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Fueling the resistance
Hijacking affiliate links 
4th-Mar-2010 02:32 pm - Hijacking affiliate links
Skittish Eclipse
I've been given a heads up that has done some excellent sleuthing and investigation into hijacked LJ affiliate links:

What is LJ doing to my links?
What is LJ doing to my links? Part 2
What is LJ doing to my links? Part 3

Expect this post to be update through the day as I find out more and come up with a good summary.

ETA: No good summary, but I feel like I should say code got taken down, etc etc, business as usual.
5th-Mar-2010 05:59 pm (UTC)
I don't believe that posting affiliate links is against Livejournal's TOS. You have quoted language from the TOS talking about banner ads; those are not the same thing. Your argument that users were violating the TOS and shouldn't expect any sympathy as a result, just doesn't hang together. Nobody promised not to post affiliate links on Livejournal.

However, if Livejournal agreed with your interpretation and thought, correctly or incorrectly, that posting affiliate links were a TOS violation, then they'd have treated it as one - by just removing the affiliate IDs, and/or punishing the users who tried to post such links. That's not what Livejournal did. What Livejournal did was to add its own affiliate links, without telling the users and indeed with some effort (the code obfuscation) to prevent users from finding out. The priority was on putting in Livejournal's ID, not on taking out the users'; indeed, it's been claimed that they didn't even know they were taking out the users' IDs. Livejournal wasn't responding to a real or imagined TOS violation; they were doing something quite different.
5th-Mar-2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
oh, i agree, it is super shady the way they went about it. but my point is, they are perfectly entitled to do this with their service, and in numerous parts of the tos they spell out that they may in fact at some time do this.

and as for the tos thing, this is one of the situations where it might be good to speak fluent legalese (absolutely not making a slur on you) because you may have not noticed this line where they CYAed:

Engage in commercial activities within LiveJournal or on behalf of LiveJournal without prior approval. This includes, but is not limited to, the following activities:
Displaying a banner that is designed to profit you or any other business or organization; and
Displaying banners for services that provide cash or cash-equivalent prizes to users in exchange for hyperlinks to their web sites.

this means that yes, they specifically mentioned banner ads, but that line about includes but is not limited to infers that any commercial activity in lj is banned, affil links, etc included. now, if this went to court, lawyers could make the case that the economic activity happens offsite, however its a pretty classic case of advertising fosters sales so i doubt that would stick.

this in no way means that i think lj will *do* this, rm affil links, etc. that was never my point. my point is that, all thoughts of community, etc, aside, lj covered this situation several times in the tos that everyone agrees to abide by when they sign up. it is not lj's fault that people skimmed over these sections. so yes, the deployment of this is incredibly shady, but technically you all signed up for this from the get-go.

5th-Mar-2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
Section XIV of the TOS includes the statements "All Content posted to LiveJournal in any way, is the responsibility and property of the author." and "LiveJournal claims no ownership or control over any Content posted by its users." Those could be argued, with strength equal to your present claim, to forbid Livejournal from modifying links posted by users except by blocking them entirely. By your logic, having clearly broken its contractual obligations, Livejournal now entirely deserves absolutely any action whatsoever that users may care to take. They broke their OMG LEGALLY BINDING CONTRACT!!!! Note, too, that since they wrote that contract themselves, none of the "But we didn't know we'd agreed to it!" excuses one might invent, can be applied to Livejournal.

Ultrabroad interpretation of contracts, to the exclusion of any other bounds on behaviour, doesn't work. Seth Finkelstein said it in more detail better than I could.
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