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BT: the internet is ours

by Giles Turnbull -- 2002/02/13

BT's court action to claim ownership of the hyperlink in the US is plain daft, and makes the company look like it knows nothing about the internet.

It's not just the fact that claiming some kind of ownership of all hyperlinks is a silly notion in itself, but also that BT's choice of target - American ISPs - seems completely arbitrary.

After all, ISPs usually provide connectivity and hosting services. Their customers are the ones making and using the hyperlinks.

BT seems to be picking on the ISPs because, out of all the internet community, BT thinks they might have the deepest pockets. Why hasn't it picked on big players like Microsoft and Netscape/AOL? Their pockets are deeper still.

How does BT propose to enforce its patent, if the court granted it? WriteTheWeb, for example, is mostly written and managed from the UK, where the patent does not apply - but it is hosted on computers in the US. Does that make me liable for the links on this page, or people in America who read it?

What about internal links? What about hidden links buried away on intranets, password-protected sites, personal wikis, sites that only live on local networks and not on the internet?

BT has always claimed to be a company at the forefront of internet technology. A large proportion of its income to date - and its future income - depends on internet usage by its customers. The company's decision to persue this court case implies that it understands very little about internet culture.