back to article Web designer sues Brat City for assaulting hyperlink

Last year, Jennifer Reisinger, a Web developer from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, received a letter from the city. It demanded that she cease and desist the publication of a hyperlink on her web site pointing to the home page for the Sheboygan Police Department. Reisinger used the website in question - Brat City Web Design, so named …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So 1996

    This reminds me of the Shetland News v Shetland Times case in 1996 in which an interim interdict (Scottish version of injunction) was granted against deep linking - which I think was the first UK case law on this

    Here's a [deep] link to the article:

  2. yeah, right.


    Given how easy it is to stop deep linking and redirect to the main site, the whole deep linking thing is just a holdover from lawyers and judges really not understanding what they're on about. Also brings into question the technical competence of those actually running the websites that complain about such things.

    As for the cease-and-desist, I hope the city gets at least a slapdown for being so stupid, in order to at least set precedent to stop others from trying the same trick.

  3. Jeff
    Paris Hilton

    Sue Google

    So does that mean people can start sueing google for violating ToS and deep-linking.

    *Creates a website with some very sophisticated deep-link with one page having a strict ToS and Googles it*

    Paris, cause she knows what its like to go deep and be googled

  4. Benny
    Thumb Down

    Hang on,

    so they have a website...that they dont want people linking the point of it is....? So they can say they have one?!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton



    I am simply dumbfounded at all the hullabaloo.

    A link is just an address or directions on where to find something.

    For example - if I told you the publication name, ISBN, page number and paragraph number to a find some information you wanted, would any (sane) judge rule that I was infringing copyright, breaching the publishers ToS, invading the publishers privacy, or engaging in unfair trade practices? No, because you still need to get the publication from the publisher to access the information.

    (before anyone tries to confuse the matter by bringing up libraries - lets just call libraries the equivalent of a caching proxy and leave it at that).

    For printed publications, the situation is very cut and dried... if it's been printed and made publicly available, then they have no way of forcing others to read the "foreword" (or home page) before accessing the relevant content. The digital world, gives them the ability to force this (if they can be bothered taking the time to configure their web server), but if they don't, none of their rights have been breached when someone bypasses the home page and goes directly to the relevant content, as they didn't have the right or ability to enforce it in the physical world to begin with.

  6. John O'Hare

    Only one problem here

    The only problem I see is a lot of people who make laws and interpret laws, who are basically clueless on the topic at hand and apparantly either don't get good advise or are too overconfident of their own actual knowledge of the topic to actually be able to make any informed decision on the topic.

    Being top of your field in a certain area does not make one all-knowing in other 'lesser' affairs, although quite a lot of pompous asses seem to think so.

    Actually... nothing out of the ordinary to see here. Move along...

  7. Elrond Hubbard

    Technical ineptness

    On the part of the judges who don't understand how easy it is to STOP deep linking, and really more so on the complaining website hosts who are being deep linked for not understanding their own supposed field of expertise.

  8. Adrian Tritschler
    Paris Hilton


    So does this mean that if a lecturer at school advises students to 'read pp147-149 of book xyz' that the author can sue for "deep linking" into a book, since the students should be *forced* to read the entire book from page start to finish?

    Paris cos it doesn't matter how many times I read the original article, I'm still confused

  9. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Greedy old moo!

    Sorry, I hope she loses, she sounds like a right greedy old wotnot. She was asked to remove it, her lawyer got the local council and the mayor himself to apologise for it's mistake, she put it back, end of story!

    I understand we are getting more jumpy these days over our rights, and rightly so, we should stand up for our rights, but then the greedy people come in and start firing all sorts of demands off. People then wonder why the local councils do the same thing back, by demanding £300 fines for putting rubbish out too early on rubbish collection day!

    Money makes the world go around...

  10. n

    @fuzzy wotnot

    She is not "being greedy" as you put it.

    She had her rights violated.

    NOT EVERYONE can afford to hire lawyers and go to the trouble and time of pursuing a case against some very powerful figures (mayor, police dept. etc).

    The idea is that these powerful figures recieve a big fine so that they

    1. realise the severity of what their vindictive revenge has done.

    2. put in place procedures so that the next person (who might be an ordinary joe who is not as capable as this person in knowing their rights) who faces being bullied by the mayor/police dept. doesn't have to suffer.

    There are cases of pointless legal battles where people are greedy, like a small accident that couldn't be helped that has some minor consequencies.


  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Fuzzy Wotnot

    I was gonna say the same thing...

  12. Richard Milner

    The law is developing

    The judge's job is to interpret and apply the law, not make up for deficient technical decisions on behalf of the web site owners.

  13. Matt Williams

    Putting rubbish out too early

    Being told off for putting rubbish out early in England was the first thing I thought about when I read this article. I mean, there are just so many similarities. Foxes, for a start. Linking to websites encourages foxes, doesn't it? Doesn't it???

