Verizon Specifies How You're Allowed To Link To Its Site

Harry Maugans discovered that Verizon thinks it can stipulate how you link to their website.

Verizon tries to tell you can only link to its front page, and you can’t link if you say mean things about them. They also think they can specify how the link is formatted, and that you can’t hyperlink an image to their website.

“IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THESE WEBSITE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, THEN YOU MAY NOT USE THIS SITE,” says the top of the website terms and conditions.

Uh oh, we’re about to link to a page within the site itself, here it comes… — BEN POPKEN

Website Use Terms and Conditions [VerizonWireless via Harry Maugans]
PREVIOUSLY: Cingular Thinks It Can Sue You For Linking To Its Website

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  1. humphrmi says:

    What I don’t get is, why would I want to?

  2. danieldavis says:

    To link to one of their shitty services, or some other stupid thing Verizon thinks of.

  3. Slytherin says:

    @humphrmi: My thoughts exactly. Why would anybody be a voluntary marketing tool for Verizon? The only reason I would link to them is to talk smack.

  4. Mike_ says:

    Welcome to teh Internets, Verizon.

    “… any attempt to forbid the practice of deep linking is based on a misunderstanding of the technology, and threatens to undermine the functioning of the Web as a whole.”

    (World Wide Web Consortium Technical Architecture Group, 2001 – link)

    You can thwart deep-linking in the same way that some webmasters prevent remote image linking. Just redirect the client based on the Referer value. This is sometimes appropriate, but not often.

  5. Mike_ says:

    (Er, 2003.)

  6. ColdNorth says:

    My guess is that Verizon doesn’t have a leg to stand on, legally. They’re probably just putting something out there to scare people.

    Is one really using a site just by linking to it? Wouldn’t it be the person clicking on the link who is using it?

    And what about fair use? Can’t anyone use public information, even copyrighted material, so long as it is limited in scope, germane to the subject at hand in which the reference is made, and not libelous?

    There must be a lawyer out there somewhere who can comment…

    It seems to me that this is something they put out there so that they can have some sort of legal theory for sending cease-and-desist orders to the likes of Consumerist, et al.

  7. QuirkyRachel says:

    I don’t understand how you can say web site can’t link to you. It’s a link. The code in the link, and the link itself, would be on *my* web site. Therefore the link belongs to me, right?

  8. silverlining says:

    Verizon (and Cingular, for that matter) doesn’t seem to get this whole “internet” idea. The whole POINT is easier access to referential information. The web is not just an electronic billboard ported to individual computer screens. The whole nature of the web means that publishers have less control over their image.

    It’s a two-way street–either accept the nature of the medium or don’t have a website. Tough kibble.

  9. XianZhuXuande says:

    The official site for the SLC Olympic Games had a similar clause. Verizon is trying to do a few things here: 1) By including ‘Verizon Wireless’ in your link you are boosting the strength of their brand in searches that contain ‘Verizon’ and/or ‘Wireless’, so you are helping them climb the ladder in Google searches; 2) They don’t want images because images don’t associated with keywords; 3) They are trying to scare people out of including their image and links in discussions critical of the company. Keywords probably factor into this too: if enough people linked to Verizon as ‘horrible company’ they would not only rank high for the keyword horrible, the search term ‘horrible company’ could eventually turn up Verizon right as the first result.

    Fact is, they can’t do anything about most of this. You can link to whatever you like on the internet as long as you follow a few key guidelines. If you’re going to slander the company in such a way they could take you to court you might avoid using the link — they could extract extra damages out of you. You can, however, use their imagery in an article critical of the company (as done here at Consumerist) without fear. They cannot do a thing about how you link to their site and you can link to their subpages. If a Verizon lawyer ever contacted you over something like that, feel free to laugh at them in response.

  10. XianZhuXuande says:

    And by the way. These ‘clauses’ are not uncommon. :)

  11. JohnMc says:

    As to the points listed:

    1) Well yeah, whats to stop anybody?
    2,3,4) You spend your time, money and effort to develop a business and marketing presence. You want to protect that effort. That is the intent of those points. Seriously, if I set up a link that stated that Consumerist endorses IDT electric would not Consumerist be up in arms about it? And would then want to take action on it? Ok. Well first you have to put folks on notice.
    5) Its just the culmination of 2,3,4.
    6) Oh yeah sure. You can enforce that about as good as 1.

