This article, Lawyer vs. Lawyer Over Web Site, ABA e-report (5/13/05) reports on a lawsuit by one New York personal injury law firm where the firm Moran & Kufta of Rochester posted a headline with a hyperlink on its Web site that told readers that Cellino & Barnes, with offices in Buffalo and Rochester, was being investigated by the New York State Bar Association grievance committee. Cellino claims that the link violated state civil rights law which prohibits use of a person’s name for advertising without their consent. Cellino claimed that the “news item” portion of Moran’s website which linked to the article about the ethics probe of Cellino constituted advertising – and that Cellino did not give consent to use of its firm name.
The case raises a number of interesting issues including First Amendment rights of speech and also whether a website is advertising. Most of those interviewed in the article were critical of the suit, believing that it would have a chilling effect on those who seek to link to items that are already part of public circulation. That’s how I feel too.