SEO company rep says it's illegal to link to his clients' websites

An SEO company called Guardlex sent a bizarre legal demand to the Big Pink Cookie blog saying that they represented a client that BPC had linked to, and that this link had damaged its googlejuice, and that this was illegal and that BPC had to cease and desist or face the consequences. The letter was from Jacob Getman, who works in the "Anti Piracy Department" -- implying that linking to a website constitutes "piracy" in the topsy-turvy world of SEO scumbags.

It has come to our attention that your website (or website hosted by your company) contains links to the [name removed] company website (URL removed) which results in material financial loses to the company we represent.

This material financial loss is due to search engine penalties resulting from the links originating under your control...

It is our understanding; the links in question have not been authorized for use by our client, its agents, or the law.

Therefore, this letter is an official notification to effect removal of the detected infringement listed above.

I have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by [removed] company, its agents, or the law.

I further declare under penalty of perjury that I am authorized to act on behalf of the trademark holder and that the information in this letter is accurate.

I'm sad to say that this appears to be the kind of legalcomic dipshittery that will come to define the coming century.

Dear Guardlex, You’re Doing it Wrong…

(Image: Dunce, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from scjn's photostream)


  1.  I declare under penalty of perjury that I think this lawyer is an idiot.

    Where’s the citation of the law or case references to show that linking without authorization is illegal?

    Even in the event that it could be shown that a single website linking to another website could damage their SEO rankings, where’s the case references that show that a person or organization that links to another website can be held liable for undemonstrated financial losses?

    Let me guess, they don’t exist and that’s why they weren’t included…

    1. Sagodjur wrote: I declare under penalty of perjury that I think this lawyer is an idiot.

      I wondered what Charles Carreon would do after his brief moment in the spotlight.

  2. I think these people are about to get an awful lot of inbound traffic from ‘low-quality’ websites. Streisand Effect, meet the Pagerank Algorithm. Pagerank, meet Streisand Effect …

    1.  In this case, the Streisand Effect might help their Pagerank – by letting the blog owners know where their blog comment spam is and remove it, that might be improving their Pagerank scrore, now that Google is penalizing them for getting caught spamming blogs instead of boosting them.

  3. Popehat recetly linked to a story by Josh Marshall that went something like this:

    Spambots put links to a site in TPM’s comments section.

    Years later, Google tweaks its algorithm so that these links HURT the site’s rank instead of helping it.

    Site sends a lawyer to demand that Marshall remove the spam links from his comments section because they are harming the site’s reputation.

    1. True, but I’ve often been totally turned off by blogs because their comments are filled with obvious spam and the blogger hasn’t bothered to remove them or install filters. So on the one hand, stupid lawyers. On the other hand, stupid bloggers.

      1. I know bloggers that have comments, but don’t give a rats ass what is posted there by who for any reason and never read the comments or moderate them. They don’t blog for feedback or SEO or recognition or an audience but still blog. 

        But aside, stupid bloggers can’t successfully be held to account for the damage a firm does itself by engaging in spam. They may be threatened or such but why would that sort of blogger care one way or the other?

        I know blogging is now far more for purposes other than the online diary/tribe that many initially used it for, but again, if you use it the way so many initially did, who the hell cares what some loser thinks of the spam they fired off so long ago?

  4. That appears, on close inspection, to be one of those “We filled your comments with spam for our site, now Google is onto that trick and is penalizing us. Take them down!” deals!

  5. Legal issues aside, the technical cluelessness of this company’s position is what is most bizarre. One would think that in 2012 every semi-literate person who’d ever even glanced at the Internet would understand that linking from one page to another is the defining characteristic of the Web, and so that by putting a page on the Web you’ve kind of already agreed to participate in linking. 

    1.  It’s not a question of technical or legal cluelessness.  They have a technical clue, which is that “Obvious comment spam links are bad for our Google rating, so we should try to get rid of the comment spam links we spent years spamming people’s blog comments with back when that was good for our Google rating.”  They also have a legal clue, which is “Lots of people will believe our bogus threats, which will get stuff taken down, and even the ones who don’t may figure out that the links we’re complaining about are spam and take them down, so either way we win!”

  6. You know that level of Hell spammers will be going to? I hope SEO freaks (especially ligitious ones) go there too.

  7. Legal threats from an SEO company are at the same level with legal threats from meth cooks or child porn rings; what they’re accusing other people of isn’t a hundredth as scummy as what they do. 

    1. c’mon now, everyone knows that most meth cooks are teachers, down on their luck, probably with cancer or something, just struggling to provide for their loving families. You take that back!

  8. Speaking of dipshittery, she’s ignorant enough about the subject to have actually taken it down in response instead of just calling the EFF or doing, ya know, a google search.

