Ticketmaster Corp. v. Tickets.com, Inc

Ticketmaster Corp., et al. v. Tickets.Com, Inc. was a 2000 case by the United States District Court for the Central District of California finding that deep linking did not violate the Copyright Act of 1976 because it did not involve direct copying. The decision permitted Tickets.com to place deep links to Ticketmaster.

Deep linking, hyperlinking to another website’s interior pages, was the subject of considerable controversy in the late 1990s and early 2000s because it allowed consumers to bypass a website’s advertising-rich homepage. This could lead to significant financial losses in advertising revenue based on page impressions. In early 1997, Ticketmaster filed a lawsuit against Microsoft for unauthorized deep linking to Ticketmaster in its Sidewalk.com website. In February 1999, the case was settled out of court in a non-disclosure agreement that led to Microsoft no longer having deep links to Ticketmaster. In July 1999, Ticketmaster filed a lawsuit against Tickets.com with ten causes of action, including charges that Tickets.com had violated federal copyright laws and violated Ticketmaster’s terms and conditions.

In March 2000, ruling on Tickets.com’s motion to dismiss U.S. District Judge Harry Lindley Hupp found that deep linking was not prohibited by the Copyright Act because no direct copying had occurred. In August 2000, Hupp denied Ticketmaster’s motion for a preliminary injunction against Tickets.com’s linking and web crawling. For linking, he wrote that uniform resource locators (URLs) were not copyrightable because they contained only factual and function features, and for web crawling, he wrote that it passed legal muster under the fair use doctrine and did not pose an undue burden on Ticketmaster’s servers. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in a one-paragraph unpublished opinion.