Re: Meta tag legalities

Subject: Re: Meta tag legalities
From: "Huber, Mike" <mrhuber -at- SOFTWARE -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 20 Mar 1998 10:56:29 -0600

I finally got it: using a trademark in a meta tag can be a problem
because the reader probably won't see the context. If I say "Competitors
include Tom's Terrific Tech Docs" in visible text, it's obvious I'm not
Tom. In a meta tag, most people won't see the context, they just look up
"Tom's Terrific Tech Docs" and my page appears. There are all kinds of
legal details (which, not being a trademark lawyer, I don't know) about
use of trademarks, but the main point is that the law doesn't want you
using somebody else's trademark to fool people. I don't think you are
likely to get into trouble using a trademark in a meta tag if you also
use it (correctly) in the visible text.

It's not that reading a meta tag is a major hack. Reading the source for
a web page is a common enough activity that every browser I've used (MS,
Netscape, Opera, and Sun) has an easily accessible menu option for it,
often duplicated in the popup menu. And meta tags are usually close to
the start of the file. But a lot of people don't do it, and the usual
expectation is that the code won't be seen. But it's not private,
either.

In my personal site, and some sites I do on a volunteer basis, I use an
invisible comment to credit the author of the freeware site management
tool I use. My idea is that the information is of interest only to other
web authors, who are likely to read the HTML if they like what I've
done. It gives the guy a well-deserved plug without cluttering the site.

Some search engines are using smarter algorithms lately, and only using
keywords that are visible, and even checking for the text color being
the same as the background. Some claim to penalize abuse of meta tags.
I'm not sure how much they can do without having an actual person read
the page and compare it to the tags, but if somebody complains, they can
certainly act on them. Abusing meta tags can get you onto trouble with
the search engine people, but I don't think they care much about
trademark violations.

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Richard Mateosian [SMTP:srm -at- CYBERPASS -dot- NET]
>Sent: Thursday, March 19, 1998 10:03 PM
>To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
>Subject: Re: Meta tag legalities
>
>>I wouldn't think the use of metatags is illegal...unethnical, maybe, by
>>not illegal. I can use my competitor's name in a cross-reference chart
>>or an advertisement; why would a metatag be any different?
>
>If you're doing it to fool the search engines -- say by attracting surfers
>who are really looking for Microsoft -- you may find that Yahoo or Alta
>Vista or others may blacklist your site and never turn you up in searches.
>




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