Law Firm Uses Copyright Claim To Say You Can't View Its Website's HTML Source

from the that's-a-new-one dept

Greg Beck writes in to let us know that the law firm that was recently challenged for claiming that it was a copyright violation to post its cease-and-desist letter also has some other interesting ideas about copyright, including banning people from looking at the firm’s source code. You can view the entire user agreement, but the amusing part is:

“We also own all of the code, including the HTML code, and all content. As you may know, you can view the HTML code with a standard browser. We do not permit you to view such code since we consider it to be our intellectual property protected by the copyright laws. You are therefore not authorized to do so.”

As Beck says, “That’s kind of like a puppet show invoking copyright to prohibit the audience from looking at the strings. The user agreements of the law firm and one of its clients also contain a bunch of terrible terms that have become all too common: a prohibition on linking to the site, copying anything from the site (even if its fair use), and even referring to the website owner by name. The law firm doesn’t even allow its own clients to say they’re represented by the firm without permission." He also notes that the law firm in question is demanding that another website remove criticism of one of their clients because it did not receive permission to use the client’s name or link to the website — two things that the laws and the courts have been pretty clear in saying is perfectly legal over the years.

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Comments on “Law Firm Uses Copyright Claim To Say You Can't View Its Website's HTML Source”

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151 Comments
Brad says:

It's out of embarrassment

So I just took a look at their source code. No wonder they don’t want anyone to see it – for a “technology specialist law firm” (which self-describes in the META tags as ‘Top rated internet lawyer’), their code appears to have been written by a drunk teenager in the late 90’s. It’s all tables, and amazingly, all nested tables at that. There’s not a single DIV on the entire page.

Incidentally, I did not view the source code. I used Firefox’s Firebug to inspect the DOM – which is completely different and therefore, since not explicitly forbidden, is allowed.

What if I look at the source code BEFORE I find the user agreement? What then?

I thought law firms knew that implicit agreement doesn’t work anymore.

Legal notice: By reading any of my comments found anywhere on the internet you agree not to argue with me or drink milk.

Sam says:

Re: It's out of embarrassment

I used Opera’s custom Style Sheets menu to display the page elements within the rendered page. Sadly, they “used” Adobe GoLive! for there page design.

I think that Frontpage actually would be better than this was.

You made no restrictions about chocolate milk. The chocolate cow union is pleased.

Deathshadow says:

Re: It's out of embarrassment

Yup. No doctype, layout is broken in large fonts due to stuff like using twenty odd   in a row – and any web developer that doesn’t know what’s wrong with:

Needs to do the world a favor and back away from the keyboard and take up knitting.

They also do NOT own the rights to all of the code since they are calling Urchin, GeoTrust, etc.

Basically, they’ve made the /FAIL/ at intarweb club.

brwyatt says:

Show them how you feel

use their contact form to tell them how pissed you are (anon of course, cause they would probably sue you for using your right to free speech without permission) http://www.cybertriallawyer.com/legal-matter….

Put them as the “other party” and for how did you hear about them… well…. its all over the net how retarded they are, just pick one (or 5)….

D says:

Amusing

I definitely just looked at the source code. I’M GONNA GET SUED!

Seriously though, the web site layout sucks, and John Dozier sounds like a total douchebag. He’s recently been named a ‘SUPER LAWYER’. Big f—ing deal.

“Founder (1994) of first Venture Fund backed e-commerce technology company in Central Virginia. “

HOLY SH–! CENTRAL VIRGINIA!

“Founder of award-winning technology companies, he brings to the table a detailed understanding of the dynamics of the law and business.”

Yet, with statements like “We do not permit you to view such code…” he proves he’s a complete moron. Yes John Dozier of Dozier Internet Law, P.C., you are a failure.

Cubbs (user link) says:

Re: embarrassed

“whoever represents paedophiles.”

How would you feel if you where charged with being a paedophile, even though you know that you’re not guilty. How would you protect yourself from (insane penalties, 30+years) if all lawyers were to embarased to represent you?

Recent aqquitals show that even though you’re proven not guilty, you will still be marked as a paedophile by most of the community, and thereby have your life ruined.

Everyone should have the right to legal representation, regardless of how biased the community might be towards whatever alledged crime(s) you may or may not have commited.

You sir, are a morron.

