Let's make today Link KPMG Day.
December 3, 2001 3:43 AM   Subscribe

Let's make today Link KPMG Day. Why? Because apparently they think that people need their permission to link to them [via plasticbag.org]. This sort of nonsense is completely antithetical to the spirit of the web.
posted by rory (54 comments total)
From their disclaimer: 'KPMG is obligated to protect its reputation and trademarks and KPMG reserves the right to request removal of any link to our website... The following web link activities are explicitly prohibited by KPMG and may present trademark and copyright infringement issues: Links that involve unauthorized use of our logo; Framing, inline links or metatags; Hyperlinks or a form of link that disguises the URL and bypass the homepage.'

We've seen the bypass-the-homepage issue before, but this sort of legal sortie by KPMG seems extraordinary. Linking to a web page is the equivalent of referencing a published document, not leaking company secrets.
posted by rory at 3:50 AM on December 3, 2001

umm... i think what we need is one of those little 'KPMG NOW!' animated gif's to assist with such linking. didn't these things used to be called kites? (or am i making that up?)
posted by raettig at 3:51 AM on December 3, 2001

This isn't 123CheapHosting, but it's close. They need a 10,000 links of policy correction (sort of like the request for 10,000 marbles in Animal House).
posted by ParisParamus at 4:10 AM on December 3, 2001

KPMG seems to have same kind of policy as the Finnish Police. A little while ago, an organization which supports rescue helicopter operations in Finland put a link to the Finnish Police on their website (the site is in Finnish only). Later, the webmaster got a mail from the police in which they demanded that the link has to be removed because they had not given permission to make the link.
The tone of the mail is actually quite threatening.

But unlike KPMG, they don't even have a disclaimer which would prohibit linking.
posted by janne at 4:29 AM on December 3, 2001

Rory, they say they don't mind you linking their homepage. This thread is just giving them publicity ... better to ignore them. Have they stopped to ask themselves if anyone wants to link them, I wonder?

In any case, looks like they will get away with this in parts of Europe, but not in the US.

I really have no dispute with anything they mention above except for "Hyperlinks or a form of link that disguises the URL and bypass the homepage". Deep linking to their files, framing their pages or using their logo would be wrong anyway.

The no bypassing the front page rule is contrary to the spirit of the web IMO, because I have no way to send someone straight to an interesting article on their site.

Note that they also say they reserve the right to "request" removal of a link. Wonder if they'll ever even request it ... IMO they need the disclaimer or they wouldn't have a leg to stand on. It's probably just a precaution.
posted by walrus at 4:34 AM on December 3, 2001

My real problem with this request is the all caps "FIRST NOTICE" at the top. Any twit who keeps records and notes a date at the top of a letter can figure out which notice was sent first. Frankie P.'s need to include "FIRST NOTICE" reflects little more than his attempt to show he means business by drawing from his personal experiences with collection agencies.

Next, we have the salutation:


What kind of twit starts off with his imaginary version of official legalese and then goes on to a salutation that reads like this? Totally unprofessional. Then, in the first line, we have this:

A recent audit of Web sites, to which KPMG is hyperlinked, has revealed that

What kind of twit inserts commas in this clause? With the commas, it means that KPMG is linked to all Web sites, in which case their Web Link Agreement policy is going to strike more than a few snags. Drop the commas and we have what I think Frankie P. meant, which was "Web sites that are hyperlinked to KPMG." Hmmm. Must look more official with commas in there...

These may be minor details, but they're enough for me to not want to take him seriously, regardless of the reasoning for the request.

Speaking of which, I anticipate, as I think rory does, that most folks may feel that KPMG's request is ridiculous, I wonder if anybody agrees with Frank P. Dunne, or is at least able to play the devil's advocate, and can tell us how KPMG might have the right-of-way here, if only from a legal standpoint.
posted by Bixby23 at 4:40 AM on December 3, 2001

I wonder if anybody [...] is at least able to play the devil's advocate, and can tell us how KPMG might have the right-of-way here, if only from a legal standpoint.

See my post above. It will work in parts of Europe, where legal precedent has been established. Legal precedent in the states is to allow deep-linking, so it may not wash there.

FWIW I think framing pages and/or deep-linking to files (other than HTML) is a Bad Thing anyway. It's bandwidth theft at the very least. Not being allowed to link straight through to an article on their site seems ridiculous though.
posted by walrus at 4:51 AM on December 3, 2001

regardless of the legal standpoint i just think it's a bit of a shame (and at the same time quite amusing) that an organisation like kpmg can so adeptly draw attention to it's own bad judgement. like their corporate anthem wasn't bad enough. i hope their email to me isn't an embodiment of their 'vision of global strategy'. perhaps somebody would care to phone frank (his number is included in the email) as it's evident that some quite straightforward things need explaining to him.
posted by raettig at 4:59 AM on December 3, 2001

But does a disclaimer make any difference in the eyes of the law? (The judicial system, not the Finnish police ;) It's reasonable for KPMG to seek trademark protection for their logo - so better be careful with that KPMG NOW! gif - but referring to them by name and to their pages by location is surely legal, whether they protest or not. Otherwise we're reduced to saying 'that company that sounds like GMPK spelled backwards, who you can locate by typing their name into an Evil Intellectual Property Infringement Device'.

