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City historical group settles modern suit

From Philadelphia Business Journal

A Philadelplua organization dedicated to events of the past has resolved a legal dispute over a decidedly contemporary issue.

Independence Hall Association, the local historic preservation and educational group, has settled a lawsuit in which it accused a New York company of misappropriating substantial portions of content and graphics from its ushistory.org Internet site.

The dispute involved "framing," the practice of displaying the contents of one Web site within the borders of another.

IHA alleged in its suit that the company, homeworkcentral.com, improperly framed the ushistory site and affiliated sites, essentially presenting the IHA content as if it were part of homeworkcentral.

IHA and homeworkcentral settled the case late last month, just as it was about to go to trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Specific terms were not disclosed, but the resolution stopped homeworkcentral from framing or linking to the IHA sites.

The association was represented pro bono in the case by R. Nicholas Gimbel, a partner with the Philadelphia law firm of Hoyle, Morris & Kerr.

Mark Biddle, president of IHA, said he considered the alleged instances of unauthorized framing particularly disturbing for reasons including the for-profit nature of the homeworkcentral site.

The IHA is a nonprofit organization, and homeworkcentral was alleged to have framed the ushistory sites with graphics that included advertisements. Biddle cited pro bono contributions of content to the IHA's educational sites, from prominent historians and others, and said it was wrong for homeworkcentral to profit from them — especially without asking for permission.

"Even on the Internet, it is inappropriate to reap where you have not sown," Biddle said.

At the same time, the legality of presenting someone else's content through the process of framing has not been decided definitively in the courts, Gimbel said.

But even without a precedent directly related to framing, Gimbel said the law in other areas "strongly establishes" that framing another's site without permission is improper. IHA's complaint in the matter included allegations of copyright infringement, trademark dilution, false designations of origin, and misappropriation, among other things.

©1995-2014 by the Independence Hall Association, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, PA founded in 1942. Publishing electronically as ushistory.org.; online since July 4, 1995.
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