Quid-Pro-Quoe says:

Re: Public Record

There is one problem with this argument…
Once legal action takes place, EVERYTHING is entered into PUBLIC RECORD, which means, I can point out that So-and-so is a client of this law firm, reference the legal action in the Public Record, and BINGO, they loose…
The very minute they sue someone over viewing their HTML source, the same thing happens. They loose their rights to protect the source from view because it would be entered into the PUBLIC RECORD…
But then, any 2-bit lawyer would know that…so I wouldn’t hire these bozos if they don’t even know what they are doing…

T.J. says:

That user agreement sounds like it was written by a 7th grader for a social studies project.

we also are intimately familiar with the “hacking” industry.
Quite the “industry” indeed (maybe they should look up the legal definition?).

in addition, you should not make any copies of any part of this website in any way since we do not want anyone copying us.
Again, excellent legal terminology. I would probably hire these guys, for my social studies project.

EP (user link) says:

John Dozier - quality of his services?

I think it would be wrong to allege that John Dozier is not a qualified technology attorney just because he allegedly attempts to restrict rights which are understood to be already well established through current era precedence, in common practice, and regarded almost unanimously (perhaps unanimously, except by him) as legal. On the other hand, his contentions might make a reasonable person suspect of the quality of his services. John Dozier or John Dozier … you decide.

EP

Jim says:

technical question

Do they allege they own the whole HTML code? What about the tags?

Consider a hyperlink:

A search engine we like

Do they own: ‘A search engine we like’?

Do they think they own: all links to Yahoo with text ‘A search engine we like’

Or more, do they think they own: all links to Yahoo using the ‘‘ tag

Could it be I am now violating their copyright by linking to Yahoo!, or only if my links says “A search engine we like”?

Or does the copyright apply only to the whole webpage… meaning I cannot copy their entire source code and post it on myshadyservers.com as a phishing expedition?

Boris Jacobsen says:

Hilarious Conclusion

The sure way to police this is to replace the home page with some sort of EULA.

‘YOU MAY NOT VIEW THIS WEB SITE WITHOUT AGREEING TO THE FOLLOWING TERMS:

1. YOU MAY NOT VIEW THE SOURCE CODE OF THIS SITE
2. YOU MAY NOT SAVE ANY OF THE IMAGES FEATURED ON THIS SITE
3. YOU MAY NOT USE THE COLOUR SCHEMES FEATURED ON THIS SITE ON YOUR OWN SITE…

etc, etc, etc….

34. ENTER YOUR NAME, EMAIL ADDRESS AND HOME ADDRESS. A PASSWORD WILL BE SENT TO YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WHICH YOU MAY USE TO ENTER THIS WEB SITE”

I wonder how many people visit that web site… if it’s just for a law firm

Suehappycountry says:

“Thank goodness for John and his team. These big law firms just don’t understand how to handle technology litigation. With their trial record, technology expertise, and legal and business perspective, they have been a godsend….”

— Internet Content Company CEO.

You think they got permisson from “Internet Content Company CEO” to post this compliment? Anyone know a good internet lawyer?

Doubletwist says:

They own ALL the code?!?!

Dozier Internet Law, P.C. has a lot of intellectual property on our site. For instance, we are the creators of all of the text on this website, and own the “look and feel” of this website. We also own all of the code, including the HTML code, and all content.

Their site runs Zope. Does this mean they think they own all the code for that? I’m sure the maintainers and other users of Zope will be very distraught at this revelation. 🙂

Oops, did I just quote from their site? Guess I’d better call my lawyers.

avatar28 says:

“look and feel”

Hmm,they own the “look and feel” of their site. Boy they’re REALLY behind the times. Didn’t the trial court explicitly say in the Apple v Microsoft case back in the early 90’s that you can’t copyright the “look and feel” of something? So that would only make them about, erm, 16 or so years behind current case law.

Okay, no. I just looked it up on Wikipedia. That Apple v Microsoft ruling never came because Apple had already given MS a license for something or other that apparently covered it. However there was another case, Lotus v Borland, where the copyright claim based on a similar principle was thrown out. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_v._Borland

Rick Falkvinge (pp) (user link) says:

Copyright fraud

These guys are actively participating in copyright fraud, i.e. asserting rights they do not have.

