TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Click Fraud Looms As Search-Engine Threat

Re: Click Fraud Looms As Search-Engine Threat

Michael D. Sullivan (userid@camsul.example.invalid)
Wed, 16 Feb 2005 07:22:01 GMT

In article <>,

> In article <>, Michael D. Sullivan
> <userid@camsul.example.invalid> wrote:

>> It's different, however, when someone sets out deliberately to impose
>> unnecessary costs on a business, as opposed to shopping in good faith
>> as a consumer. If Cartier's, for example, sent people into Tiffany's
>> to tie up their salespeople, and Tiffany's suffered lost sales, then
>> Tiffany's might have grounds for a lawsuit against Cartier's.

> Question for Michael Sullivan:

> Is it different when the _business_ sets out deliberately to impose
> unnecessary or unwanted costs (however minor) on the _individual_?

There is a tort (civil wrong, something you can sue for if there are
damages) called "tortious interference with business," and a similar
one known as "tortious interference with contract," but I don't think
there is a tort called "tortious interference with individual choice."
However, there are both torts and criminal laws concerning unlawful
imprisonment and harrassment. In appropriate circumstances, these
might be applicable to some hypothetical situations, as discussed

> Suppose while passing by Cartier's front door on my way back to work I
> drop into their store to make a quick good-faith query about one of
> their products.

> I discover after doing this, however, that they won't let me back out
> their front door again. I can only leave via a rear door, which
> forces me to walk through an arcade filled with display windows for
> their mechandise or other related merchandise and then dumps me out on
> the next street, a block in the opposite direction from my initial
> destination. Turns out they get paid small amounts by the other
> merchants for doing this.

This is exactly what every theme park and museum tries to do: the exit
is through the gift shop. If there were grounds for claiming this is
illegal, the class action bar would have sued and gotten settlements
that resulted in sending you coupons for a discount in the foregoing
gift shops, as well as million dollar fees for themselves.

> Is the analogy to certain kinds of hidden pop-up window ads clear
> enough? Would retaliatory actions on my part be justified? (e.g, if
> there were pushbuttons in the arcade to serve me with catalogs, could
> I justifiably push several of them and dump the catalogs on the
> floor?)

When you come out of Pirates of the Caribbean and have to guide your
kids through the gift shop and past the photo stand, are you entitled to
knock stuff off the shelves and spatter paint on the pictures? No.
Could you take a copy of stuff they are handing out and trash it? Yes.
In your hypothetical, I don't see any problem in taking copies of what
is offered and trashing it, as a one-shot deal; it's probably protected
under the First Amendment as a form of speech protesting the imposition.
What if you organized a couple hundred people to repeatedly, go through
the store and grab catalogs to trash? It's possible that you might be
considered as intentionally and tortiously interfering with the
businesses of the catalog-offerors, especially if you depleted their
stock of catalogs and had no reason for going through the store except
to trash the catalogs.

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Your point is a *very good one*. I
> have even had some bozos (but in fairness, they are usually the
> sex purveyors) not let me leave at all, dumping one new window after
> another at me without any absolute way out short of recyling power
> on the computer. PAT]

The recursive open-ad-on-close routines are truly vile. Their only
reason for existence is that some advertising companies pay per view,
and the abuse of this through these cascading ads is likely to make the
advertising companies rethink their business model. Moreover, it is
conceivable that there might be grounds for a lawsuit against such
operations (if you can figure out who to sue) on grounds of harrassment
or the electronic equivalent of false imprisonment. The odds are,
however, that the entities who engage in this BS are judgment proof
(i.e., no assets). And clicking on the popups only rewards them,
because they wouldn't be popped up like that if they had to pay for

And as others have noted, one can avoid these cascading popups by using
the Google Toolbar (or other ad-blockers) with IE or just using Firefox
(I do both, and the cascading popups are a thing of the past), assuming
one is using Windows. I don't know if the Mac Safari browser or the Mac
version of IE are victimized, or how to fix it if they are.

Needless to say (but still necessary due to DC Bar rules), none of the
foregoing is a legal opinion or intended to create an attorney-client
relationship, but is rather a general discussion of legal principles.

Michael D. Sullivan
Bethesda, MD, USA
Replace "example.invalid" with ".com".

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: Michael D. Sullivan: "Re: Powell Rips FCC Delay on Connection Fee Reform"
Go to Previous message: "Re: Verizon Plans to Offer "Naked DSL" on 4/5 of its Wirelines"
May be in reply to: Lisa Minter: "Click Fraud Looms As Search-Engine Threat"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page