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Shetland Times Oct 1996
Ticketmaster v. Tickets.com March 2000

Ticketmaster v. Microsoft [1997]

This is a US case.

In May 1997 Tickmarter took legal action against Microsoft Corp., accusing it unauthorized use of Ticketmaster's name and logo. The companies had been in negotiations over a link from Microsoft's "Sidewalk" Web sites for different cities to Ticketmaster's own Web site. After the negotiations failed, Ticketmaster contends, Microsoft nonetheless included the link in its site. In 1997 Ticketmaster Group Inc. filed suit against Microsoft for federal trademark infringement and unfair competition.

Microsoft operates a Web site called Seattle Sidewalk which functions as a guide to recreational and cultural activities in the Seattle metropolitan area. Seattle Sidewalk provided many links to related Web sites including a link to Ticketmaster, which operates a popular ticket selling Web site. That link, however, bypassed the Ticketmaster home page and went directly to the respective pages for purchases to events listed in the Seattle Sidewalk page. For instance, a listing on the Seattle Sidewalk page for the Seattle Symphony would include a direct link to a Ticketmaster sub-page that would allow users to purchase their symphony tickets.

This is a prime example of "deep linking," and Ticketmaster raised a number of objections to this practice. These are Ticketmaster's complaints:

· What Microsoft has done has the effect of by bypassing their home page Seattle Sidewalk users who would then not be able to be exposed to the extensive advertising and announcements which were posted there. This diminished the value of that advertising and ultimately the rates that could be charged to future advertisers.

· Microsoft was able to generate advertising revenues on the basis of this link because Microsoft posted a banner advertisement on the same page it displayed the Ticketmaster name and link. And, according to Wagner (1997) Ticketmaster alleged that the links were done in such a way that they "presented information incorrectly and out of context.”

The case has raised the fundamental problem with deep linking which circumvents advertising and other identifying or promotional features on the home page. Deep linking not only reduces the value of the target site's advertising but deprives that Web site of its proper exposure and recognition.

In defence, Microsoft argued, "Ticketmaster breached an unwritten Internet code in which any Web site operator has the right to link to anyone else's site" (Tedeschi, 1999). Microsoft also argued that it had a First Amendment right to publish this public information.

Ticketmaster reached an out of court settlement with Microsoft in February 1999. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.