  14. AC


    so money grabbing wankers don't only exist in the UK then.

  15. Liam

    how the hell

    can she think she is entitled to $250k?

    this just enforces the rest of the world view that americans are greedy, selfish bastards out to take what they can....

    of course not everyone in the US is like that - some are visiting from canada :)

    (just kidding i know there are some decent merkins out there!)

  16. JCL


    Hmm, is she a greedy old moo or is there more to this? If I read it correctly it looks like she was part of a campaign to oust the mayor. Did the mayor take umbridge and start up some retaliation via the police? If that is the case, then the real story could be about a couple of citizens 'throwing their toys out of the pram' with a 'personal vendetta' and not really about linking, deep or otherwise, at all.

    Couple of BBC style apostrophes in there for good measure.

  17. The Mole

    Copyright URL

    An interesting question could be whether a URL can be copyrighted. If some creative effort has gone into the creation of it (ie not just an automatically created number by your website management system) then it could be deemed a creative work protected by copyright. The defendent though could then argue it is fair use of a url to use it to link to the site. Would also be hard to draw the line of when the URL is a creative work and when it isn't

  18. paul clarke

    @ Fuzzy Wotnot

    I think the reason she has brought the case is due to an abuse of power by the mayor. He used his official capacity to retaliate to something he deemed to be personal. Any abuse of power such as this should be punished.

    The mayor probably thought, as do the RIAA & MPAA that they can just threaten someone with a lawyers letter and see the money come rolling in because they SEEM to be official.

  19. Kevin Gurney
    Thumb Down

    @Fuzzy Wotnot


    What exactly did she suffer that makes her thing that she deserves $250,000 ?

    She had a public apology and she's put the link back. End of story.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deep linking

    Except that deep linking is dead easy to block, since the visitors referrer lists the site they were linked from, it's trivial to reject those users.

  21. DPWDC
    Thumb Up

    I feel sorry for their developer

    Its going to be hard in a few months explaining to these morons why searching for "Sheboygan Police Department" returns their site on page 85 of google (due to nothing linking to them out of fear), where as articles saying how dumb they have been (like theregister) rank above them.

  22. Alexis Vallance


    She's in the right, but isn't owed any more than £100 for inconvenience suffered.

    $85k is taking the piss and she doesn't deserve it at all.

  23. Cameron Colley

    RE: Hang on,

    My thoughts exactly. How is it _ever_ wrong to link to a website? It's content published in the open that the whole frigging world can see!

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Suing the City

    If she's trying to punish the malcreant, she should be suing the mayor personally for reasonable damages. Otherwise she's ligging off the taxpayers of the burgh. The electorate should be selecting councilmen who will ensure that such bullying is subject to institutional sanction in the future.

  25. Burch

    Let the mayor learn

    OK, so it's fine to harass a webmaster for being critical of a politician.

    I couldn't care less what money she may or may not get, but if nobody holds them to task for this then they'll do it again and again, most people won't make a fuss and they'll be effectively silenced.

    Cash is all they understand, take it away from them and they'll learn their legal limits much faster. Let the voters decide if this was a great idea.

    What exactly did they want to hide anyway? The homepage of the Sheboygan Police Department? That's a deep link now? Or is it highly secretive information? If so there's some serious problems for the people of Sheboygan.

    Nope, there it is on Google, a publicly accessible website

    Tell me again how she's being awkward?

  26. Do Not Fold Spindle Mutilate

    Who watches the watchers?

    Hey! Doesn't anyone know the rules around free speech? If someone is blocked from saying something then everyone else tries to repeat it? So here is the link to the Sheboygan Police Department:

    You have to watch out for those illegal searches of your coat or website.

  27. dave lawless

    @The Mole & blocking via refer

    Copyright a URL - that's like copyrighting a phone number + extension

    The clue is in the U - Universal

    blocking via refer is also stupid, some places strip them out of outgoing requests via DPI so you'd be potentially punishing your customers.

    The only way is to add a personal identifier to *every* URI and redirecting based on a lack of it / expired - if you can find a suitable expiry time. And then you are punishing your customers because they can't cache anything.

    Besides the story isn't even about deep linking, she linked to the HOMEPAGE.


  28. NoCo37


    WIth the current value of the US dollar, $250k isn't that much. =-)

  29. steward

    Sir Tim should have copyrighted the web

    Then he and the W3C could serve as the Web Supreme Court, with the W3C continuing on for 50 years from whenever he passes on.

  30. kain preacher


    If she's trying to punish the malcreant, she should be suing the mayor personally for reasonable damages. Otherwise she's ligging off the taxpayers of the burgh. The electorate should be selecting councilmen who will ensure that such bullying is subject to institutional sanction in the future.

