Issue #37
2 December 1996
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A weekly E-zine about the NZ internet industry

Edition #37

Readers of last week's Aardvark will have seen that TVNZ made all sorts of agressive noises against 7am Weekday News recently when 7am added links from its own pages to the TVNZ Sports news pages.

TVNZ's justification for threatening 7am was that these links constituted a breach of copyright and that they adversely affected TVNZ's own branding, a branding they claim to protect very vigorously.

It's worth pointing out that when 7am linked to TVNZ's sports pages, it did so in the most ethical and fair way possible - without retaining any 7am content on the browser screen in a frame, instead it gave the linked-to pages the entire browser window so as to preserve TVNZ's "branding".

Surprise, surprise. It seems that TVNZ are suffering from a very bad case of "do as we say, not as we do". Their site has recently undergone a "facelift" and what do we see? Well, take a look at this page and scroll the left-hand frame right down to the bottom. Then click on either the CNN link or the SM Herald one.

Given their recent bitching at 7am, how on earth do they justify this blatant attempt to compromise the branding of other sites in a manner far worse than could ever occur with a simple non-framed link such as the ones 7am used.

If you think this is a little hypocritical, why not leave some feedback on TVNZ's site and tell them so.

And still on the subject of copyright, legal action et al... last week IRN (Independent Radio News) also got in on the act and contacted 7am to say that use of IRN headlines and links from 7am to Xtra's news pages was a breach of IRN's copyright - and that they were considering taking legal action.

Sigh... the levels of ignorance shown by some NZ broadcasters and publishers is amazing! Want an example?

Here's an excerpt from the email set to 7am by IRN regarding the copyright issues, and in particular, their contract with Xtra, the site carring the IRN content to which 7am has been linking:

"Plese [sic] remember that our contract with Xtra strictly prohibits them passing on, relaying or allowing access of our material in any way, and that IRN News retains copyright on all content we provide."

Excuse me?? Am I stupid or does this sound as if it means that Xtra are paying for something they can't use? Does IRN really expect that Xtra will be paying good money for this content and then not allowing anyone to see it? What did they think Xtra were going to do with it... put it in an envelope and lock it in drawer somewhere? Don't they know that the whole reason for extra purchasing this content is to place it on a Web where a potential audience of tens of millions of people have access to it?

I think this proves my assertion that IRN certainly haven't got the slightest idea of what the Internet is, how it works, or what people do with it.

I've suggested to IRN that before they go off half-cocked and make a fool of themselves in a court of law and amongst a global audience of their peers, that they spend a little money and have someone come in and explain what the Net is all about. Maybe then they'll realise what folly they're presently engaging in.

During the past week, 7am has received permission to link to a number of the worlds major news and information sites including: CNN Interactive, The LA Times, The Press Online, CBS, NewsLinx, National Business Review, Hendry Hay McIntosh, and Voyager.

Richard Ord, publisher of NewsLinx wrote saying "We never ask permission to link and we never will. The essence of the Web is links. In fact, it could not physically exist without them. So, it seems redundant to ask permission!"

"It's no different than a television or radio movie review where the announcer states the name of the movie verbatim and then tells all about it. As you mentioned in the article, search engines routinely link to sites. I would also point out that search results often include a paragraph of text taken from each page as well ... all without the permission of the web site publisher. For this to be construed as a copyright infringement is absurd."

Richard goes on to say that his site has never been threatened with a copyright suit and in fact he often gets emails from other sites reminding him to link to their stories. Take a look at his site and see the diverse range of news sources he links to. If none of these organisations have a problem with linking on the Net then I think it makes at least two of NZ's news organisations look pretty silly - doesn't it?

7am is now preparing to "tough it out" with IRN over this issue and has had pledges of support from a number of people and organisations on the Internet who agree that if IRN were to succeed in prosecuting for a breach of copyright, the future of the entire Web would be in significant jeopardy. A precedent such as this would effectively render illegal most of the hypertext links found on the Web today and open the door to frivolous law suits from miscreants who might be lucky enough to find a "rich" publisher linking to their pages without permission. It would also leave Search Engine sites open to copyright suits, making the operation of such a site a very risky business. Imagine how devastating it would be to the Net if the operators of such sites felt it safer to shut them down rather than run the risk of hugely expensive legal battles based on a precedent such as this. Hundreds of millions of pages of information without an index is pretty useless!

footnote: funny how NBR has picked up on this story and I've even received contact from news organisations as far-distant as The Irish Times who are reporting it - yet neither TVNZ, nor IRN seem to consider an issue which stands to create a world-wide precedent is "newsworthy". Readers are left to draw their own conclusions as to the reasons for, and implications of this quality and level of news reporting.

Some of the NZ computer industry recently had quite a party, under the pretense of awarding a few glitering prizes and doing a little mutual back-slapping. Yes the Annual PC World Awards were dished out.

Now... of course IDG has no control over who wins what, after all, the winners are chosen by PC World readers who vote in a number of categories to choose what's best.

Well obviously some Xtra users are pretty happy with their ISP, although that sentiment isn't always reflected within other "net-cliques" around town. Still ... it can't be argued, they won "NZ Web Site of the Year" - pretty impressive! - or is it?

No slight on Xtra intended, but let's look at the numbers...

According to IDG's own figures, just 11% of the respondents bothered to vote in this category. Now of that 11%, just 27% voted for Xtra. But.. how many people responded to the poll? Last figure I heard was that somewhere betwen 1,000 and 1,200 people were involved. Let's do the math:

0.11 x 0.27 x 1,100 = 32.67

"Say what?" Assuming the numbers I've been told about the number of respondents is correct, "NZ Web Site of the year" was won with a total number of votes which is almost certainly less than the total number of staff who work at Xtra.

What conclusions can we draw from this? Are Xtra customers the only ones who read PC World? Are they the only ones who can be bothered voting? Did some of Xtra's staff abstain from the voting? :-)

Congratulations to Xtra for winning and good work IDG for orgainising it and staging what was reportedly a pretty good booze-up. But was this just a cunning trick to give PC World sales a huge boost about this time next year. Next year look out for your free copy of the issue of PC World with the voting form, I'm sure lots of ISPs and web-designers will be handing them out - along with a "vote for us" message, after all, just 34 copies might have bought the award this year :-)

Yes, it's true! Given the somewhat "surprising" results of the PC World awards, Aardvark is going to invite its readers to vote for who they think make up the best and the worst of the NZ Net.

No fancy prices or expensive dinners I'm afraid, just recognition from people who I like to think of as some of the Net's more intelligent citizens. Details will be published later this week in Aardvark Daily when YOU will have your chance to decide.

Yes, it's that time of year and don't forget to invite Aardvark to your Christmas party! I'll be reviewing all the industry-parties I attend and publishing these reviews in the Post-Christmas "hangover" edition of Aardvark Weekly. Of course, if I'm not there in person I'll just have to review on the basis of second-hand reports, which are notoriously unreliable and often very embarassing!

And if you're not having a party, just email me for details of where to send Aardvark's Christmas present. :-)

Surprise, surprise - even after last week's piece about TVNZ, not a word!


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