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City Sues To Prevent Linking To Its Website 429

Posted by kdawson
from the nolo-mi-tangere dept.
Mike writes "In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind case, the Sheboygan city attorney ordered Jennifer Reisinger to remove a link to the city's police department from her Web site. The city went further, she claims, launching a criminal investigation of her for linking to the department on one of her sites, and in response she's suing the mayor and the city. 'The mayor decided to use his office to get back at Jennifer for her efforts in the recall and picked this to do it,' said her attorney, Paul Bucher. It appears this will go to court, and the question will be can a city (or any business or Web property) stop people from posting a link to its site?"
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City Sues To Prevent Linking To Its Website

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  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:27AM (#25034673) Homepage Journal

    In November, the city withdrew its demand that Reisinger not link to city government sites.

    SO um, what's the issue?

    • by Rary (566291) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:30AM (#25034707)

      In November, the city withdrew its demand that Reisinger not link to city government sites.

      SO um, what's the issue?

      Not only that, but the headline says that the city is suing the woman, but both the article and the summary state that the woman is suing the city. Did the editor even read the summary?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Chris Rhodes (1059906)
        Maybe the city gets charged for extra bandwidth, and someone wants to slashdot their police department site as revenge?

        It wouldn't be the first time someone used slashdot as a dos tool, IIRC
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SirSlud (67381)

        It's irresponsible on the part of slashdot, plain and simple. Honestly, thats just abusing the power of passing along information, treating subjects they claim to be important as no more important to review as a fun game of broken telephone.

        Okay now that that's out the way, what think you? It seems nutty that the parties involved have resolved their differences, and she's suing until you consider:

        FTA: "The city went further, the lawsuit claims, launching a criminal investigation of Reisinger for linking to

      • by oldhack (1037484) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:55AM (#25035265)

        ...Did the editor even read the summary?

        "editor", eh?! You'll learn soon, grasshopper.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war

        Married people would differ with this.

        And, obviously, another difference between war and marriage is, you can sleep with enemy...

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:43AM (#25034811) Journal

      In November, the city withdrew its demand that Reisinger not link to city government sites.

      SO um, what's the issue?

      The problem is that the city issued a cease and desist order in the first place.
      Just because they withdrew it doesn't change the fact that they engaged in an abuse of process.

      Good on Reisinger for counter-suing and hopefully establishing some case law on the matter.

      Example: In November, the **AA withdrew its cease and desist order that Slashdot not link to bittorrent sites.
      Still don't see the issue?

    • by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunity.yahoo@com> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:46AM (#25034829) Homepage

      Intimidation to cause censorship. The city attempted to hinder her 1st amendment rights. She fought back and the city backed down, but that doesn't make what they did right.

      The city needs to be made an example of in the court of law for all to see so as to dissuade others from trying the same thing.

    • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:00AM (#25034933) Homepage

      a woman posts a link to a municipal government website, so the mayor sends her a cease-and-desist letter and then launches a police investigation on her to intimidate the woman and coerce her into removing the link. and you see nothing wrong here?

      it doesn't matter that the city withdrew its demand after the lawsuit was filed (or possibly after the media broke the story). the point is that government officials should not be bullying political dissidents like this--especially not in concert with the police department.

      the woman in this story was smart enough to contact a lawyer and fight back, but most people would probably be intimidated and just back down. this story should be reported if only so others know that such demands have no legal basis.

      • by stephanruby (542433) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @06:31AM (#25036437)

        a woman posts a link to a municipal government website, so the mayor sends her a cease-and-desist letter and then launches a police investigation on her to intimidate the woman and coerce her into removing the link. and you see nothing wrong here?

        I think I found her site, and her site is actually worse than the police department's web site (if you can believe it). It kept on making my firefox crash, the only way I could see it was with Internet Explorer. Otherwise, her site is pretty interesting content-wise, it's no wonder the city hates her guts.

        [Warning: use IE to open, not firefox] http://sheboyganshenanigans.com/?cat=6 [sheboyganshenanigans.com]

        And also, I found another site that dared linking to the Sheboygan PD.

        http://www.ratemycop.com/index.php?st=WI&dept=8376 [ratemycop.com] (ah, the wonders of the internet)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pbhj (607776)

        The article appears to show that rare thing - journalistic integrity. Why do I say that?

        Well, peppered throughout are statements about the source of any particular bit of information. The only source is the lawsuit which has been filed.

        "The cityâ(TM)s actions torpedoed Reisingerâ(TM)s Web site marketing business and led to death threats against her, according to the lawsuit."

        I can't see how getting a C&D letter and acting on it lead to death threats? Then there's this curious part:

        Reisinger said she felt intimidated by McLeanâ(TM)s letter and removed the link. Then a police lieutenant told Reisinger he was investigating her use of links to city government sites, the suit says.