Shades of a lawyer-enforced future where the only way to access websites is by clicking on the exclusive links in paid digital-TV advertisements.

(And after seeing later comments in preview:) True, they may never even request removal of a link - but their letter was sent to some guy for linking to them from his personal site, which you'd think was pretty small beer from their point of view. Don't they have better things to do? Apparently not, which is worrying.

I know it gives them publicity, but it's concerning that there are major companies prepared to treat the web in this way - whether or not they intend to follow through, are just covering themselves, etc. I'm not reassured by the fact that they are OK with linking to their front page, because any site is much, much more than its front page, which is often just a gateway to the interesting stuff. If all we are to be allowed is endless links to splash-pages and 'welcome to our site' pages, then Tim Berners-Lee's vision is dead. I know that KPMG's little sally in this direction won't lead to that, but I do think that any company that entertains such a notion should be disavowed of it, pronto. If they don't like the way the web works, they shouldn't have a web site.
posted by rory at 5:27 AM on December 3, 2001

The question of deep-linking is an interesting one. Chris Raettig, the guy in question (who I've just realised is in this thread - hi!) has hardly been piggy-backing KPMG's database or anything like that - he links to their front page. KPMG probably wouldn't like the context, though, because he's talking unflatteringly about their corporate anthem. So, perhaps KPMG's scare-em-off tactics are only directed at the hosts of pages they don't like? Surely not. ;)

Chris, since you're here, can I ask whether you did initially 'deep-link' to KPMG's mp3? And whether their letter has prompted you to mirror it on your own site instead (which could cause some copyright hassles down the line)? Or did you host it on your own site all along?
posted by rory at 5:59 AM on December 3, 2001

the only link i have ever had to kpmg has been to their front page, to the best of my recollection. i have never deep-linked to them. it appears they're not too keen on even a basic link to their homepage. my own hosting of the kpmg mp3 file (currently offline until i can find someone willing to mirror the corpanthems site) is admittedly dodgier legal ground ;-) though a largely seperate issue. i await their 'second notice' with mild amusement.
posted by raettig at 6:08 AM on December 3, 2001

Hmm, having now read the press coverage on your corporate anthems page (and the previous MeFi thread) this is looking more and more like pay-back for the exquisite embarrassment you helped cause them. Maybe they should be sending 'first notices' to their German branch instead.
posted by rory at 6:15 AM on December 3, 2001

I'd love to hear that mp3.

Now, if it is their corporate anthem, then why would it be wrong to povide an mp3 version of it? Is it for sale someplace where it would be copyright infringement to distribute it ala Napster?

Or is it soemthing they publically make available in different forms, then making the redistribution of that a non-issue, even if you are making fun of it?

I think when I get home tonight, I'll set up a link to KPMG and see what happens, since I know people who work there, anyway. Actually the name Frank Dunne sounds familiar, for some reason.
posted by rich at 6:17 AM on December 3, 2001

web builder MarchFirst used to have the same caveat in their terms and conditions.
posted by o2b at 6:18 AM on December 3, 2001

"Please be aware such links require that a formal Agreement exist between our two parties, as mandated by our organization's Web Link Policy."

*Zach falls off his chair gut-laughing*

I'd like to see THAT hold up in court! Even in Europe, the conclusions have been hazy at best, and undermine the entire purpose of the Internet. Does this mean Matt's about to get a nasty letter from these losers?

And what about that cheesy intro on their website? Who would WANT to link to them? That's gotta be the most obnoxious intro page I've ever seen. All these rectangles dancing around the screen along with buzz-phrases and really obnoxious music, all of which successfully accomplishes nothing at all. I want those twenty seconds of my life back.

FIRST NOTICE blah! What's their SECOND NOTICE? "Okay. We warned ya. Now we're gonna send a big burly guy named Lefty to your house so he can break both yer legs." I'm with Rory, if they don't like the Web works, get off the Web.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:22 AM on December 3, 2001

I'd love to hear that mp3.

I'm still looking for the original, but here's C0ntaX's jungle version.
posted by rory at 6:23 AM on December 3, 2001

Couldn't they simply restrict the allowable referrers to all the subdirectories on their site so that you would only be allowed access if you came from another page on their site?
posted by donkeymon at 6:36 AM on December 3, 2001

i have all of the versions, just can't afford to put everything online given their huge popularity. (bandwidth aint cheap!)

if anybody would care to put the kpmg anthem on a webserver somewhere so everyone can get access to it, i'd be happy to provide it. seems apt to dig it out at this point.

