If You Want to Link to Rackspace, Don’t Visit Their Website

I had an interesting experience this morning while researching Rackspace for an article.  Apparently if you go to their website, you automatically agree to a whole set of terms of use, including provisions that state that you can only link to their home page, and that you are prohibited from using their logo.

Now, come on.  I know that it is in the best interest of any corporation to protect their intellectual property, and as a writer I fully understand the value of copyrighted works.  After all, that is my livelihood.  But to prohibit linking or using their logo.  Now that is a bit too much, in my opinion.

Next thing you know, they are going to add to their terms of service that you can’t say anything negative about them either.

Free Speech & Fair Use

Basically what Rackspace is trying to do is getting you to agree to not use the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law, which allows you to mention a company or brand, and use its logo, for educational and editorial purposes.

So if you write an article about them, you are not allowed to use their logo, despite it being allowed under fair use.

Links are Addresses

They are also trying to control how you link to them.  So if you have an educational or editorial website talking about them, you cannot deep link into their website to make it easier for your users to find information on Rackspace’s website.

According to the World Wide Web Consortium Technical Architecture Group, “any attempt to forbid the practice of deep linking is based on a misunderstanding of the technology, and threatens to undermine the functioning of the Web as a whole.”

In a court case between Microsoft & Ticketmaster, the court also concluded that URLs themselves were not copyrightable, writing: “A URL is simply an address, open to the public, like the street address of a building, which, if known, can enable the user to reach the building. There is nothing sufficiently original to make the URL a copyrightable item, especially the way it is used. There appear to be no cases holding the URLs to be subject to copyright. On principle, they should not be.”

So basically, Rackspace is trying to get around U.S. case law stating that deep linking is allowed.

Getting Around Their Website Terms

Of course, what is interesting is that if you never visit their website, you have never agreed to their website terms of use, and you can do all of the things that you are allowed to do under the law, like use their logo when mentioning their company, or deep linking to their website.  All you have to do is make sure you use Google or Bing and other methods to find the information you need, and avoid clicking on their website for any reason.

Web Page Terms of Use

I doubt their website terms of use is actually enforceable on a one time visitor to their website, but just in case it is, here is my terms and conditions for reading this web page, which by visiting this web page or reading this article (online or offline), you fully agree to.1

Special Provision for Rackspace

If you are an officer, employee, agent, representative or attorney representing Rackspace or its subsidiaries, affiliates and associates, you hereby agree that you will not sue me, this website, or any person or company I am associated with, nor will you compel or encourage another person or entity to do so.  Furthermore, if you break this provision and initiate legal action, you further agree to pay all our legal fees and pay $10,000 in damages for our inconvenience.  The damages shall be paid to me or to any person or legal entity that I designate.

In addition to the above provision, you also agree that the Website Terms of Service on your website do not apply to me, this website, and any company, person or entity that I am associated with.

If you are Robert Scoble, you agree to do the chicken dance while wearing Google Glass and post it on YouTube.

Wait, What?

Okay, okay, maybe I went too far.  But hopefully you can see my point that forcing someone to agree to a whole list of terms of use just because they visited a website is absurd.  But these terms are as real as Rackspace’s terms.  You agreed to them.  No takebacks.

I can understand if I created an account, or submitted information to them.  But to be restricted as a writer just because I visited their website once by provisions that are on an obscure page on their website.  I think that is going too far.

Plus it makes it hard to write about them in a meaningful way.  I shouldn’t complain too much.  I did get an article out of it.

  1. The cool part of my terms and conditions is that Rackspace can’t argue that my terms of use are invalid, while still maintaining that theirs is valid. []

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