Monkeyfishing for Litigation

Slate’s Paul Boutin reports:

Greasemonkey, a plug-in for the Firefox browser, allows you to run “user scripts”—Javascript programs that tweak other people’s Web pages after you’ve loaded them. (In theory you could pull this same stunt with Internet Explorer, but no one’s offered the software yet.) Most commercial sites already have Javascript programs nested inside that turn menus on and off or respond when you press a button. Google Maps is a great example—it’s more program than page.

Greasemonkey lets you play Web designer. Instead of settling for a site’s out-of-the-box appearance and functionality, you can stuff in your own Javascript apps. User scripts can rearrange or remove images, add links and buttons, even mix content from multiple Web sites onto the same page. Greasemonkey doesn’t mess with the entire Internet. The software waits until a page is downloaded to your local machine, then modifies it on your screen only—when I hide Boing Boing’s cheesecake, the girlie pics are still there for every other Web surfer.

That’s downright upstanding of you, Paul! Sensitive, too. But I digress: How long until Greasemonkey finds itself on the business end of a claim for contributory copyright infringement (or perhaps “trade dress” infringement?) a la ClearPlay?

UPDATE:  Turns out “how long” was pretty long.   But, kind of, it finally at least got threatened just a couple of weeks ago, though not really the way I thought it would be.

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Author:Ron Coleman

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