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Meta tags

Meta tags are words embedded in the HTML files of a web-page. It is not visible on a web page. It becomes visible on clicking the 'view source' of the program menu of Netcape, the browser. It is likewise in the case of Microsoft's Internet Explorer,. Meta tags contain data by way of keywords which enable search engines to "locate" the documents on the Internet through certain search engines. Use of appropriate keywords would enable easy search and hence location of a web-site. Some keywords are more famous such as MP3, music, sex. The most often quoted case is decided in the US. It is Playboy Enterprise Inc. v Calvin Designer Label, involving the Defendant's use of the word 'playboy' as keyword in the meta-tag. It was held by the Court that it amounted to an infringement of Playboy's trade mark and injunction was therefore granted. Hong Kong does not have any case directly related to the use of meta tags. It is not so clear as to what the Court's attitude would be if similar case happens in Hong Kong.

The following is an example:

meta


HK Finance.com v. Prosticks.com

This is the first case commenced in Hong Kong court and in respect of hyperlinking of web-sites operated in Hong Kong.

The parties are Hong Kong-based financial news and information web-sites. The Plaintiff filed the claim in the Court of First Instance of High Court in Hong Kong on 30th May, 2000.

HK Finance.com alleged that Prosticks.com placed hyperlinks on the website hosted at the URL of www.prosticks.com. The links on click allowed visitors to bypass HK Finance.com's front page. As the front page consisted of advertisements, visitors got into the deep-linked page without viewing the advertisements. HK Finance.com relies on its web-site statement as a cause of action. The statement stated that no material was to be copied and included without authorization. It was claimed by HK Finance.com that such act amounted to copyright infringement.


Washington Post v. TotalNEWS, Inc.

This is a US case.

Washington Post is a prominent news publishers in the United States. It alleged that its web pages were presented in "frames on Defendant's page. Washington Post claimed that that TotalNEWS's framing of the news was "the Internet equivalent of pirating copyrighted material."

The litigation was later settled out-of-court on 5th June 1997. It was agreed that TotalNEWS may continue to link to the news organizations' sites using text-only links and framing in the manner as in the past is not allowed.


Ticketmaster v. Tickets.com March 2000

This is a US case.

Tickets.com is a leading one-stop online provider of entertainment, sports and travel tickets, event information and related products and services. The company sells tickets through the Internet, retail outlets, call centers and interactive voice response systems. At www.tickets.com, consumers can obtain information on thousands of events and entertainment organizations, purchase tickets and shop for related products and services. Tickets.com's automated ticketing solutions are used by over 4,100 entertainment organizations such as leading performing arts centers, professional sports organizations and various stadiums and arenas in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and Latin America.

Tickets.com has provided hyperlinks to Ticketmaster's web pages at Ticketmaster.com for tickets not available at Tickets.com. .

On March 27, 2000 federal Judge Harry L. Hupp for the Central District of California ruled in favor of Tickets.com in the case of Ticketmaster Corp. v. Tickets.com (99-7654). In that case, Ticketmaster alleged that Tickets.com committed copyright infringement against Ticketmaster by the use of hyperlink from tickets.com to ticketmaster.com. Apart from the copyright allegation, there was also other causes of actions pleaded by Ticketmaster.

In his ruling, Hupp concluded "hypertext linking does not itself involve a violation of the Copyright Act since no copying is involved."

Hupp described the process of hyperlinking as follows: "The customer is automatically transferred to the particular genuine Web page of the original author. 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." Hyperlinking therefore does not involve the reproduction, distribution or preparation of copies or derivative works. According to Hupp, it did not constitute a "display [of] the copyrighted work publicly?" as the web page called up by the user is the original web page created by the author.

Ticketmaster nevertheless succeeded the claim relying on the facts of 'deep linking'. Deeplinking was ruled to be an act of copyright infringement, unfair competition and false advertising made by Ticket.com.

Comments

This case has good reference value for Hong Kong. Some have argued that simple hyperlink infringes the copyright of the linked web-sites. Hong Kong's copyright law has similarly treated 'copying' as being one of the restricted acts. With the ruling that hyperlinking does not involve copying, it is rather safe to suggest that hyperlink does not infringe the restricted act of copying.

However, it remains untested whether hyperlink infringes other restricted act. The most obvious restricted act is 'making available copies to the public.' Under the Copyright Ordinance, such has included making available of copyright works by wire or wireless means on the Internet. It is arguable that hyperlinking is an act as such.


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.


Shetland Times Oct 1996

This is a judgment decided by the Court in Scotland. This case involves facts of deeplinking but the determination is not based on deeplinking. Rather it is based on copyright infringement.

The defendant, Shetland News is a news web-site on the Internet. The Shetland Times newspaper operated the Shetland Times Online news web-sites with headlines. Shetland Times alleged that Shetland News has linked to the Shetland Times Web site and displayed its headlines without any attribution.The Shetland News used the headlines of Shetland Times as the text of the hypertext links. The headlines of the hypertext links on the defendant's web-site is an exact copying of the headlines found at the Plaintiff's web-site.

When clicking on the Defendant's hyperlink, it will directly lead the user to the news content on the Plaintiff's web-site. Such leading has therefore bypassed the Shetland Times front page and other pages in between which consist of advertisement of Plaintiff's commercial advertisers.

In October 1996 Scotland's Court of Session ordered an injunctiona against the Defendant and commented by saying that it was, "finding it plausible that a headline is a literary work and that the News's practice of incorporating the Times's headlines verbatim in its link lines violated the latter's copyright" (Kaplan, 1997). The Scotish Court did not rule on the matter of deep linking.

After the Court's ruling the Shetland News terminated its links to the Shetland Times Web page.Shetland News like many other web-site owners or webmasters, may be of the view that copying the headlines and putting on them hyperlinks are nothing wrong. Such linking in fact has the advantage of bringing more traffic and hence value to the Plaintiff's web-site.