May 15, 2000
On Friday, April 14, the Federal District Court in San Jose, California
held a hearing on eBay's motion for a preliminary injunction to limit
Bidder's Edge, an online auction search engine, from linking to eBay's
website. In an open letter dated April 20th to its user base, President
and CEO of Bidder's Edge, Jim Carney, defended his position stating that,
"we remain confident in the correctness of our position and in the need
to defend the openness of the Internet. eBay's attempt to block Bidder's
Edge denies and constricts the free flow of information to the consumer."
intellectual property trespassing, unfair business practices, and a host
of other transgressions, the giant of online auctions, eBay, filed a lawsuit
last December against Bidder's Edge for linking to its site. Bidder's
Edge pledges to save online auction shoppers the hassle of going from
one auction to the next in search of their sought after treasures.
Last September, eBay started clamping down on auction aggregators, demanding
that they remove all links to eBay's site. After initially complying with
this request, the Burlington, Massachusetts based auction aggregator restored
the link due to popular demand from its users.
If it doesn't get dismissed, the case known as "eBay Inc. v. Bidder's
Edge, D. Calif. No 0-99, 21-200," may set a precedent in Federal District
courts for the legality of linking to websites that don't want you to
link to them. Positioned for a jury trial, the case will, if all components
are considered, ask the question why eBay has not technically taken the
measures to protect its own website with the latest firewall technology.
implemented correctly, certain firewalls allow websites to block unwanted
links to their site, without all the fuss and expense of instigating a
lawsuit. In fact, the lack of proper technical due diligence to back its
lawsuit begs an analysis of eBay's technical competency. After all, a
firewall is cheaper than a lawyer, and implementing one is usually more
expeditious than launching a lawsuit.
As the firewall market expands to unprecedented proportions, more clever
implementations of firewalls will begin to replace costly lawsuits that
take inordinate lengths of time to matriculate. If you don't want competitors
or unsavory Internet outposts linking to your site, block their domain.
Once the courts, the lawyers, eBay, and Bidder's Edge figure out what
capabilities firewalls have, they'll all be wiping eggs off their face
and the case will be dismissed.