    1. Well, if the link was in a positive context, then the worst punishment would be to give them what they’re asking for.

      1.   Rob and others have already pointed to the article at Talking Points Memo about how the SEO spammers who splattered lots of blog comments with their link spam back when that improved their Google Pagerank are now trying to get rid of the spam because Google’s caught on and is dinging them for it.  So the link used to be positive for them, and is now negative.

        But it’s a tough call, because most of this is spam that you’d like to get rid of, so having the spammer tell you where all of it is can actually be helpful.  (Even better would be if you could move it all to some directory nobody looks at that’s still bad for Google Pagerank, but if Google gave out the secret to that, lots of Evil SEOs would be using that to downrank their competitors.  Not that that’s a bad thing either, you understand.)

    2. Because it’s totally fair and not-at-all dickish to call some poor woman who was intimidated by scumbags (and who dares to have a blog without being an in-the-know online net geek) a “dipshit.”

    1. It would seem like the proper response is to take down the link, then write the president of the company linked to and tell him that his SEO company is spoiling his reputation by preventing the world from hearing about him.

      Do I have this wrong?

  9. This lady needs to learn a thing or two about scumbag lawyers.

    For example, to deal with htis particular request, one would fire off a reply to the SEO scumbag^W^W^WJacob Getman, asking under what law is authorization required to place a hyperlink on one’s website.

    I, for one, would be interested in seeing the answer. 

  10. >legalcomic dipshittery


    I love that the phrase is also in the tags for this post. Well done.

  11. BoingBoing isn’t posting the name of the website/company or a link to it?  C’mon BB! If you don’t know…well okay…but if you do for shame!

  12. Speaking as an attorney, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the underlying theory that the author of the letter is using may very well be valid, but it depends upon the facts of the case.

    First, while there is no statute that I am aware of that criminalizes or otherwise regulates who may link to whom on the web, there is still a whole other body of law to be considered: common law torts.  (Read up on both the common law and tort law if you have not heard of them.  They influence much of your life.)

    Here, “tortious interference” may apply.  This tort occurs when someone intentionally
    damages the plaintiff’s contractual or other business relationships.  Recognized as early as 1620, this tort is designed to prevent unfair, intentional attacks on someone’s business.

    Here, IF (and this is a big if) the linking company in this case (1) knew that they would be damaging the target website’s revenue by linking to it, and (2) the only purpose of linking to the target site was to so affect that site, then plaintiff MAY be able to make out a tort case.. 

    HOWEVER, because the tortious interference MUST result in the plaintiff being damaged by a breach of contract or some other similar loss of business relationships, the plaintiff could NOT base it on a decrease in Google search ranking since I assume no contract exists between Google and the plaintiff regarding plaintiff’s placement in Google’s search rankings.  (If such a contract existed, (10 it would ruin Google’s reputation, and (2) it would likely contain terms that allowed Google to adjust rankings at will, so it would be hard to win such a case since there would not be a breach, merely actions by Google that are anticipated by the contract.)

    BUT, if plaintiff loss income from Ad-sense 9which IS covered by a contract) or other revenue streams that were controlled contractually due to the defendant’s intentional malicious linking, plaintiff might be able to make out a case of tortious interference. 

    For example, imagine that plaintiff had contracted with and adversitser to run adds on plaintiff’s site.  Next, imagine that defendant knows that when they link to plaintiff’s
    site, plaintiff’s “link juice” will be significantly damaged, to the point that advertisers will stop spending money to advertise on plaintiff’s site.  Finally, imagine that defendant links to
    plaintiff’s site for no other reason than to achieve this outcome and that, as predicted, the advertisers sees the drop in link juice and leaves.  THIS is a case of tortious interference.

    I am guessing that such facts don’t exist here, but who knows.  More detail is needed.

    1. Given that the link in question was posted 11 years ago as a positive endorsement of the company in question, it’s not likely to be the case that it’s intentional and malicious. The link became spoiled by Google’s ranking algorithm changes in response to SEO abuse.

    2.  A mod must have deleted my previous “no” reply to this comment, which is all I thought this comment merited, but here goes.  Case law please?  The cited article doesn’t even come close to meeting the elements of tortious interference.

  13. He probably pissed because the BPC linkage generated more traffic to the client’s site than did his SEO garbage. Just trying to eliminate the competition.

  14. You know, he’s right. The information in the letter is accurate; the “links in question have not been authorized for use by [their] client, its agents, or the law.”

    That’s because they don’t have to be authorized. But it’s truthful to say they haven’t been.

    This is just legalese that doesn’t mean anything but sounds, to the layperson, like the recipient could get into trouble.

  15. Well, after taking a quick look at Guardlex’s websites it appears most of their top clients are websites that dish up crappy website templates.  Here’s Gaurdlex’s own list of their “top” clients:

    There…now BoingBoing is complicit in enabling and breaking of the internet’s no linking allowed laws.

