in Web Technology

Religious Technology (What’s in a link?)

I’ve just rediscovered this, while tidying: a letter I received last year, from Hodkin And Company, Solicitors:

We understand that you operate, control or manage a website on which one Mr Damien Steer has placed literally hundreds of pages of our clients’ copyrighted works without the authorization of our clients. Because of the enormity and volume of the infringements, we have broken these down under separate headings [...]

Damian removed the documents immediately, publishing a scan of (his version of) the letter in their place. See also Karin Spaink’s pages for more on the Scientology materials concerned. I’ve not followed the twists and turns of the whole thing, but here’s a note from Karin’s page:

This homepage is approved of by court. Twice, by now. It has thereby become the world’s first legal Fishman Homepage. Read the ruling of the February 1996 lawsuit, summary proceedings, in either English or Dutch. On June 10, 1999, there was a second ruling, this time in full procedure: my page can still stay up. Read the ruling in Dutch or in English. Scientology has appealed this ruling. It is not yet known when pleas will be held.

Although I won, there’s one thing that seriously bugs me, and other people. The court ruled that hyperlinks and url’s refering to pages that contain infringing material must in themselves be considered to be infringing. That cuts at the heart of the net. To name one example: it makes search engines illegal: they often refer to pages that contain infringing material.

More from the letter I received…

You should be aware that numerous permanent injunctions and awards of statutory damages and attorney’s fees have been entered regarding similar infringements. For instance, a jury in the United States District Court in San Jose, California awarded statutory damages in the amount of $75,000 against a Mr. Henson for posting only one of the NOTs works on the Internet.

Maybe I’m in the wrong business?

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