Violating Terms of Use by Default


Buried in the Terms of Use of a very interesting and potentially valuable site called Newssift, a just-launched service from the Financial Times that uses semantic-web ideas to help sort through the news:

You may be granted a limited, nonexclusive right to create a hyperlink to Web provided (i) you give FT Search Inc. notice of such link by writing to, (ii) FT Search Inc. confirms in writing that you may establish the link, (iii) you do not remove or obscure the copyright notice or other notices on Web, (iv) such link does not portray Web or any of its products, software, content or services in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise defamatory manner, and (v) you immediately discontinue providing a link to Web if so requested by FT Search Inc. You may not use an logo or other proprietary graphic or trademark of to link to the Web without the express written permission of FT Search Inc.

Except as expressly approved by FT Search Inc. in writing, you agree not to reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, trade, resell or exploit for any commercial purposes, any portion, or use of, or access to, Web.

Just curious: Who got permission for these links?

And since the Web is a giant copying machine, which means that the Newssift results are copied onto my computer screen, am I not exploiting the service "for commercial purposes" if I learn something that serves my own business purposes, e.g. buying shares in a company based on a story they've, um, linked to?

Newssift has a lot to recommend it, but this stuff — all too common these days — is ridiculous. The FT lawyers are doing their best to stomp on their own bosses.

UPDATE: See this comment from the company, which says the terms of service were written during the private beta phase and will be updated to reflect the public launch. That actually makes some sense, but did it take a day to figure out? (I ask because I had a call from Newssift shortly after posting this item (more than a day ago from the time of this update), during which I invited the company to explain what it thought it was doing with these restrictions.)