though something is copyright, it can still be "viewed". The public library proves this...

You're mistaken; libraries are able to provide this service under the rules of Fair Use, which allow research, parody, criticism, etc.
posted by skyline at 11:24 AM on November 7, 2001


"Please don't give us any publicity! Please don't direct any customers to us!" Yeah, sounds like a great marketing plan.
posted by gimonca at 11:26 AM on November 7, 2001


You should have no expectation of privacy when you go out in public, which is what you do when you post content on an open webserver. If my linking to you leads to your bandwidth getting gobbled, too bad -- you take that risk when you open the content to the world.
posted by luser at 11:28 AM on November 7, 2001


>You're mistaken; libraries are able to provide this service
>under the rules of Fair Use, which allow research, parody,
>criticism, etc.

Correct, you are also protected by fair use. But copying material for further distribution is not fair use. One copy, fine, 50? fair use?

Is a link a copy? No, it is a direction to a resource. Hmmm, so is it covered via fair use? Legally, probably not.

However, can entities legally ask to be removed from directories, maps? Bad analogy, companies pay to be listed in the yellow pages.

What about white pages? Yes, you can ask to be removed. Is the knowledge of where an entity exists and how to get there public?

If I have a name/phone number and a postal code, am I legally able to give that information to other parties?

Quick, where is military installation XYZ? Hmmm, it's not in the whitepages? So something is more "secure" if you can't find it easily? (Security through obscurity is about the same as security through faith)

I dunno, this is still "grey".
posted by jkaczor at 11:33 AM on November 7, 2001


Actually now that I think about it, this whole thread is illegal, since I linked to AutoZone without downloading the form, filling in the information, and faxing it back for approval. Oops

No, not illegal, just against AutoZone policy.
I don't think a corporate policy will stand up as law in court, but I've been wrong before.
I don't have anything else to add that hgasn't already been said.
So on that note...
posted by Nauip at 11:41 AM on November 7, 2001


A URI that is not password protected is a resource that has been placed available for public viewing. You still retain copyright. It is the equivalent of a sign on a building on the street indicates to people where your resources are available. They are usually free to see what you offer. They aren't free to steal...

Although in my mind, the above statement is obvious and accurate, I'm wondering if there has yet been legal precedent to say that, yes, publicly available webpages etc., should be considered as similar to the examples you provide above... The US justice system seems to have made some stupid moves in the past regarding (for lack of a better word) "cyberspace" matters (re: 2600 case, already mentioned in this thread) and it is possible that it will continue to do so.

and actually, after a little research, it appears that AutoZone (and others) are not backed up by the law (at least, as far as the Wired article is still accurate.) (Link from from "The Cyberlaw Encyclopedia" -- nice resource)
An excerpt:

[U.S. District Judge Harry] Hupp said deep linking is not illegal as long as it's clear whom the linked page belongs to.

"Hyperlinking does not itself involve a violation of the Copyright Act," Hupp said in his ruling. "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."

posted by fishfucker at 11:55 AM on November 7, 2001


What if a neo-nazi site linked to your site and said "great site,"

Your appeal to emotion argument is a little weak. Try child molesters next time or perhaps a terrorist.

What does the politics or personal life of the webmaster have to do with anything? If a customer found a link to autozone from a neo-nazi site, then he's probably a neo-nazi and last I hear neo-nazi money is as good as anyone elses.

Im certain that autozone knows this isn't enforable and is using its legal department to scare off potential linking. Maybe someone in the past embarassed them at some site. If they were serious about this they would have a referer check to see if the request came from an approved site.
posted by skallas at 12:15 PM on November 7, 2001


When you read the linking agreement pdf, it makes some more sense. They're simply concerned about how the company is presented elsewhere. Guidelines for logo placement and representation seem to be the major issue and I can't really blame them.
posted by davebush at 12:16 PM on November 7, 2001


Dear Autozone,
Start suing.

Love,
The Internet
posted by Danelope at 12:16 PM on November 7, 2001


Err, wtf? It seems that all external links on MeFi are now pointing to MeFi. Is this the new anti-unclosed-tag solution? Crazy scripting action for the whole family!
posted by Danelope at 12:19 PM on November 7, 2001


Its the work of autozone hackers!
posted by skallas at 12:29 PM on November 7, 2001


er... Skallas, I wasn't attempting to argue any point, my initial post was actually to point out the inanity of such systems.

The reason I framed it in an 'emotional' context is that I'm struggling to find reasons why someone wouldn't want their site associated with another site. What led me to neo-nazis was that something called the Vanguard News Network (a neo-nazi weblog?) often shows up in Daypop.

However your suggestion of terrorists and child molestors is also a good one. What if your site was linked by a terrorist group's website? That alone could get your site listed in some sort of FBI database, or even get your email 'tapped.' Would you have the legal footing to send a cease-and-desist to the group, asking them to remove the link?
posted by cell divide at 12:33 PM on November 7, 2001


Seven words: Fuck you and see you in court
posted by fooljay at 12:37 PM on November 7, 2001


Of all the brazen arrogance...if you want to participate in an environment, you do so by the existing rules of the environment. You don't try to impose your own rules through intimidation and brute force (thus setting bad precedent for other "evildoers" who want to abuse the system, to reap its advantages without participating in its structure).

