Repeating History: Internet Marketing Laws and Outlaws

Written on
Jan 10, 2006 
Michael H. Sproule  |

Karl Marx is said to have once remarked, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” In the history of Internet marketing we’ve clearly arrived at the farcical stage of the game.

Almost as soon as any new technology has arrived on the Internet, marketers have been quick to exploit it — often in unsavory of ways. Email led to spam. Cookies led to privacy-invasive consumer tracking. Downloadable software toolbars and utilities led to adware. Javascript in web browsers led to pop-up ads.

Each time we’ve seen the same cycle repeat itself. The initial marketers jumping on a new technology operate in a gray area somewhere between public outrage and downright illegality. A backlash ensues in which every available avenue, such as blocking technology, legal challenges and community pressure, is used in an attempt to stamp out the offending marketing. And inevitably all such avenues fail. Instead over time the Internet community comes to tolerate the marketing. It becomes just a background nuisance. A cost of being online. Whereupon, almost magically, the previously deplored marketing technique becomes legitimate.

Of course, it’s inevitable that each new advertising technique, if it generates sales, will eventually become legitimate. We can castigate the marketers who first brought us these methods, but they’ve actually performed a service. If the advertising techniques they pioneered can generate sales, despite the annoyance and even enmity they engender among consumers, we know the techniques must be pretty effective. Perhaps it is cynical to say, but anything that effective simply cannot remain outlaw for long.

Michael H. Sproule, a partner with the New York law firm of Akabas & Sproule, focuses his practice on intellectual property (particularly licensing, trademark and copyright practice) and corporate law. His experience includes work with both traditional and new economy clients in fields such as technology, the Internet, media and entertainment. A software programmer himself, Mike is interested in all aspects of technology and its impact on law and our society.

Reader Comments.

I agree with your point of view. But new softwares will generate new ideas of applications.

From pixels to FFA Pages.

The blogosphere is changing the atmosphere of Internet Marketing with Link Adverts being sold on popular blogs from the Daily Kos to Wonkette.

Posted by Orikinla Osinachi | 4:25 pm on January 11, 2006.

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