    But folks some of this is an issue in business law and have little to do with the Internet other than being the source venue.

  12. martyz says:

    FROM THE LAW OFFICES OF DEWEY, CHEATHAM & HOWE
    OFFICIAL LEGAL REPRESENTATION OF VERIZON A-HOLES, LLC

    ATTENTION BEN POPKEN:

    It has come to our attention that you have linked to a web page that is not the Verizon homepage. You must remove this link immediately or face legal action. And by “legal action”, we mean we’ll do absolutely nothing as this has got to be the most ridonculous set of rules I’ve ever seen in my 30 years as an attorney.

    Oh yeah — I’m a lawyer and I said ridonculous.

    I seriously think, Ben, you should hold a contest to see who can violate all six (6) of those “linking requirements” to verizonwireless.com using one libelous linked image of the Verizon logo promoting some 3rd party.

  13. BStu says:

    As we discussed in the Cingular thread, while one hopes any effort to enforce these rules in court would fail, there is no definative case law that validates deeplinking or even plain old hyperlinking.

    That said, they could easily win a challenge based on the 3rd and 4th requirements. The 5th, if not applied broadly, is common sense, too. The problem is that they would almost certainly seek to apply an exceptionally broad standard. I’d think that the 2nd could be successfully applied, too. Which leaves 6 and 1. I suspect they’d have no ability to enforce 6 as the only instances I can think of would be plain free speech issues. As to rule 1, the case law is all over the map on deeplinking. Some countries have firmly protected deep-linking. The US isn’t one of them and while some cases have rejected attempts to block deep-linking, others have affirmed them. I don’t think they should be able to get away with it, but legally they might.

  14. Bpj says:

    Google is going to be in trouble!!!

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=or

  15. eldergias says:

    By reading this comment, you agree to give me everything you own… also that fairies exist.

    Sweet, now I can retire… and you believe in fairies.

  16. eldergias says:

    To those of you who are saying that this “clause” is understandable and defensible please show me how the following examples are substantively different from what they are claiming is “illegal linking”:

    For #1:

    Publishing a phone number for someone or some department within Verizon other than the “Main” Verizon telephone line.

    Explanation: All public telephone numbers are open to the public and there is no legal ground action can be taken again someone using a public telephone number when not using it for illegal purposes (harassment and such). If one does not want a telephone number to be publicly used the telephone number can be unlisted, and disclosing of unlisted telephone numbers is grounds for legal action, unless the unlisted number was released publicly by the company carrying the number Public web pages are made public as such. If one does not want a web page to be public, it can be password protected so only authorized users may access it, or as another commenter put, all pages accessing a site will be redirected to the homepage. Not doing either of these is implicit acceptance of these pages as public.

    For #2:

    A magazine article about a company with a stock photograph below the header.

    Explanation: Magazines, newspapers, many periodicals use stock photographs to catch the attention of readers or to give a quick expression of what the article is about. This is not an implication or indication that the subject of the article is in any way connected with the photograph other than that the photograph loosely applies to the context of the article, not the specific subject. Verizon stating that you must not use another logo is understandable as it could easily give the impression of a business relationship between Verizon and another party where none exists, to the average reader. Verizon saying that the link cannot appear connected to any graphic is similar to saying that Newspapers and Magazines can’t use graphics in their articles when talking about such as company. Inclusion of a graphic (non business related) is not implication of business association, it is artistic association which is covered by free speech.

    For #3:

    This one is completely understandable. Misrepresenting yourself or something else as being endorsed by Verizon when it is not is a Misleading Business practice and is covered by such laws. Keep in mind that, once again, this is subject to the average consumer. If you link Verizon to Disney, that would be misleading because the average consumer could believe that the two had become involved in some capacity. Linking Verizon to flying bunnies with candy-cane eyes would not make the average consumer believe that Verizon was involved with crazy land.

