When we link to other internet sites on this blog, or on the main VLW Web site, we generally embed the address of the site into the text. That underlines the text and makes it a “hyperlink,” the commonly recognized method of referring people from one Web page to another page, somewhere else on the internet.
Apparently, not everybody realizes that hyperlinks generally take you to another internet location. So when a Web site called BlockShopper (a high tech version of the real estate transfer listings in your local newspaper) posted hyperlinks to bio pages of buyers and sellers, one company cried foul. Law firm Jones Day sued, claiming the links to bio pages for Jones Day lawyers made it look like BlockShopper somehow was associated with Jones Day.
Here‘s an example. The BlockShopper story describes the sale of a Manhattan co-op by an associate at McGuireWoods in Richmond. Click on the lawyer’s name and you will see his page on the law firm’s Web site. (As far as we know, of course, McGuireWoods has no connection to BlockShopper.)
Most folks in the geek world were astounded that Jones Day would even dream it had a cause of action. Hyperlinks are so familiar, so well-understood by the technorati that few could conceive that anyone would be confused about an association between BlockShopper and Jones Day.
But the judge apparently was not among the ranks of technorati. To cries of outrage from across the Web, he denied BlockShopper’s motion to dismiss. BlockShopper, facing mounting legal bills, now has settled.
Like the lawsuit itself, the settlement is an enigma to the geek world. The deal says BlockShopper still can provide a link to a Jones Day lawyer’s Web site, but it has to display the full internet address (http://www.jonesday.com/sjbrogan/, not Stephen J. Brogan). To everyday Web surfers, one is the same as the other. To noobs, apparently, the change sends the appropriate signal that you are about to travel to another corner of the Web galaxy.
By Peter Vieth