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Universal: Don't Link to Us
by Oscar S. Cisneros

3:00 a.m.  27.Jul.99.PDT
A Web site that aggregates links to movie trailers online has come under fire from a major movie studio that says the links infringe on its copyrights.

"Every time someone posts something on the Internet it's now for public viewing and most of the time I'm just pointing to the address," said Jean-Pierre Bazinet, owner of Movie-List. "I don't see how you can copyright or make restrictions on posting an address."

Bazinet, whose site features links to externally hosted movie trailers, received a letter from Universal Studios representatives asking him to cease linking to movie trailers on their Web servers.

"[Y]ou are not permitted to link to other sites that contain our copyrighted material without our authorization," the company wrote. "Accordingly, you must remove all images from our films as well as links to other sites that have our servers."

Movie-List's legal scuffling with Universal began almost six months ago when a Universal representative contacted Bazinet and asked him to quit using the movie studio's digitized movie previews. Bazinet had no objections and removed the trailers from his Web servers and CD-ROM collections.

"Then they contacted me and said I wasn't allowed to link to any of their servers containing the trailers -- that I don't understand," he said. "I'm basically sending a user to their servers."

Citing a policy against discussing legal matters in action, Universal declined to comment on the matter.

Legal experts did comment, however, saying the legal landscape surrounding deep linking, or hyperlinking deep into another's Web page, is fraught with unpaved ways.

"The question of deep linking is unsettled in the law right now," said David Hayes, chair of the intellectual property group at the law firm Fenwick & West.

Since no court has ruled on the issue, a guiding precedent has not been established to govern who has the right to link deep into the Web site of another person or company.

Some major Web-site owners contend that because they have a lot invested in their pages they should dictate who can and who can't link into their site. Others, however, contend that they have as much right to direct users to a specific Web page as they do to point out a billboard on the street.

"It's a pretty broad issue because, as you know, linking is ubiquitous on the Web," Hayes said.

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