    For #4:

    Same as #2, inclusion of a graphic (non business related) is not implication of business association, it is artistic association which is covered by free speech. Sorry Verizon, if I want to link to your site using the picture of a muffin, no perceivable harm has been done to you. The no using Verizon logo or graphics could be understandable as it could confuse mislead people into thinking the site was supported by Verizon, also Verizon owns the images. Which brings up another point, Verizon owns the Verizon logo so it can restrict how the logo is used because the image itself if owned by Verizon. For a website, Verizon owns the location not the address, so to speak. Just like with a physical location, I can tell other people where the Verizon store is, give them a ride there, point them in the direction, give them a map, tell them the address, give them the phone number, ect. Once people are inside the store it is Verizon territory, but leading up to getting inside Verizon has no jurisdiction over me or anyone I talk to. The same is true for the website. They own the domain like a physical address. Once inside, they set the rules, but as for showing people how to get there they can’t tell me what to do.

    For #5:

    Example: If tomorrow Verizon changed their corporate policy to say that they would no longer serve Jewish people there would be an uproar, and if CNN.com and BBC.com had articles regarding it (that were nothing but the truth) and linked to the site Verizon could sue them saying that what they did hurt Verizon’s image?

    I will concede that people should not associate Verizon with unfair, deceptive, or libelous advertising (http://consumerist.com/consumer/clips/verizon-doesnt-know-difference-between-dollars-and-cents-220362.php)
    , even though Verizon themselves use such practices, but “used in any way that will tend to injure or compromise our professional reputation”? Yeah right. No, Verizon’s shady dealings are what damage the Verizon image, other people pointing out the public truth cannot be punished for it, else we have no freedom of speech whatsoever. Of course, Verizon wouldn’t do something as crazy as deny an entire religion access to their network, but my point is that if people are complaining about the stuff Verizon does and their policies and the people are telling nothing but the truth, Verizon can’t expect to legally shut them up with a lawsuit. You can’t punish people for the public truth. Also opinions are not yours to force Verizon. If Joe Shmoe in Hicksville hates your service and yells to high Heaven about how much it sucks, that is personal opinion, and so long as he isn’t lying, you can’t touch him.

    For #6

    Example: Corporate addresses and telephone numbers published in periodicals do not have to have the full legal name of the company they are giving the information of. If a Magazine puts the corporate telephone line of Microsoft’s main office in their article, they don’t have to say it is for Microsoft Corporation. I can put MS, or MSFT, or Microsft, or any freaking thing I please that indicates who it is.

    Explanation: No. Just no. Verizon, on your own website you link to another website without using the websites’ company name. On your “about us overview” page on the right hand side under “vendor programs” you have a link entitled “sponsorships” which takes you to the company of Sponsorwise (by the way, you use a deep link to do that as well). Your website is public in the public domain. You own it and everything it is, and NOTHING outside of it. Just because I look at your logo doesn’t mean you can tell me how to eat my lunch 3 hours from now. You own everything you have patented and copyrighted and no one else can profit from of cause you to lose profits from those in a misleading manner. Outside of that, you have no rights to limit public dissemination of information.

  17. eldergias says:

    Sorry about the grammatical mistakes. I was pissed off when I wrote that and I type a bit too quickly.

  18. AgentMOO says:

    Oh dear, this doesn’t bode well for my new site, http://verizoneatspuppies.com

  19. urchin88 says:

    I think it’s time to do a little Google bombing…

    Verizon Wireless = Asshats Incorporated?

  20. asurroca says:

    I think I managed to violate all six rules here:

    http://asurroca.com/vzw.html

  21. jmac32here says:

    Oh, this is funny as hell. I am going to post this as a review on DWR (www.drakoswr.tk).

    There is no legal ground to these rules, and yes, the Fair Use Act does allow you to use any, and ALL public information as long as it matches the topic of discussion.

    This could be the reason why they have attacked DWR 4 times, leading our second webhost (the first one bought into this BS and shut us down) sending us an e-mail that since we have been attacked, even though our site is in no violation of ANY laws, their legal teams will support and back the site in court. Though before they sent the e-mail, they did suspend the site for a week to ensure we were doing everything legally–and guess what, we are…we even have a disclaimer to prove that–because of the first attack that did shut the site down.