Framing, Linking, and Metatags

One of the ways in which producers (and compilers) of informationalproducts have sought to make money on the internet has been through thesale of advertisements. Companies pay for the right to place advertisementson the producers' homepages. In the simplest form of this strategy, a newspaper, let's call it Newsworthy, creates a website that functions as an index to all of Newsworthy's services.Links on Newsworthy's homepage will, when activated, take users to other sites created by Newsworthy, which contain individual articles. On the primary or index page, Newsworthy places advertisements. Internet surfers who visit the site in the traditional fashion go first to the primary page, see the advertisements, from which they are referred to advertisement-free individual stories.A more complex version of the same strategy entails posting advertisements,not merely on the central, index page, but in a frame that surrounds thetextual material in all subordinate pages as well.

At least three sorts of activities threaten the effectiveness of thesestrategies. First, All News -- a rival of Newsworthy or simply a party unrelated to Newsworthy -- can establish in its own homepage links to subordinate pages in Newsworthy's system.Internet users who gain access to Newsworthy's system through All News' homepage ratherthan through Newsworthy's homepage thus miss the first wave of Newsworthy's advertisements.

Second, All News may go further, placing advertisements in a frame around its own homepage -- a frame that obscures comparable advertising frames onNewsworthy's subordinate pages when users link to them.

Third, All News may organize its system in such a way that it "caches" for substantial periods of time Newsworthy's homepage -- in other words, stores Newsworthy's page on All News' system.

The result is that there will a delay between the time when Newsworthy changes its advertisements and the time when those changes appear on the version of Newsworthy's page that users see when they gain access to it through All News' page.

During the first week of the course, we will be discussing the firsttwo of the activities discussed in the preceding paragraph. Do they violateany existing body of law? Should they be lawful?

To sharpen your understanding of -- and reaction to -- those questions,please begin by reading the attached HypotheticalProblem. At the end of the problem, you will find links to a varietyof legal and nonlegal resources that are relevant to these issues. Afterperusing those resources, you are encouraged to participate in the variousdiscussion groups contained in the virtual classroom.