  16. Lol, ”
    This comment was flagged for review.”

    Apparently BB”s discussion board won’t let me post links to Gaurdlex’s clients either ^^.Go figure.

    1. SEO is probably sandbagged as an industry, with many firms now resembling the set of Barney Miller and costuming to boot. You can sue a loser but it probably won’t make rock bottom any harder.

  17. Taking a risk by reading the linked article at Big Pink Cookie, I learned two things.  First, the link in question was ELEVEN YEARS OLD.  Second, it consisted of the seemingly nice lady who writes the blog saying, “I got some new glasses that I really like.  If you think you might like them too, you can get them at [mystery url]. 

    So basically, these asshats are complaining about free advertising for their product.   Perhaps they have a really crappy product and make more money from ad clicks than selling eyeglasses.  Maybe they are trying out Sony’s The Customer Is The Enemy business model.  Maybe they’re just stupid. 

    She posts a copy of a nice fuck-off-and-die letter that her hosting service sent to the SEO scumbag that is worth reading. 

  18. I’m going to suggest that this company is lying, and is actually working for a rival firm. They would, in this case, be using the DMCA as a way of removing links to competitors’ sites.

    Alternatively, they’re hoping that the story will be published on a site like BoingBoing, and hundreds of outraged BoingBoingers will say, “F**k you, I’m going to post a link to your client’s site right now, assholes!” Thus, boosting the number of links to their client’s site.

  19. Here’s my theory – Asshat SEO ‘Lawyer’ attempts to piss off the internets, so everyone creates links to his client’s site.  Then he shows the client all the thousands of links that now point to their site and charges them a fortune.

    1. Y’know, that sounds crazy. But. It might. Just. …

      OK everybody. We can’t let this strategy succeed. Stop linking right now.

    1. huh. intentionally *didn’t* post that as a link. apparently Disqus makes “anyword dot com” into a link.

      1. A period with almost anything on either side becomes a pseudo-link in Disqus.

        1.  my.balls

          this is a test of the disqus ball linking system, if this were an actual link, you’d be able to click on my balls.

  20. Is the abstract as posted truly a C&P from the cease and desist letter?  It screams litigious spam to me, because it is full of typos and garbage grammar.  A number of large companies that are prone to copyright infringement keep a stable of second rate lawyers on retainer, and whenever something that might remotely be construed as infringing shows up on their radar, they send out the legal spamese:  “You are selling a knockoff of our product.  You are put on notice to remove your sale page and pay us $430 to ignore your offense.  Otherwise, prepare to be lawsuitted into oblivion.”  Usually these letters don’t have a legal leg to stand on for multiple reasons, but they scare the unsuspecting into removing their pages and/or paying up.

  21. The more I thought about it (especially after this post), the more I thought it was just plain SILLY that they wanted the link removed. So I put it back. And updated the original post from 2001. And updated the post with the letter.

    If they decided to sue me for linking to eyeglasses -dot – com – with NO tort interference intent, since I was just telling people to go there to look for similar glasses, they can. I’ll be sure to let you know if I hear from them again.

    1. Go Christine!

      I am glad you are standing on your ground. These bullies need to learn, and you will teach them. 

  22. The entire SEO industry should be considered criminal in any rate. Their whole purpose is to destroy and/or subvert the functionality of search engines.

  23. Makes you want to run right out and do business with a company who is willing to waste money on this crap, rather than make sure their customers are getting good service….  or not.

  24. this is called negative seo and despite what google says, it exists. Google created a monster that is out of control, penguin algorythm is a big failure, that’s just a fact ( plus results are totally absurd… impossible to find what you’re looking for, unless you click on an adword… hooo google loves adwords ;) )

  25. that’s called negative seo and that is becoming a more and more common practise, despite what google says it exists and it’s more and more common. But the real truth behind that madness, is that by getting seo out of the loop, google is encouraging businesses to buy adwords, google has become an ad engine, not a search engine anymore since most of the visible results in the fold are sponsored…

    1.  Yup, even if you rank on top for all the best keywords, don’t mean you gonna get the best traffic either.

      Forget about getting backlinks just Good old time Pay For Traffic, from Google.

      Panda and Penguin have seen to this…

      Yes negative SEO is a fact!

  26. This is the funniest thing i have read for a long time!! Great find and what a plonker that SEO guy is!!!! or is he doing some amazing marketing for us all to blog about it and build a link? would love to know a bit more! especially from the SEO’s client!


  27. Besides being a bad lawyer that dude has no clue about SEO. If the SEO company he works for told him to try and get that link removed they don’t have a clue either.  That’s a great in-line link from an aged blog that actually has good content on it.  If I was selling glasses I would kill for a link like that….

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