        What, did a police lieutenant just ring her up to tell her? The claim that her business suffered loss of earnings because she had to remove this link is laughable.

        I

    • by andy1307 (656570)

      Reisinger alleges her First Amendment rights were violated by the city. She seeks $250,000 in compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages and unspecified declaratory relief.

      The amount she's asking for is excessive but I hope she wins a smaller amount.

      • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:13AM (#25035017) Homepage Journal

        Excessive? In a case like this the maximum is $500,000 per charge. Asking for half of that is not excessive, especially when it comes to the government stepping on a citizen's 1st Amendment rights.

        • Damages (Score:2, Insightful)

          Perhaps we should note the difference between compensatory and punative damages. Compensatory damages are to compensate the plantif for damage done to her. In this case, GP is probably correct in assuming that she did not suffer 250K in damages.

          But in the question of the government stepping on a citizen's 1st amendment rights, as P mentions, 250K is not excessive, as it is not big enough to make most municipalities pay attention. In this case, it should be a huge ammount, and it should be under punitive

        • by unassimilatible (225662) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @04:19AM (#25035887) Journal
          City governments do not have printing presses to churn out $20 bills to pay off lawsuits. This is taxpayer money, and as one of those taxpayers sick of property tax assessments and hearing how broke my city is - and as someone who has helped defend such lawsuits for my local city attorney's office - I can tell you first hand that city governments are far too free wheeling with other people's money when it comes to paying off lawsuits. It really is disgusting how they will settle suits rather than stand up and fight and risk taking any political positions.

          We've got enough fiscal problems without you throwing around other people's money like it is free.

          These city politicos look like dipwads, but how does giving this woman a cash windfall at taxpayer expense hurt them? Take my word for it, the *taxpayer* money the average city pays out on junk lawsuits is the real rights being trampled daily.
          • by bigsteve@dstc (140392) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @06:43AM (#25036501)
            You could say that the taxpayers deserve it for voting for such an obviously bad mayor. Or for taking so little interest in local politics that they couldn't be bothered to vote against him.

            The mayor was acting on behalf of "the people", with the weight of the power bestowed on him by "the people". So, IMO, it is the "the people" who should ultimately take the responsibility for his abuse of power. If the courts can sanction the mayor personally, all well and good. If not, then responsibility again falls on "the people" for not electing people who will pass the laws to make that an option for the courts.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Trailer Trash (60756)
            Next time the mayor is up for election, he's out. If not, the people deserve whatever more they have to pay. The new mayor, if he's smart, will also do some major house-cleaning at the police department.
    • sheboyganpolice.com (Score:5, Informative)

      by Entropy98 (1340659) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:32AM (#25035149) Homepage

      http://www.sheboyganpolice.com/ [sheboyganpolice.com]

      Sheboygan Police General Information:
      Phone: 459-3333 / Email: spd@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Chief of Police / David E. Kirk
      Phone: 459-3343 / Email: dkirk@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Deputy Chief of Police, Operations Division / Allen J. Sherven
      Phone: 459-3343 / Email: asherven@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Captain of Criminal Investigation Unit / James A. Veeser
      Phone: 459-3355 / Email: jveeser@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Shift Commanders / Phone: 459-3333
      First Shift ( 7:00 AM - 3:00 PM ) Captain David A. Derus
      Email: dderus@ci.sheboygan.wi.us
      Second Shift ( 3:00 PM - 11:00 PM ) Captain Stephen B. Cobb
      Email: scobb@ci.sheboygan.wi.us
      Third Shift ( 11:00 PM - 7:00 AM ) Captain Bob V. Wallace
      Email: bwallace@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Training / Resource Division / Lieutenant Michael Williams
      Phone: 459-3190 / Email: mwilliams@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Administrative Services / Lieutenant Janet Reinfeldt
      Phone: 459-0239 / Email: jreinfeldt@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Drug Unit / Lieutenant Kurt Brasser
      Phone: 459-3999 / Email: kbrasser@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Traffic Section / Sergeant Thomas Tuszynski
      Phone: 459-3352 / Email: ttuszynski@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Court Services Section / Lieutenant Janet Reinfeldt
      Phone: 459-3353 / jreinfeldt@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Community Policing Unit
      Lieutenant Jeffrey Johnston / Phone: 459-3338 / Email: johnston@ci.sheboygan.wi.us
      Officer John Winter / Phone: 459-3341 / Email: jwinter@ci.sheboygan.wi.us
      Officer Todd Priebe / Phone: 459-3341 / Email: tpriebe@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Street Crime Unit
      Officer Kurt Zempel / Phone: 459-0234 / Email: kzempel@ci.sheboygan.wi.us
      Officer Brian Retzer / Phone: 459-0267 / Email: bretzer@ci.sheboygan.wi.us
      Officer Paul Olsen / Phone: 459-3348 / Email: polsen@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Criminal Investigation Division / Phone: 459-3355
      Detective Mark Kolosovsky / Email: mkolo@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      K-9 Unit / Officer Trisha Miller
      Phone: 459-3333 / Email: tmiller@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      School Resource Officers
      South High School / Officer Terry Meyer / Phone: 459-3706
      Email: tmeyer@sheboygan.k12.wi.us
      North High School / Officer Doug Hall / Phone: 803-7604
      Email: dhall@sheboygan.k12.wi.us
      Urban Middle School / Officer Patrick Leichtnam / Phone: 459-3959
      Email: pleightnam@sheboygan.k12.wi.us
      Farnsworth Middle School / Officer Eric Edson / Phone: 459-4083
      Horace Mann Middle School / Officer Eric Edson / Phone: 459-3386
      Email: eedson@sheboygan.k12.wi.us

