Gator bites back, sues suer

Pop-up goes the weasel

On-line ad company Gator has bitten back against recent lawsuits by launching its own case against a business that has complained about its pop-up ads.

US-based Gator Corp provides free software to consumers that enables them to store information such as passwords for logging onto sites. The catch however is that users of its software must agree to receive ads in return and when they visit certain Web sites a code is triggered that inundates them with pop-up ads. And, very often, the owners of these sites have not agreed to display these ads.

This has led to several companies such as the Washington Post and United Parcel Service (UPS) suing Gator for infringing on their sites. UPS, for instance, charged that it led to its competitors' ads appearing on its Web site.

However, now Gator has decided to turn the tables and has set the lawyers on Extended Stay America Inc to ensure that Extended cannot block its ads, a report on Bloomberg claims. Gator's argument is that consumers should be able to decide what they see on the Web and not Web site owners. It said in its suit that Extended Stay America has no right to prevent computer users from choosing to get its software and "viewing separate works, comprising advertising on that user's own computer screen, even when other works share the screen."

Gator has declined to comment about the case, but on-line advocacy group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is considering supporting Gator's case, has said the issue is about who controls a computer when people go on-line. "Is it you, or is it the company whose Web site you happen to be using?" asked Fred von Lohmann, a senior staff attorney for the Foundation. He told Bloomberg that if Gator loses, Web site owners would have "far more control over the end user than is appropriate."

Shenda Loughnane, managing director of Dublin based interactive ad agency, Ican, disagreed. She told ElectricNews.Net that Gator was effectively piggybacking on some sites without their permission and was not following standard rules for the use of pop-up ads.

"I have somehow had my computer 'infected' by Gator and it churns up pop-ads all the time, which is very irritating. Pop-up ads should be frequency capped and targeted at the site's audience or area of interest, and Gator does neither. It's very negative from a consumer's point of view and is something that a company like Ican does not want to see," remarked Loughnane.

She added that it could be argued that Gator is trespassing on sites that have not asked for its pop-up ads. Although she was not sure what could be done about the situation, she commented that consumers should realise that nothing is for free on the Internet anymore.

In its suit, Gator is asking for a ruling that it does not violate the rights of Web site operators. It is also appealing an earlier ruling that ordered it to stop putting pop-up ads on certain sites.

© ENN

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