(responses by email preferred)... chris [at] raettig.org
posted by raettig at 6:37 AM on December 3, 2001

A recent audit of Web sites...

Gee, that might explain those robots.txt-ignoring spider that come crawling through my site every so often.

Seems that all that's needed is for raettig.org to write up its terms of service in such a way so that any indexing or crawling of the site implies a mutual agreement.
posted by idiolect at 6:46 AM on December 3, 2001

I strongly support KPMG's actions in this case. That song needs to have as few links as possible. Preferably none. In fact, if Matt could possibly see his way to deleting rory's comment linking to the junglized version, then surely countless others will be saved from the misery having that abominable melody stuck in their head all day. Selectah, eeeezy!
posted by dlewis at 7:03 AM on December 3, 2001

The hard rock remix is here. Sorry.
posted by ChuqD at 7:22 AM on December 3, 2001

Why put up a website but then not want people to link to you? That's like someone building a store and then refusing to allow anyone to drive a car to their parking lot.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:57 AM on December 3, 2001

Here's my favorite part:

We have been unable to locate records that correspond with an Agreement that permits the linking of our two Web sites.

Like there's really a giant filing cabinet somewhere with all the linking agreements in it, and they've just spent the day "auditing" it to make sure there hasn't been some misunderstanding. This is email is loaded with corporations-grade BS.
posted by coelecanth at 8:14 AM on December 3, 2001

Hmm ... trying to keep up the Devil's advocate role, but it's getting increasingly difficult ;)

Tim Berners Lee's vision won't be hurt by people who decide to opt out of it. Their traffic will be hurt. Their choice.

Chris, they just don't appear to have a case for serving that notice on you if you have only linked to their front page. Putting their anthem on your site is different, and they can probably get you. If you could deep link to that file on their site, that would be fun, but I personally don't have the legal fees to take them on.

Of course they could make a simple htaccess file barring access from outside their domain except for specific inclusions. Maybe it's a "bit technical" for them. Certainly they seem to have concluded that the legal bills will be cheaper, if they've even thought about it. Bad call.
posted by walrus at 8:44 AM on December 3, 2001

Chris, they just don't appear to have a case for serving that notice on you if you have only linked to their front page.

To qualify, there appears to be nothing in the text of their notice stopping anyone linking to their front page, or that's how I read it. It seems like it may be open to interpretation, though, and I'm not a lawyer.
posted by walrus at 8:48 AM on December 3, 2001

That's a good point, walrus. A decent web admin can be as restrictive as he or she wants. I think Xoom.com used to serve up adverts in place of deep-linked content from non-local referrers. I really don't see why KPMG have to resort to their lawyers -- surely web admins are cheaper by the hour?
posted by dlewis at 8:56 AM on December 3, 2001

If linking to KPMG is bad, I'm really going to be in the poop. The KPMG lawyers must be getting lazy, which is probably why they're now trying to like they should be earning their pay.
posted by Neale at 9:09 AM on December 3, 2001

I just downloaded MC Vitamin D's Rock version.

Anyone who offers this on their server should be shot.

Anyone who promotes the listening of this song should be shot.

I got about 15 seconds in before my eyes started bleeding.
posted by rich at 9:15 AM on December 3, 2001

> Frank Dunne
> Sr. Mgr., Global Brand & Regulatory Compliance
> (201) 505-3611
> IB&RC Guidelines link: www.gpp.kworld.kpmg.com/ERM/
posted by ignu at 9:20 AM on December 3, 2001

The funniest part is that they do technical "consulting" and other businesses are actually willing to pay them for their opinions.

From the story above, it looks like they know jack shit about the net.
posted by Witold at 9:51 AM on December 3, 2001

IB&RC Guidelines link: www.gpp.kworld.kpmg.com/ERM/

Hmm. That url doesn't work, and Google has no trace of it or the domain... or gpp.kworld.kpmg.com... or kworld.kpmg.com... perhaps the email was a hoax? Further searching shows no trace of a Frank Dunne at 'Global Brand & Regulatory Compliance'.

I suspect you've been had, Chris. Which means Tom at plasticbag.org was had, and I was had, dammit.

Yet their disclaimer, with its objectionable clauses quoted throughout this thread, is real.
posted by rory at 9:56 AM on December 3, 2001

Rory, I think that's a link to the KPMG intranet, KWorld. See this Google search. No one's been had, but sending email externally with links to intranet sites in it is a further indictment of the cluelessness of the whole enterprise.