As th3ph17 said above, if you don't want to be linked to, keep it private.
posted by rushmc at 12:46 PM on November 7, 2001


I assume a link to a site would come up in a 'What's related' netscape bar. I can understand a business hating that.
posted by holloway at 12:50 PM on November 7, 2001


There has to be a precedent for AutoZone's policy, and they are optioning legal avenues for the future. Someone with negative content must have linked to them in the past, since it appears from an IT perspective, that they get it.
posted by machaus at 12:59 PM on November 7, 2001


this is all just bullshit. websites certainly have the right to prevent copying of material, but a simple link? give me a break.
posted by xochi at 1:06 PM on November 7, 2001


You're mistaken; libraries are able to provide this service under the rules of Fair Use, which allow research, parody, criticism, etc.
No. Viewing is not duplication or adaptation. How is this not obvious?
posted by joeclark at 1:59 PM on November 7, 2001


That alone could get your site listed in some sort of FBI database, or even get your email 'tapped.'

So? I can't control what others do and if the government sees a neo-nazi link as my complicity in some crime enough to get a wiretap warrant that's their business. I'd like to think law enforcement can see the differnce between a link and an association.
posted by skallas at 2:24 PM on November 7, 2001


Well, I linked to a neo-Nazi site, saying they were "odious", and they linked me back [since January: "negative links removed to save space"], using my name in bold type. Woohoo! Maybe through my subtle campaign of one insult I changed a few minds.
posted by dhartung at 3:24 PM on November 7, 2001


if you want to participate in an environment, you do so by the existing rules of the environment. You don't try to impose your own rules through intimidation and brute force

someone forgot to explain this to corporate drones a few years back. now it's too late.
posted by quonsar at 3:25 PM on November 7, 2001


The practice that most sites with linking agreements object to is "deep linking." That is, providing a direct link to content that robs the hosting site of advertising revenue by allowing users to by-pass several tiers of their ads.

This issue came up a while back when the House of Blues sued to stop Streambox.com from providing links directly to their quicktime files.
WebTechniques Link

th3ph17 and moz have the right idea. This kind of thing is easy to prevent through technology. Much easier than using the courts. Either way, these sites are shooting themselves in the foot by disallowing referring links. Their loss.
posted by jeffhoward at 3:50 PM on November 7, 2001


I noticed that GameFaqs added a footnote to ever page that said "Feel free to link to this page, but not directly to the FAQs. Why not? Read this!" The page had a link to an essay that dealt with this shaky topic, so I thought you guys might want to check it out.
posted by MarkO at 3:52 PM on November 7, 2001


It is obvious. I guess that AutoZone's hope is that just by saying it, even if it is obviously invalid, AutoZone will dissuade a few people. Why AutoZone would want to do that is beyond me, but I can't imagine someone wanting to link to AutoZone anyway, unless they hated AutoZone to begin with. Like some AutoZone customer who got screwed on their AutoZone oil filter or whatever and then wrote about AutoZone sucking on their weblog. Not that AutoZone can do anything about it, except post a scary warning.


Sorry Matt; you are screwed now, eh?
posted by donkeymon at 3:52 PM on November 7, 2001


I'm speculating, but I'm pretty sure AutoZone is interested in preventing misuse of their Logo. They would like to e-mail you the graphic files you use for the Link to make certain the trademarked Logo "with Design" is correct. While they're granting you a limited license to their logo, they add some things like "no porn" and so on.

They also add the "don't make us look bad" bit, which is fairly common. Microsoft does this; you can use a Microsoft Certified Professional logo if you hold that status, but you can't use it in conjunction with something like "Windows sucks!"

According to 9(a), you agree to the terms of the Agreement when you click "I Agree" on the PDF, which of course, isn't possible. This document has problems, without regard to standards of hypertext use.

They're just trying to protect their intellectual property. Whether or not they know a lick about the Internet is debatable.
posted by jmcmurry at 4:44 PM on November 7, 2001


my company could fire me if I link their site without permission. I read it in their little conditions of the job thingie they had me sign when I was hired. It also had things like not stealing from company, using computer for non-work purposes, etc... Its just an empty threat, but I hate my job so here it goes:

Meijer
Meijer
Meijer
Meijer

Ah! *sits back and waits*

I need company initiative to give me motivation to find another job.
posted by andryeevna at 4:41 AM on November 8, 2001


Jesus! That's reminscent of a story about a boy damning the Gods to get some proof of their existence. I believe he was struck dead by a lightning bolt.

Pulling a large box of sharp nails down from the very top shelf of the closet also comes to mind...
posted by fooljay at 5:16 AM on November 8, 2001


I wrote something about this in Meta, with some relevant links.
posted by walrus at 5:52 AM on November 8, 2001


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