Absolutely nothing in copyright law prevents somebody from looking at any source code.

Copyright law deals with two specific rights: 1) authorizing who may make a DUPLICATE of a work, and 2) asserting that proper CREDIT is given for a work.

A reverse engineering ban may be present in a civil contract, but pointing at copyright is just bollocks, and that points to the mountain-scale incompetence of this law firm.

magnus says:

this HAS to be a joke

“OpenPopUpLite 2.0.1 action by Nate Baldwin, http://www.mindpalette.com, copyright 2004″

They’re using open source code in their contact form and claiming they own all the code?

btw someone should tell them their cookie’s (lol) which they think allow them to monitor all activity don’t work too well (same as urchins) if the user blocks scripts.

Asmodeus says:

A ray of hope?

I had a thought:

Perhaps, and I know this is a long shot, but just MAYBE… they’re trying to make this as ludicrous as possible in response to things like the NFL and MLB claiming that they “own” the stats to their game (in the case of MLB) or that you can’t say the word “Superbowl” without their permission (The NFL). Perhaps this is their way of having someone take the concept and test it in court to point out just how over-blown and insane all this copyright bs is.

As for their clients not being able to tell people who is representing them, two things :

1.) That’s ‘patently’ stupid, as you’ve just ruined your main source of free advertisement.

2.) It’s against ethics. An example : You assault me, I take you to court. From that point on, I should not speak to you except through your lawyer. If you cannot tell me who that person is, I have no way to get a hold of you, nor does my lawyer. (something my fiancee pointed out, she’s not a lawyer, just someone with a law degree.)

Just a thought :-

Asmo

Steffan Antonas (user link) says:

A Bold, Ridiculous Marketing Strategy - Is this Fi

This is the most interesting marketing strategy I’ve ever seen. [mocking chuckle]

Step #1: Build A Web Site to tell people about your services.
Step #2: Do everything you can to make it invisible to the people who don’t know about you yet who may want to find you.
Step #3: Do everything you can to make sure the people who DO know about you (your clients) don’t tell anyone about you.
Step #4: Make yourself famous by showing everyone how far you’re willing to go in the name of trying to be invisible.

Brilliant. This makes my day.

Mark says:

Not even by the most asininely strict copyright in

… could viewing HTML source be considered a copyright violation.

Viewing copyrighted content is not copyright infringement, no matter what these guys say. Heck, if it were, you wouldn’t even be allowed to read that book you just bought, because you’d be viewing material protected by copyright!

So what’s left? Trade secret status? Nope. They are willfully choosing to transmit that material in plain text to you, trusting that your browser will faithfully render it as intended. If they want it to be secret, they should not be sending it to you in the first place.

That said, they do have legitimate copyright claims on their HTML code, and people who copy that code and use it elsewhere could potentially be prosecuted for copyright infringement, but there’s absolutely no possible way they could nail you for it simply because you happened to view the HTML, even if they could somehow tell that was what you were doing.

Joshua (user link) says:

Yet they host copyrighted files

You can find this out by simply going to, http://www.cybertriallawyer.com/Examples/FileLibrary/Files/Britney%20Spears%20-Gimme%20More.mp3

They are hosting, and distributing unauthorized works by Britney Spears. This is a travesty, an actual law firm committing copyright infringement, the same crime they not so politely ask others not to commit against them.

I think a maximum penalty judgment is deserved in this case.

Liothen says:

So they own all copyright in there code huh?

Well a quick glance at the alleged forbidden source code. shows an interesting tid-bit in there javascript

namely a copyright notice for guess what not them
// OpenPopUpLite 2.0.1 action by Nate Baldwin, copyright 2004
wow somehow they own this copyright, yet maintain the original authors name for completeness right?

Im sure Adobe would be proud to have there name stomped on
im sure they own the copyright to that aswell

Even though the claims in there UA, are completely unfounded, but there makeing claims on others true copyrights. they should have sued the W3C for comming up with html.

Who would hire these people?

Anon says:

An interesting perspective on the internet from Jo

From 01/19/06: Government wrestles Google for search records

An attorney who specializes in Internet law said that, at first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a privacy issue involved in the government’s request.

“The only time privacy comes into play in my view is when there is personally identifiable information for activities attributable to a particular individual,” said John W. Dozier Jr., managing partner at Dozier Internet Law PC in Glen Allen, Va.