Personally, I work for a company that's wholly owned by KPMG Consulting, doing web work and systems integration. I shall be having words with the management.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:38 AM on December 3, 2001

anyone remember this little game? and how well it worked?. i'm not saying anything, just bringing up conversation.
posted by bliss322 at 10:43 AM on December 3, 2001

re: hoax... i have of course checked the full set of mail headers (much abridged on my site), and am at least assured to my own satisfaction of it's authenticity.
posted by raettig at 1:46 PM on December 3, 2001

"C0ntaX's jungle version."

That sounds like something worth turning my speakers on for...
posted by krisjohn at 4:32 PM on December 3, 2001

You guys are not allowed to link to me either. Don't even try it. I mean it.
posted by thirteen at 5:39 PM on December 3, 2001

...and just in case anybody wants to get snarky:

posted by dogwelder at 10:32 PM on December 3, 2001

I think that's a link to the KPMG intranet, KWorld.

Thanks, that makes sense. I wasn't allowing for the possibility that someone would put an intranet URL in the sig of an email sent to a complete stranger. Silly me. :)

So, Chris was effectively being taken to task for not having read a policy that's only available to people within the organisation. Spectacular!
posted by rory at 2:28 AM on December 4, 2001

Just in case anyone's interested, I dropped a note to Wired filling them in on the story so far... Hopefully, someone will be interested enough to embarrass KPMG to the world...
posted by barbelith at 5:23 AM on December 4, 2001

Hopefully, someone will be interested enough to embarrass KPMG to the world...

Well, just so long as they don't link to them ...
posted by walrus at 5:29 AM on December 4, 2001

Has anyone got a copy of the letter? Chris? the site appears to be down for some reason... You haven't got a stroppy letter from them have you?

Anyway - there's a guy from Wired news who wants to talk to you about this. E-mail me at tom@plasticbag.org and I'll give you his e-mail address...
posted by barbelith at 10:58 AM on December 4, 2001

I would get you dogwelder, but your lower user number has rendered me powerless. Damn you!
posted by thirteen at 2:16 PM on December 4, 2001

Um, has it occurred to anyone else that this could be a brilliant bit of reverse psychology by KPMG?

Just think how many hits the KPMG page has received in the past few days. And how else could a fairly run-of-the-mill corporate home page end up among the top spots in Daypop and Blogdex?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:52 PM on December 4, 2001

i'm not easily discouraged by stroppy letters. i too have my moods ;-)... though the traffic load from the 'metafuckdex effect' has been... intense.

(we crashed. now we're BACK... from the DEAD!)

it's funny... frank clearly isn't familiar with the raettig.org "sending-me-dumfuck-email" policy.

...now if only i could find someone to host the corporate anthems media files once again...
posted by raettig at 4:56 PM on December 4, 2001

Plurp (currently offline, as is davidchess.com) recently blogged a similar notice on pokemoncenter.com.

Someone should really put up a master "list of sites that forbid you from linking to them" page. It'd be fun!

DC (currently camped out here)
posted by davidchess at 7:32 AM on December 5, 2001

I went looking for some way to contact the right persons (if any) to ask about how to get a linking agreement from KPMG.

Instead I found (from the KPMG Interactive division):

"We are also interested in demonstrating our familiarity with new media and Web technologies, and using these tools to help deliver our messages and engage our audiences as effectively as possible."

The site doesn't work at all in Opera, none of the links are clickable in the navigation, and when I declined cookies in IE it wouldn't load. Even when I tried to reload and accept the damn things. So I fired up Netscape 4.7 and it worked. Only to find out that there are no contact numbers, no. There is only a big unfriendly form.

I wasn't surprised to see that Razorfish developed the site. Meta name="key word" content="KPMG". Oh, yes, they certainly are familiar with web technologies.


Never did find a contact number or address, of course, so I had to use the damn form.
posted by Suzanne at 6:56 PM on December 5, 2001

At the risk of making a double-comment, here's a listing of all (well, some) of the sites that link to KPMG.
posted by youthbc1 at 7:40 PM on December 5, 2001

Follow-up at Chris Raettig's site about the way this meme has taken off.
posted by rory at 2:25 AM on December 6, 2001

They would have much more credibility as a technology leader if their site rendered correctly in Netscape 6. (screenshot)
posted by jpbutler at 10:59 AM on December 6, 2001

More follow-up: Wired article; Slashdot discussion; and, at last, the unedited KPMG corporate anthem.
posted by rory at 3:04 AM on December 7, 2001

More follow-up: Wired article; Slashdot discussion; and, at last, the unedited KPMG corporate anthem.
posted by rory at 3:07 AM on December 7, 2001

posted by rory at 3:07 AM on December 7, 2001

The background music to every infomercial!
posted by fouff at 9:35 PM on December 7, 2001

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