Ticketmaster Corp. v. Tickets.com, Inc., 2003 WL 21406289 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 7, 2003).
Factual Background Edit
Ticketmaster Corp. (“Plaintiff”) and Tickets.com, Inc. (“Defendant”) are competing companies in the business of selling event tickets to the public. From 1998 to July of 2001, the Defendant used an electronic program called a “spider” to temporarily download Plaintiff’s event pages to its RAM to gain access to the source code for each page, and extract factual data embedded in each page. Defendants did this to obtain information regarding the dates, times and venue locations of events for the purpose of displaying the information on its own webpage. The rest of the event page, including Plaintiff’s copyrightable information, was immediately discarded and not used by the defendant nor displayed to the public.
From March 1998 to early 2000, in instances where plaintiff was the only seller of tickets to certain events, defendant provided a “deep link” on its website, by which the customer could click on a link which stated “[b]uy this ticket from another online ticketing company” and be transferred to the interior of the plaintiff’s website. From there, the customer could purchase tickets from the plaintiff.
Trial Court Proceedings Edit
The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant on the copyright and trespass to chattels claims and denied summary judgment on the contract claims. The court reviewed three copyright issues asserted by the plaintiff: (1) whether defendant’s use of spiders to extract information from plaintiff’s website created a valid issue of copyright infringement; (2) whether the URLs which were copied and used by the defendant contain copyrighted material; and (3) whether defendant’s “deeplinking” caused the unauthorized public display of defendant’s event pages.
Copyright claims Edit
On the first issue, the court concluded that under the “fair use” doctrine, taking a temporary copy of the electronic information for the purpose of extracting “unprotected public facts” (the dates, times and venue locations of events) was “fair use and not actionable.”
On the second issue, the court concluded that a URL is an address, which is publicly available, and not “sufficiently original” to make the URL a copyrightable item in the manner in which the defendant used it.
Finally, on the third issue, the court concluded that the “deeplink” did not caused the unauthorized public display of the defendant’s event pages since it took the customer directly from the defendant’s site to the plaintiffs’ site, and clearly identified the plaintiff’s site with a notice stating “[b]uy this ticket from another online ticketing company. Click here to buy tickets.” Thus, the court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on all three copyright claims.
Trespass to chattels claim Edit
For the trespass to chattels claim, the court reasoned that in accordance with the Restatement (Second) of Torts §219 “showing that the chattel is impaired as to its condition, quality or value” is necessary to establish a tort claim for trespass of chattels. The court held that mere use of a spider to gather information was insufficient to fulfill the harm requirement for trespass to chattels, since the plaintiffs could not establish any actual damage caused by the spider to their computers.
Contract claim Edit
Regarding the contract claim, the court reasoned that the presence of a notice on the bottom of the plaintiff’s website which stated that anyone going into the interior web pages accepted the website’s terms, which included a condition that “all information obtained from the website is for the personal use of the user and may not be used for commercial purposes” created an issue of fact as to whether or not the defendant actually knew of the terms and conditions before sending its “spider” into the webpage’s interior. Thus sufficient evidence existed to defeat summary judgment on the contract claim.