“My understanding is that the government isn’t attempting to attribute any particular online activity to a particular person. They’re trying to understand a broad segment activities,” added Dozier, who isn’t involved in this case.

If that is the case, this is a very common type of discovery procedure attorneys use to assemble information that is pertinent and would aide in a litigation, Dozier said. It would be a different matter if the government were requesting IP addresses, in which case concerns about individuals’ privacy would be warranted, Dozier said.

Anonymous Coward says:

Are you dumber than we are?

Wouldn’t it me more direct to just say: “We at Dozier Internet Law, P.C. (the firm that cannot be named) are dumb, but we can use big words. If you are dumber than us, we welcome your business.”

BTW, this comment is owned by me, and if you read it you must pay be five cents. Plus another 5 for this sentence. Yes, and this one too, yes, and this one also.

Werner says:

What tards

Holy crap… I actually cannot believe to what extent law firms in the US will go to. I also used the Firefox firebug to view the DOM which according to their notice is not deemed illegal.. and boy oh boy does that code suck… I don’t blame them for not allowing people to see it.. For an “internet” specialist law firm one would at least expect them to have decent code. Flagrant use of style in the tags… I mean come on… that is HTML 101!!! tards!

Joshua Rodman says:

Maybe they should brush up on copyright law

Copyright controls essential distribution and duplication rights. Copyright has no say what I can do with the book I bought. I can burn it or mulch it or read it or give it to friends. What I cannot do is duplicate and disseminate copies. It’s called Copyright for a reason, the right to make copies! Duh.

So the firm, who has already duplicated and transmitted their html code to my computer, so that it is in my computer’s ram already, and on my computer’s disk in the cache already, is trying to say I can’t read it. Nevermind that I have (using tools) already *read it*. Copyright does not cover what I may do with the content that they have willingly transmitted to me. My browser requested the HTML; their server acceeded and sent the HTML. The transmission has already occurred, and I have the right to do anything with I please, save make and retransmit copies, or possibly make a public performance out of it.

This would be merely silly, and not be so embarassing, except that this organization purports to be a law firm.

Pete Hobson (user link) says:

Is this illegal

I wonder out loud if its illegal to use code rather than the stated ‘view source’ ‘method 🙂 here i grab the whole fornt page and pop it into a text box… in onle line of code 🙂

http://www.freesome.com/node/233

I wonder who would be infringing in this case – me for writing the code… oyu for viewing my blog – or maybe my host!!

wowsers

Nik says:

Errr, what?

By using our website, you agree to the following:

At Dozier Internet Law, P.C. we do not simply post a “legal sounding” user agreement. That is because we customize every one of our user agreements to fit the specific needs of our clients

Sounds very “legal sounding” to me, but if you can’t be arsed to customise your own agreement, how do you expect people to take you seriously?

APS says:

Really? Who wants the HTML?

I don’t know why one would even want to look at such a slapdash, shoddily built site, from an HTML side. There’s a dozen paragraph tags that say:
cass=”bodyB”

Unless Mama Cass is a new sort of attribute, the people are morons.

Plus, if that were the case, my company could sue a half dozen other companies for stealing our “look and feel” — something *OUR* legal dept. told us we couldn’t.

Drew says:

Copy-Pase infringement

You know, they could even sue you for copy-pasting part of their user agreement.

“For instance, we are the creators of all of the text on this website, and own the “look and feel” of this website. We also own all of the code, including the HTML code, and all content….”

“…In addition, you should not make any copies of any part of this website in any way since we do not want anyone copying us.”

dl0711 says:

Law Firm Uses Copyright Claim To Say You Can't

I think that he/she is trying to make a point with the RIAA/MPAA and the whole copyright-infringement issues..

this is what i think..

he is saying copyright-infringement due to the fact that when you View the sit it gets saved as a file(s) in your Internet temp folder.. therefore its being copied and thats called copyright-infringement

random8r says:

Linguistics

If one linguistically analyses the wording of that “terms and conditions”, one realises that it’s not even in sync with itself. Their thoughts aren’t logically and systematically rendered OR realised.

I find it funny that they infer that because they own the copyright of the source code, you can’t view it, but they own the copyright of the content, and apparently you can view THAT.

