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Click and pay?
February 11, 2002 3:31 AM   Subscribe

Click and pay? Imagine if one company held the right to collect a fee each time an Internet user clicked on a Web site link...
posted by Spoon (16 comments total)

 
Funny, I somehow expected it to be Microsoft...
posted by Mwongozi at 3:46 AM on February 11, 2002


Life imitating art.
posted by Spoon at 3:56 AM on February 11, 2002


So lets say that this gets through,and BT wants everyone to pay up.

How do people get around this?

I would have no problem copying and pasting links, but I know some people, who of course use AOL would be helpless.

If a webpage was designed in that flash stuff, could people put the links in the flash? Or would that be under control of BT too?
posted by Keen at 4:12 AM on February 11, 2002


I simply don't understand how this is even an issue. Unless my knowledge of the history of hypertext is seriously flawed, a 1989 patent for hypertext is nothing less than a joke.

If this case shows anything, it is that US Patent law is seriously flawed. Rather than protecting "intellectual property," it has become a system by which large corporations stifle any creativity which might take place in a supposedly "free market."

Oh, by the way, I will be moving to Britain in less than 2 months, and I will consciously avoid using any BT services. Bad PR, BT.
posted by jeffvc at 4:31 AM on February 11, 2002


Keen: BT couldn't care less about about users and web developers. Their targets are the ISP moneybags.

Assuming BT wins this (which they won't, or if they do, it'll be tied up in appeal until the end of time), day-to-day life of users on the web wouldn't change at all. If you put a web page up with links, you wouldn't directly pay the patent holder (BT). Instead, the ISP would have to pay a "link tariff" of sorts to BT. They're starting with Prodigy, which seems like an odd target until you realize Prodigy is the oldest major online service; if they prove Prodigy violated their patent back in the early 80's, they establish a good ground to attack ISPs that popped up later.

This legal tactic is akin to the Unisys GIF controversy. Unisys owns the patent on LZW compression which is used in the GIF format. When Unisys started to press this issue a few years ago, people were all up in arms that Unisys wanted to own their GIFs or prevent them from putting GIFs on their websites (which once again just shows how little the average joe understands about intellectual property). In fact, the target is the same as in the BT case: companies that make the software that use the technology, not the end user.

If these kinds of suits are successful, the end user might pay the costs indirectly (e.g. the cost of your favorite software goes up 1.5% to cover the royalty the software company pays to the patent-holder).
posted by monkey-mind at 4:43 AM on February 11, 2002


it's interesting to read the patent
posted by roobarb at 4:58 AM on February 11, 2002


" ... it's interesting to read the patent..."

That is interesting. The lawsuit appears not to have a ghost of a chance.
posted by MidasMulligan at 5:40 AM on February 11, 2002


I am currently applying for patents concerning the following:

- fire
- the wheel
- writing (phonetic, syllabic and ideogrammatic).

I forewarn MeFi users that, as soon as I am awarded my patents, they will be forced to pay me a modest fee (say 0.01 cents) for every symbol they type (they can drive their cars and light up with no worry though- I'm just planning to sue GM and BIC)
posted by talos at 5:44 AM on February 11, 2002


those motherfuckers, how do they dare to patent everything?… and talos, surely there must be someone else who already have those patents
posted by trismegisto at 5:52 AM on February 11, 2002


Hyperlinking was done, and caught on film in 1968. Prior art negates this patent.

This footage is really, really cool.
posted by glenwood at 5:53 AM on February 11, 2002


The lawsuit appears not to have a ghost of a chance.

You have to remember that at the time BT were initiating this action, they had delusions of becoming the biggest telecoms provider in the world. They probably believed their own hype. The prior art appeared within a day or two of this case being covered on the internet, last year. For BT to be continuing, they must either be braver or more foolish than anyone gave them credit for.
posted by walrus at 6:14 AM on February 11, 2002


Reading through the patent, it seems that it would actually describe any form of a menu driven client-server architecture. In fact, the description would seem much closer to a system where you "Press 1 to see images, press 2 to view history, etc." There's no mention of a graphical interface such as we're used to with hypertext, and the patent postulates that the keypad would be the primary method of selecting what information you wanted to see next. If BT wins this, they could next go after anyone who uses a menu in a client server environment. Somehow I don't see that happening unless BT has major blackmail material on the judge, but then it would just go to appeal...
posted by tdismukes at 6:14 AM on February 11, 2002


" ... Reading through the patent, it seems that it would actually describe any form of a menu driven client-server architecture. In fact, the description would seem much closer to a system where you "Press 1 to see images, press 2 to view history, etc." There's no mention of a graphical interface such as we're used to with hypertext, and the patent postulates that the keypad would be the primary method of selecting what information you wanted to see next..."

Yes ... that's the difficulty with this. It appears less like a patent for hypertext, and more like a patent for client-server arch. Even further, the really funny bit is that it specifies that the interaction between client and server is through a modem, over telephone lines (ethernet protocols and fiber weren't in use at the time).
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:25 AM on February 11, 2002


Sorry talos.
The Wheel was Already Done albit in Austrailia, so I assume you could get teh american patent :-)

nH
posted by niteHawk at 6:55 AM on February 11, 2002


This isn't the first time they've made a big stink about their "intellecutual property" on hyperlinks, so don't sweat it. There is prior art all over the place. BT is simply subscribing to the "If at first you don't succeed..." philosophy.
posted by tomorama at 10:24 AM on February 11, 2002


The "Press 1 for foo, press 2 for bar" approach when applied to a client/server architecture sounds awfully like gopher to me. (Remember that?)
posted by salmacis at 2:24 PM on February 11, 2002


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