      Police Property Office / Julie Lamb
      Phone: 459-3347 / Email: jlamb@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Administrative Assistant & Office Supervisor / Paula Haelfrisch
      Phone: 459-3343 / Email: phaelfrisch@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Communications & Electronics Technician / Russell Schreiner
      Phone: 459-3351 / Email: rschreiner@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Fleet Operations Mechanic / David Daniels
      Phone: 459-3350 / Email: ddaniels@ci.sheboygan.wi.us

      Web Site Administrator / Officer John Winter
      Phone: 459-3341 / Email: jwinter@sheboygan.wi.us

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fozzyuw (950608)

      In November, the city withdrew its demand that Reisinger not link to city government sites.

      SO um, what's the issue?

      Being from the area (born and raised in the county), this story is pretty old. It also had everything to do with the fact that the women in question was an out-spoken critic of the Sheboygan mayor, Perez. The whole thing is the fact that the mayor abusing his power to make a critics life difficult. Unfortunately for the major, and fortunately for the public, the mayor was pretty clueless about the ridiculous request he made (among many of his other ridiculous things he's done).

      The whole thing hit local m

  • by multisync (218450) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:27AM (#25034675) Journal

    If you don't want people to find your website, don't register a domain. Once you do, it's public knowledge. Printing the URL of the city's website is no worse than printing the premiere's mugshot [wikimedia.org] when he gets busted for DUI. (Sorry, OT political commentary, but it seemed a good example).

    • by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @03:49AM (#25035733)
      It makes me laugh when I see people smiling in mugshots. If if you didn't do it (right...), are you happy about being arrested and booked?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Just Some Guy (3352)

        Politicians and other public figures would rather their mugshot be boring and unremarkable, like they're smiling for just another photo. A scowling, haggard mugshot is perfect for front page in the newspaper.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gnasher719 (869701)

      If you don't want people to find your website, don't register a domain. Once you do, it's public knowledge. Printing the URL of the city's website is no worse than printing the premiere's mugshot [wikimedia.org] when he gets busted for DUI. (Sorry, OT political commentary, but it seemed a good example).

      I would have thought that if a police department creates a website, the intention is that as many people as possible would find it and access the information on it. So they should be glad if someone links to it.

  • ridiculous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CraniumDesigns (1113153) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:28AM (#25034683)
    if a site is public, how could it EVER be illegal to link to it? i don't see this working out for the city. morons.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Fluffeh (1273756)
      What if the link contained Trademarked content? What if part of the link used images/content from the site that it linked to? I mean what if I used a file on your website to link it from my website - and in the process drove your bandwidth through the roof?

      Just throwing up ideas though, I think it's all pretty silly.
      • Doesn't matter; being a jerk isn't illegal. The only established case where linking is illegal is when you conceal the actual source of some content, for instance if you were to deep link to a real estate search engine and wrap the results with your GUI/ads.
  • by JLennox (942693) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:28AM (#25034687)
    oh, this. [sheboyganpolice.com]
  • Good luck Jennifer! It's fairly certain that her suit will pan out, but who knows nowadays?
  • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:33AM (#25034735)

    the question will be can a city (or any business or Web property) stop people from posting a link to its site?

    The answer is (or damn well better be) no. This is completely obvious. When you put something up on the Web without a form of access control (meaning logging in, not meaning "I only give out the address to certain people"), it's public every bit as much as if you put an ad in the newspaper. Linking to your site is no different than me saying, "Hey, check out this newspaper ad CmdrTaco put in, it's really cool!".

    Even if that weren't the case (and it very much is), this is a government web site. They have no right to keep anyone out at all. I don't know what the city was thinking, but they have no ground to stand on here. Maybe they're hoping they'll get a really clueless or corrupt judge, I dunno.

