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December 19, 2000

You may recall that British Telecom announced it holds a patent for hyperlinks some time ago—much to the surprise of the hypertext community, which had been talking about linking things years before BT claims it developed the concept. Things have moved into the legal arena now, with a lawsuit against Prodigy that is most likely a practice round for later attacks on AOL and other ISPs.

Predictably, the internet community is resisting and offering its support to Prodigy, provided that it doesn’t back down.

On the subject of pushy legal actions by large companies, Warner Bros has dropped its suit against a 15-year-old girl for creating a Harry Potter fan site. Apparently, the scathing reporting from The Register and other publications was enough to scare the media conglomerate away. In fact, they’ve even granted the site a free license, which means they’re still able to claim opposition to unlicensed fan sites. How convenient.

The internet raises lots of difficult questions, and dealing with fan sites is probably less important than, say, how to treat the websites of tax-exempt organizations. (Does linking to a political lobbying group consitute lobbying? Even the IRS isn’t sure.) Needless to say, it’s the almost uniformly boneheaded behavior of these media companies that makes people nervous about the impending AOL/Time Warner merger. (via Swaine, Doc Searls)