    She cant. He had the city attorney issue the take down notice, there for it was the city that did it , even though he ordered it . Her use his job to do it . The only way she coulds sue him directly is if he was convicted of criminal charges in this case.

  31. Chris C

    Deep-linking and idiots

    First, the issue of deep-linking. To all of you on here claiming how easy it is to prevent, please, share with the class. Tell us how easy it is. And while you're telling us, keep in mind that there are security products (and probably even some proxies) which strip the referrer header, so you can NOT rely on the value (or even the existence) of the referrer header in your method.

    For the idiots saying she's being greedy -- I agree that $250k is excessive, but I think she's trying to make a point. The point being that the city does not have a right to abuse its powers. If she just got a check for $500 or whatever, it wouldn't be sufficient enough to make the mayor/city say "Well, maybe we shouldn't try that again". I understand this is punishing the taxpayers, but what's the alternative? Let the city do whatever it wants without recourse?

    For the idiots saying she should just drop it -- why? She had to hire (and pay) a lawyer to get justice. And lawyers aren't cheap. Why should she have to pay what is probably thousands of dollars because the mayor and/or city wanted to abuse his/its power? Why shouldn't she be compensated for what she actually had to pay? As for the punitive damages, why shouldn't she be compensated for the hassle they illegally put her through?

  32. Phil

    Deep Linking is Theft -- and Why (and how to stop it)

    Deep linking SHOULD be in a grey area; it's essentially bandwidth theft. Here's how it works.

    Let's say I have a really nifty animation posted on my site. I'm selling advertising based on how much people love my nifty animation. It's very popular, and uses a lot of bandwidth, which I pay for, but the advertising covers the cost and gives me a small profit.

    Along comes Joe the Schnook, who decides to deep link to my nifty animation on HIS website. Now, he's showing MY animation to HIS users, possibly without attribution, and he's getting advertising money from HIS website, but I'm paying for the bandwidth for the nifty animation itself.

    Joe gets to profit at MY expense, and I basically get screwed. Naturally I could sue the crap out of old Joe, but being a techie, I go straight for the jugular.

    I create an animation which consists only of a loop of goatse pictures, and I write an "htaccess" file which detects all requests for my animation in which my website isn't the referrer. Anyone who isn't coming from my website to get the animation gets the goatse rick-roll. People who come from my website get the nifty animation.

    Problem solved! And Joe the Schnook and all his little friends are blinded by the all seeing goatse eye of doom.

    Works a lot better than the courts, and cheaper too!

  33. Phil

    Oh, and why deep linking is NOTHING like book references

    When you give someone a book reference, even with page and paragraph numbers, they still have to go out and find the actual book, so the author still gets credit and a royalty (even if it's in a library -- the book was purchased at some point). On the web, this would be like saying "if you want to see a cool picture, go to this guy's website, on this specific page URL". Nobody has any problem with this sort of thing, because you're still going to the other guy's site to see his content. He's properly attributed, he sells ads, everyone's happy.

    When you deep link, you access only the content (like an image) itself, not the context, the author attribution, the web page it's on, or anything else. It's more like copying a passage from a book, putting it in your OWN book, and not mentioning where it came from. On the web, this is what happens when people link directly to an image on another site, showing the image in their site.

    The worst case of this is in forum posts, where people sometimes deep-link to someone's photo as an avatar image. Because forum posts are viewed thousands to millions of times, and the avatar can appear hundreds of times in a single thread, bandwidth costs for the avatar can become totally INSANE.

    It's not innocuous, and it's not cool. Don't deep link! It's bandwidth theft! Not to mention practically plagiarism...

  34. JRallo
    Black Helicopters

    @The Fuzzy Wotnot

    I agree, $250K is excessive. What we don't see is if the city paid her legal fees, and any fees associated with the inconvenience of their false take down notice. Say the lawyer charged $20K for the return fee, she took off two day's work (another $400) to find, retain, and get legal advice. Add in fine (another $20K) for misuse of power I get about $40,400 for all of this. The city should pay (as it was from the city) and that would be the end of it. Next, everyone involved should be brought up on abuse of power charges and the investigation there brought to whatever conclusion a jury of peers would find. I don't think she's entitled to the full $250K, lawyer fees and fees directly incurred to her from their actions (time off.) This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Obviously the mayor was back in power, and so he tried to get revenge and lost, and its her turn to try and get revenge. I can see why they want a jury trial. Jury's will be more sympathetic to the lowly citizen that Big Bad Government tried to bully around. She'll probably win, at tax payer's expense of course.

    Black Helicopter, because Big Bad Government is all around.

  35. Chris Girocco

    Link via TinyURL

    Problem solved

  36. The Ref

    on deep linking and copyright

    Along with many others here, IANAL however it seems there is an issue that is not discussed and that is how a piece of copyrighted information appears.

