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[FYI] (Fwd) FC: Better Business Bureau tries to ban links to its web

------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent:      	Wed, 14 Mar 2001 12:48:52 -0800
To:             	politech@politechbot.com
From:           	Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
Subject:        	FC: Better Business Bureau tries to ban links to its website
Copies to:      	feedback@cbbb.bbb.org, meir@bizmove.com, bzialcita@cbbb.bbb.org
Send reply to:  	declan@well.com

If the below message is accurate, it's part of a disturbing trend that
I've been chronicling for a while. The Better Business Bureau appears
to be acting like a bully, and not a particularly bright one at that.

Everyone from news organizations to search engines relies on
unapproved linking to inform their audience and stay in business.
Critics use links to identify companies or groups that should be the
target of boycotts. Companies link to competitors, customers, and
suppliers. Trying to claim copyright in your URL shows not just a lack
of legal clue, but an absence of Net-savvy.

The U.S. Copyright Office says (37 C.F.R. 202.1) works "not subject to
copyright" include "words and short phrases such as names, titles, and
slogans." (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/cfr-retrieve.html#page1)
Presumably that would apply to URLs as well.

For background:
http://www.politechbot.com/p-01589.html (news sites try to charge for
links) http://www.politechbot.com/p-01185.html (journalists and
linking) http://www.politechbot.com/p-01667.html (decss and linking)

I invite the BBB to clarify its position.



Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 12:18:17 -0500
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
From: Stephen Cobb <scobb@cobb.com>
Subject: FYI: BBB attempts to cut links


Thought the following might be of interest.

On an unrelated but amusing side-note. I bought cobb.com in December.
So I get all email addressed to anything@cobb.com. I am now "enjoying"
all sorts of mail addressed to this domain. And I have no way of
contacting the people who still think their now "invalid" email
addresses at cobb.com are still working. For example, I have no idea
who macauthority is/was.


>From: "Meir Liraz" <meir@bizmove.com>
>To: <macauthority@cobb.com>
>Subject: The BBB claims links on other sites pointing to its Website
>are copyrighted Sender: "Meir Liraz" <meir@bizmove.com> Date: Tue, 13
>Mar 2001 20:52:49 +0200
>Attention: Business and Internet - editors
>The Better Business Bureau demand that Websites remove
>links pointing to its Website claiming hyperlinks on
>other websites that point to BBB site are copyrighted
>March 14, 2001: The Better Business Bureau Council adopted a new
>policy recently. It started approaching Websites across the Internet
>that contains links pointing to its Website, demanding that all links
>pointing to BBB Websites be removed. The BBB bases its request on the
>premise that since the material on its Website is copyrighted,
>Websites need BBB permission to present links pointing to its sites.
>Currently there are more than 10,000 Websites on the Internet that
>contain links pointing to the BBB website.
>BizMove.com is a privately owned business that maintains a Website
>titled: "The Small Business Knowledge base" (http://www.bizmove.com).
>The BizMove.com website is geared towards small business owners and
>contains various guides and resources. One of the pages on the
>BizMove.com site contains links pointing to various pages on the BBB
>site (see: http://www.bizmove.com/BBB/index.htm).
>Earlier this week the BizMove.com webmaster received an email signed
>by Beth Zialcita from the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.,
>demanding that BizMove.com remove all links on its site that point to
>the BBB Website. In the e-mail Mrs. Zialcita claims that since the
>links point to pages that contains BBB copyrighted material websites
>need its permission to present links pointing to BBB site (See below
>the full text of the BBB email).
>In a reply to the BBB email, Meir Liraz, President of BizMove.com
>indicated his refusal to comply with the BBB request adding that
>BizMove.com will continue to present on its Website hyperlinks
>pointing to BBB sites.
>In regard to the BBB request, Mr. Liraz commented that he is willing
>to go to court to protect the right of Websites to present hyperlinks
>pointing to other sites without the need for  permission to do so
>from the sites in question.
>Commenting on the new BBB stand, an Internet industry source said
>that if the courts adopt the BBB interpretation of the copyright law
>it means a major upset for some of the biggest players in the
>Internet business arena. Names like Yahoo, Alta Vista, Excite and
>Lycos base their whole business models on presenting searchers with
>lists of links pointing to various websites, and they don't ask for
>permission from firms to present hyperlinks pointing to their sites.
>The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization
>for the Better Business Bureau (BBB) system, which was founded in
>1912 and is today supported by 250,000 local business members
>nationwide. The BBB is also supported by more than 300 national
>corporations and by 132 local Better Business Bureaus. According to
>its mission statement the BBB is "Dedicated to fostering fair and
>honest relationships between businesses and consumers, instilling
>consumer confidence and contributing to an ethical business
>BizMove.com is a privately owned publishing firm. BizMove.com
>maintains The Small Business Knowledge Base Website
>(http://www.bizmove.com) and is the publisher of the Managing a Small
>Business CD-ROM and various additional information products geared
>towards entrepreneurs and small business owners.
>Here's the text of the Email sent by the BBB to BizMove.com:
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Zialcita, Beth [mailto:bzialcita@cbbb.bbb.org]
>Sent: Monday, March 12, 2001 4:28 PM
>Subject: BBB links
>To the Webmaster:
>As a member of the Council of Better Business Bureaus' (the Council)
>Legal Department, I am writing about your hyperlink to Better
>Business Bureau web site located at
>http://www.bizmove.com/BBB/index.htm. I must ask that you delete
>immediately and remove any hyperlinks to our web site.
>As a matter of policy, the Better Business Bureau does not sponsor,
>endorse or approve companies. Your hyperlink to www.bbb.org may imply
>or mislead consumers into assuming that our organization supports
>your business or that there is a business relationship between us. 
>In addition, materials from our web site is copyrighted, and,
>therefore, cannot be linked to without permission from the BBB. 
>Presently, we are only allowing links to government agencies,
>educational institution, news media and members of the BBB.
>I trust the Council can rely upon your immediate removal of the
>Better Business Bureau hyperlink to our site from your site. Please
>contact me at bzialcita@cbbb.bbb.org if you have any further
>questions about this matter.
>Thank you for your cooperation.
>Beth Zialcita
>Online Trademark Enforcement Specialist
>Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.
>Contact Information:
>Beth Zialcita
>Online Trademark Enforcement Specialist
>Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.
>Meir Liraz
>President, BizMove.com
>                                  # # #

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