I think it’s ironic that they put their source code on a publicly available server… how do they know that we’ll be viewing it on a browser? what if I use unix’s curl command to view it? I might actually prefer reading web pages as HTML source… there’s a lot of assumption there 😉

In fact, it’s impossible to read the file WITHOUT copying it to your computer… 100%, verbatim, duplication type… erm… copying. That’s just stupid. lol. What idiots.

Thermal Ions says:

RIAA's next attorney ??

Better be careful if you decide to ‘begin receiving the security and power of the Dozier Copyright Infringement Warning Button!!’

We make no representations, express or implied, concerning the functionality, security, or technical integrity of the button, …

I found the DCIWB functional – that was to give me a good laugh that “Super John” thinks anyone could believe such crap.

As to their User Agreement:

“As you may know, you can view the HTML code with a standard browser. We do not permit you to view such code since we consider it to be our intellectual property protected by the copyright laws.”

The RIAA really need to retain these guys. “Super John” would rake the dollars in for them by sueing everyone who listens to any music cd’s they purchased. PR victory for the RIAA too – No more unpopular and expensive p2p lawsuits required, they can simply bug your house/car/workplace to prove you listened to the music.

“We do not permit our website to be ‘spidered’, or a program run through the website, for purposes of obtaining email addresses to be used in commercial email campaigns.”

You know, the sort of things our clients do.

“Although we have very high levels of security in place, we also are intimately familiar with the “hacking” industry.”

We bill them monthly. But we call them clients when we do that.

Dozier Internet Law is a one stop online attorney, web attorney, internet attorney, and website attorney.

Exactly, who would make more than one stop at “Bull” Dozier’s website.

Anyone else noticed that Dozier Internet Law’s acronym is DIL

Ronald J Riley (profile) says:

Just a reminder that he and his client received much more than they bargained for after sending some of their inane threats to http://www.InventorEd.org and also a blogger. See http://www.CyberTrialLawyer-SUCKS.com and http://www.InventorEd.org/caution/inventor-link/ for an example of how I think that threats of SLAPP actions should be dealt with. Personally I think that leaving all those sucks domains available says volumes about Dozier’s competence.

Just do a Google search for Bull Dozier Law, and you will see that his new SUCKS web presence rates higher than his own web site.

By the way Mike, I am glad to see that you finally are on the right side of an issue. And as you can see, even though I think you a dead wrong about IP issues in general I have been easy on you. The Dozier Bull…. website demonstrates this in spades.

Ronald J. Riley,

President – http://www.PIAUSA.org – RJR at PIAUSA.org
Executive Director – http://www.InventorEd.org – RJR at InvEd.org
Washington, DC
Direct (202) 318-1595 – 9 am to 9 pm EST.

Hieronymous Maximus says:

Breathtaking stupidity ... but good for a laugh!

This is a spoof, isn’t it?

Let’s put it this way: If I had a web-related legal issue, CyberTrialLawyer (Dozier and Dozier … sound like a bunch of sleepy dwarves!) wouldn’t even make last place on my list of places to seek help. These twits are so awful, they’re actually quite funny.

Oh … yes, I pulled copies of the HTML … and it IS awful. Dozie, old fella, have no fear of anyone copying “your” HTML … you need a better web designer. And as for look-and-feel, aside from you being YEARS behind the (legal) times, several of the basic tenets of design/presentation have been completely ignored on your site. So, Johno, you’re quite safe there. Your poor investment will not be cloned!

You are paranoid, poorly-informed, breathtakingly arrogant and should perhaps stick to chasing ambulances for a living … perhaps not. Retire. It’d be kinder all round.

Wow.

Good luck!

Hieronymous Maximus says:

On being a Pioneer ...

Johno, you punt yourself as a pioneer in Internet Law … hmmm … remember, not all pioneers come from the deeper pools of talent and true grit. Successful pioneers are those who make a positive contribution to development.

Something suggests to me that your contribution is more along the lines of black humor … dry wit. But without the wit or the humor.

Fred. Virot says:

It's out of embarrassment

you’re right… Their code is worth hidding!
I had a lot of fun running the W3C HTML validator on both the legal notice and their home page…
results are, respect. 63 and 68 errors…
I hope they work better than their web designer’s work.
I hope they comply with law better than their web designer comply with standards and good practicies and state of the art…

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