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Gator Hunting

July 16

Gator Corporation -- which installs pop-up advertising on web surfers' browsers that is activated when selected Internet sites are viewed -- was told by a judge today that he would probably order the company to cease its "unauthorized" pop-ups, at least temporarily.

The vendor has been sued by 10 website publishers who claim the company's ads, placed there by Gator without their permission, violates their copyrights and trademarks. The publishers include The New York Times, Gannett and the Washington Post. Gator claims that the New York TImes paid it last year through an advertising agency to place its ads on the Wall Street Journals' website.

The dispute is interesting for its Internet use implications. Industry analysts wonder if prohibitions like that planned against Gator would similarly limit the ability of surfers to manipulate the presentation of a site's content according to their preferences.

As an extreme example, with the increased use of XML technlogy, users may one day be able to create assemblies of content snipped from various independent websites, fusing these elements into a synthesized page of their own design. In fact, the publishers of industrial product catalogs have been encouraging advances that make such data manipulation -- and therefore product comparisons -- easier.

These and earlier developments, all inspired by Internet technologies, continue to press the thorny question of what rights accrue to those who create, distribute and use content, with perhaps the most visible recent example being the shut-down of free music distributor Napster.


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