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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 25, 2009
Web wars rage on
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND Supervisor Kenneth Runion and town board member Warren Redlich have accused each other this week of illegal on-line acts, and both, in response, have said the other can sue.
The web wars that started two months ago, as the Democratic supervisor gears up for a re-election run while the Republicans are hoping to regain the board board majority, appear to be attracting very few residents. However, Runion and Redlich, both lawyers, are intense about their postings.
On his website, www.guilderlandtowntopics,com, Runion, last week, accused Redlich of internet theft, asserting that Redlich had hacked video from the website, and posted it on his own site, www.guilderlandnews.com. According to Runion, copying the material qualifies as theft because he has a private account for the video, and Redlich’s actions affected the amount of bandwidth allowed to him.
Redlich, in a letter to The Enterprise editor this week, addresses the issue, and says his use of videos originally posted on Runion’s site was not considered stealing because Runion had a “share” option on the video, inviting others to use it. In the letter, Redlich also accuses Runion of “click fraud” because Runion has a link to one of Redlich’s Google ads on his website, and he encourages people to click on it, noting that every click costs Redlich money.
Runion told The Enterprise that Redlich’s purchase of the ad was actually illegal, because it violated a civil rights law, the right of privacy. The law states, “A person, firm or corporation that uses, for advertising purposes, or for the purposes of trade, the name, portrait or picture of any living person without having first obtained the written consent of such person…is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
According to the supervisor, Redlich’s ad, which uses Runion’s name, and, when clicked, takes viewers to a website about Runion, also created by Redlich, violates that right of privacy.
Click fraud is any click on an online ad that is not part of an intention on the part of a customer to buy or learn more about a product or service. The insincere clicks increase the response rate and generate cost for companies, or individuals, on a pay-per-click campaign.
Click fraud is a subject of increasing controversy and litigation. Redlich said that Runion’s use of the ad link on his website is click fraud because it is used maliciously, purely for the purpose of costing him money.
Not so, Runion told The Enterprise. The link is there so that people can see what Redlich thinks of him, Runion said.
“The link isn’t there to drive up cost,” said Runion. “If Mr. Redlich has a problem with it, he can sue me.”
Runion’s website explains that the link will take readers to one of Redlich’s web sites, but it also says that each click will cost Redlich five cents.
“My website says that Redlich took out a negative ad about me, and, if people are interested in reading it, click here, it costs him money. It’s full disclosure. I don’t see that as click fraud,” Runion said.
Roger Lipera, a local web designer and consultant, said there are many levels of click fraud, but that Runion’s use of Redlich’s ad would certainly qualify.
“Oh yeah, that could be quite a serious problem,” said Lipera.
However, click fraud is not as effective as people seem to think, Lipera said. Google tracks where the clicks come from, and if Google finds something suspicious, it can shut down the site. Even if there are three or four clicks on an ad from the same computer in one day, Google would probably flag the computer, he explained.
While Runion said he is not engaging in click fraud, he alleged that Redlich is violating his right of privacy, by using his name in the ad without getting permission.
According to Redlich, he is practicing free speech about a public figure, and therefore the right of privacy does not apply.
“If Runion feels he has a case, he can sue me,” Redlich said.
Recently, Runion began putting videos of town board meetings on his website, using a server called Kaltura. He noticed that the bandwidth in his account was increasing, and realized Redlich had taken the videos from the Runion site, and put them on his own site. Runion, on his website, called Redlich an “Internet pirate.”
Redlich told The Enterprise his use of the video was not theft, because a clickable button on the video, labeled “share,” was there specifically to allow people to use the video. However, Runion said the share button is meant to let people share the link, which would take them to Runion’s website; it was not meant to permit people to lift the entire video.
According to Redlich, Runion’s information about the “share” button is inaccurate. When a person clicks on the button, the embed code appears, and a user can copy it to a different website.
“That’s the purpose of the share button,” said Redlich. “This is just further evidence that Runion doesn’t understand the Internet.”
To prevent Redlich from copying videos directly from his site, Runion placed banner ads on each of his individual videos. Some examples of the banner ads are “Guilderland needs Ken Runion”, and, “Grimm and Redlich waste taxpayer dollars.”
“It’s not a big deal,” Runion said. “ I think Redlich just got caught and is a little upset about it.”
In his letter, Redlich questioned why Runion can post videos on his own website, but does not post them to the town’s website. Runion told The Enterprise that the town website does not have the ability to post videos that are hosted through another server, such as Kaltura. The town website is hosted through another provider, Runion said, and putting videos on the site would cost money; he said the service would run about $70 a month.
At a town board meeting in March, Runion submitted an application for a grant that would cover the cost of putting videos on the town site; Redlich and Grimm voted against the proposal, stating that they would rather put the videos up elsewhere, free of charge.
This week, Runion explained that most free sites, like YouTube, have limits on the amount of material posted.
Redlich told The Enterprise yesterday that if the cost of hosting video to the town website is only $70 a month, he would pay that amount out of his own pocket.
“I pledge that right now. Consider it a grant from Warren Redlich,” he said.
Overall, Redlich said he had about 76 visits, by 68 individuals, to his website in the past month; Runion said he estimates that around three people have watched the videos on his. According to Redlich, the result of fraudulent clicks, inspired by Runion, on his Google ad, is a total cost of $3.50.
“I think the only people who look at these sites are us, anyway,” said Redlich.