    Going beyond the OP, if I post a link to "" that is completely different to embedding a video in my page then, while still hosted on youtube, make it *appear* to be part of my page (via an iframe for example).

    The link is the same, the hosting is the same, but the end result may be completely different. Looking at the post icon, would most users know if this image was hosted on the register or on another copyrighted site?

    I don't think the copyright issue is as simple as deep linking - I think some intent needs to be included.

    P.S. Youtube is an example and I know they have no issue with embedding links, but it is an example which people should understand.

  37. Pete "oranges" B.

    What is "Link"?

    So, if I take the link tags away, does that make it not a link?

    What if I make jpegs of the link characters, is it still a link?

    What if I put the link in a plain text file and then link to that?

    What if I use binary to spell out the link?

    How about Morse code?

    What if I write it on a little scrap of paper?

    And photocopy the paper?

    Or burn the link in a text file to a mini-CD-R and use a home made ballista to chuck it over to my friend's house?

    Does any non-standard manner of convey the link information count? Who's standard?

    It are fryday. Me are confused.

  38. Mike Bronze badge


    for those claiming you can't block by referrals because of programs that remove them (also bookmarks won't have one) - you of course allow links with no referral

    yes this means that users with such software can still access the content from other sites, however the vast majority of users will get tubgirl/goatse/whatever, which will get the link changes pretty quickly! (of course if it's a business website then an error page is an almost as good alternative)

    if i go to a friend and ask them where the best place is to get my car fixed and they suggest a certain garage then i go there, the car repair has bugger all to do with my friend - i have gone to the garage and asked for my car fixed and they have said yes, i might also tell them my friend sent me (referrer header) in which case they may well decide "oh, you're one of his friends? sorry, go somewhere else", but if they fixed my car then tried to sue my friend for referring me there then the judge would rightly laugh at them

    what is the difference here? my friend Jennifer Reisinger suggested that I might want to have a look at the Sheboygan police station, i walked in there and said "hey, my friend Jennifer Reisinger said I might want to have a look around, is that OK?" (Referral header tells them who sent me) and they said "Yes that's fine" (by sending back the page) and let me walk around, then the next day turned around and tried to force Jennifer to stop telling her friends about them? If they dislike Jennifer's friends looking around then the correct thing to do is say "sorry, we don't want you here" and that's the end of it. (Of course if it's a public part of a government building they refused me access to then that wouldn't be the end of it, but that's a different matter)

  39. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    @ Deep Linking Is Theft

    Do what I did when I found someone deep linking to images on my site - rename the image, and in place of the old one put some porn. Don't know if they paid enough attention to notice, but you can be someone did ;-)

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    "lets just call libraries the equivalent of a caching proxy and leave it at that"

    I'm sorry but I find that absolutely hilarious for some reason. Do I have your anonymous permission to put it in my MOTD?

    (Oh, and you owe me a new keyboard.)

  41. GF

    @Mike - A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

    Your physical access example overanalyzes the virtual access of web sites. As far as I am concerned, anything on the Internet that is freely accessible (no login ID-password) is open to the public. You want to link, so what? Go ahead. If the web site does not want you to link, they can always block you from any referrals, but it won't prevent Internet users from going to that site directly. Of course, case law can definitely interpret the "process" differently :-)

  42. David Wilkinson
    Thumb Up

    I hope she wins

    Otherwise people will people who hire lawyers have right to expressed themselves without illegal threats and harassment.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Deep Linking?

    What are you all on about? How can a link to an organisations HOME page be classed as deep linking… Please explain.

    They put their website up, placed it in the public domain, all she did was tell people where it was, they should have thanked her for such a public service.

  44. This post has been deleted by its author

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linking/deep linking/embedding

    OK IANAL etc, but:

    There seems to be some confusion re what "deep" linking is. It's actually quite simple: it's just linking. It's what the web does. If you put stuff on the web anyone can link to it by making a link to its URL. Just because it skips your home page doesn't make any difference - it's supposed to happen. That's what hypertext linking is *for*.

    "Deep" linking is a (probably corporate) lawyer's invention. Bottom line is that if you don't want people to link to what you put up, protect it with a login mechanism or don't put it up in the first place. And if you're bothered that users won't see your ads, put them in a place where they will, eg on an article page as well as the home page for a news site like El Reg. This is not rocket science.

    Linking is *not* the same as embedding, ie using someone else's graphics on your site. That's a different problem (more akin to plagiarism or passing off), and you can tackle it in a number of ways, ranging from visible watermarks through javascript shenanigans and server-side scripting. But embedding isn't linking and it certainly isn't "deep" linking.

    Nor for that matter was the person in the story's link "deep" linking - it was a plain link to a web site, so the "deep" thing doesn't even enter the scenario.

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