Ticketmaster: Consensual Linking Only, Please

Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch Friday came out strongly against the practice of deep-linking, in which a link is made to a site page other than the front page.

TMCS claims that there is a “natural controversy” over the issue, claiming that the practice subverts the time and money spent to create content, marketing and supplier partnerships that are commonly highlighted on the front page of a site. By linking inside the site, a competitor can profit from these relationships without contributing to the partnership, according to TMCS.

While the company says it recognizes that the “openness” of the Web has propelled its phenomenal growth, it says that this ideal has also made the linking debate “emotional and not deliberative.”

Ticketmaster (TMCS) said that while it favors linking, but that extensive linking should only be done “when it is consensual and contractual terms and conditions are honored” in the same way that data sharing is negotiated.

TMCS defended its recent lawsuit against Tickets.com, which it accuses of deep linking for its own profit and of spidering, the practice of using automated searches to collect content generated by another site.

“In our opinion this kind of practice is inappropriate self-interested commercial behavior,” the company stated in the letter. “We think this is attempting to unfairly build one business on the back of another, plain and simple.”

TMCS says that users are also hurt by the practice because of information inaccuracies and delays.

The company says that its decision to attack this form of linking in order to create “common sense distinctions that will foster both good consumer experiences and the fair conduct of business.”

eBay (EBAY) is taking steps to follow TMCS’s example, and last week issued a warning to Auctionwatch.com to cease and desist its automatic searches of the leading auction site.

eBay claims that the indexing is an “unauthorized intrusion” and places an unnecessary load on its servers. Auctionwatch.com reponded Monday by calling the move “anti-consumer and in direct conflict with the Internet industry as a whole.”

“The law will take many years to sort this stuff out. In fact, in many industries, an industry discussion sorts it out faster than the law when people agree on what’s reasonable practice and what’s not,” said Charles Conn, Ticketmaster’s CEO.

“And I don’t know if it will work or not, I’m just really putting a call out. Does it makes sense to have a conversation about this? People are spending tens and hundreds of millions of dollars expensively building out content, building brands, building relationships with suppliers and trying to create a good user experience — under what conditions is it okay for other people to appropriate that?”

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