    • by KGIII (973947) *

      I would like to think it is a "no." However, at some point, it becomes physical property. There's a server somewhere and bandwidth that is billed. I don't have a decent analogy so I'll resort to a crappy one. If I put a chair out on my lawn you don't have a right to sit in it. If I bring my chair out to a public beach you still don't have a right to sit in it. Even if I'm not in it. I, of course, am unlikely to give a shit if you sit in it but the idea is the same. The question is, can someone encourage peo

      • If I put a chair out on my lawn you don't have a right to sit in it.

        Depends on how public it is. If it's next to the sidewalk, it makes sense that I can; next to the house or behind a barrier, not so much.

        • by KGIII (973947) *

          Makes sense that you can but that doesn't mean that you're legally entitled to do so. Hell, if I put a chair outside and someone wants to use it when I'm not then I don't think I'd ever complain about it. Hell, I'm likely to drag out a second chair and some beers. And, yeah, I do have a chair outside and sometimes people sit in them at the table but they're usually people who are waiting for me to get home or what not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:41AM (#25034795)

    Similar case. Someone linked to police website in 2001, and police claimed that their domain name represents the police on the internet and thus linking to their site without permission was illegal. The police lost, ofcourse, but it's still ridiculous that there was even a fight about it. Finally the parlamentiary ombudsman had to take the case and rule that links are like literary references, and completely legal.

  • by Auckerman (223266) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @12:55AM (#25034891)

    an a city (or any business or Web property) stop people from posting a link to its site?"

    The cities sysadmin should be fired. Check the referrer, then redirect to the main page when "needed". A couple minutes set up time and *poof* no more "deep linking" from other sites.

    • by mcrbids (148650)

      The cities sysadmin should be fired. Check the referrer, then redirect to the main page when "needed". A couple minutes set up time and *poof* no more "deep linking" from other sites.

      You assume a great many things:

      1) That the city is wise enough to see the need for a sysadmin. Seriously.

      2) That the city was cohesive enough to hire a sysadmin.

      3) That the city is large enough to justify hiring a sysadmin. (according to Wikipedia, it's only 50,000 people [wikipedia.org])

      4) That the city, otherwise utterly incompetent at techn

    • Referrer information is provided by the browser, and thus, is not trustworthy. it's useful for statistical information (with it's untrustworthiness accounted for), but for security? No way.
      • by Auckerman (223266)

        Security? I wouldn't call redirecting incoming links based of referrer as anything resembling security. Some websites find it useful and it works.

  • How dare she make the Web be a web!

  • by gringer (252588)

    Don't go there, their initial/start page is just a single picture talking about Theodore Husting:

    http://www.sheboyganpolice.com/ [sheboyganpolice.com]

    That links to the main site, which looks a bit more pleasing:

    http://www.sheboyganpolice.com/main.html [sheboyganpolice.com]

  • Oye (Score:5, Funny)

    by ohtani (154270) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @01:05AM (#25034955) Homepage

    You know a organization knows what they're doing on the web when their landing page is titled NEW PAGE 1 and was made with FrontPage 5.0

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cerberusss (660701)

      their landing page is titled NEW PAGE 1 and was made with FrontPage 5.0

      I'd have to say I like this better than a situation where city hall spends half a million on some stupid hip web design agency who does nothing more than creating a Flash site.

  • "nolo mi tangere"? (Score:2, Informative)

    by RedOctober (10155)

    Nothing yells out fail as much as someone trying to quote latin but getting it wrong. It's "noli me tangere".

  • VP Material (Score:2, Funny)

    by wardk (3037)

    sounds like if Palin falters, McCain has his new running mate

  • by freedom_india (780002) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @02:12AM (#25035359) Homepage Journal

    A city sues a single person to prevent him/her from linking to a public website, but keeps silent when a Telco sues it for providing free internet...
    Guess cities are bullies like corporates.
    Pick on the small guy.
    I dearly, dearly hope the defendant not only prevails, but also countersues the City Mayor for Fraud, deliberate attempt to subvert justice, manslaughter (what the heck, file anyway), and personally report him to the FBI for corruption.
    Counter Attack is the best form of defence.

  • I have a suggestion. If you don't want someone linking to your web page, take it off the freaking world wide web.

    Morons.

  • No Legal Precedent? (Score:5, Informative)

    by aero2600-5 (797736) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @05:17AM (#25036143)
    Regardless of who's suing who in this mess, there won't be any new precedent set about linking to a website. 2600 Magazine [2600.com] won a court case in 2001 when Ford Motor Company tried to stop [slashdot.org] 2600 from linking to their website. Not only that, but one of the original sites [fordreallysucks.com] from the tussle is still up. Here is the original news announcement [2600.com] from 2600.

    Aero
  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Wednesday September 17, 2008 @05:33AM (#25036221)
    The mission statement on the website says:
    We, the men and women of the Sheboygan Police Department, value:
    * Human Life
    * Accountability
    etc.

    Do they *really* need to state they value human life? Is there an assumption that the norm is to not care who dies? What sort of crazy department is that?

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