HotWired advertiser sponsors a blackout
At HotWired, they’ve always taken colors seriously: big, in-your-face colors, like fluorescent banana yellow and lime-candy green. This week, though, the site’s home page is a field of bland monochrome.
In the upper left corner there’s an explanation: “Without color, something’s missing: Click here to see HotWired’s true colors.” And below that: “This reminder of the impact of color brought to you by Hewlett-Packard color printers.” Click and you return to a normal, polychromatic view of the site.
While HotWired’s editorial content has dwindled recently to a shadow of its former self, the site has always been a creative leader in the marriage of technology and marketing; it is generally credited with the introduction of the banner ad in 1994. But this latest innovation brings the concept of sponsorship to a new and surreal level.
If an advertiser can buy the very colors off of HotWired’s home page, with its message invading the site’s central editorial showcase, what’s next — sponsored cursors that morph into corporate logos? “This scroll bar courtesy of Nike”? “404: file not found” pages with pop-up console ads?
Of course, even mentioning such ideas raises the scary possibility that somebody might implement them.
— Scott Rosenberg
SALON | Nov. 12, 1998
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Scientologists lose a round in copyright fight
The war between Scientology and its online opponents may have no visible end, but victory in the latest skirmish goes to the Net. Last week, a judge dismissed a request from Bridge Publications (one of the countless subsidiaries of the Church of Scientology) for summary judgment against FACTNet, a nonprofit online anti-cult group that Scientology had accused of duplicating its copyrighted material.
FACTNet claims that the copyrighted material — church documents by L. Ron Hubbard that reveal secrets Scientology members normally have to pay thousands of dollars to read, such as the origin of the mythical creature “Xenu” — isn’t legally copyrighted at all. (FACTNet had copied the material to CD-ROM, allegedly to back up its own research databases.) The judge is allowing FACTNet to argue its case; the case will now go to trial, where the Church of Scientology will have to prove copyrights to each of the 1,914 individual documents it claims were copied. FACTNet, in turn, is convinced that the documents are public domain, and that the Church of Scientology didn’t even have the right to copyright them in the first place.
“Scientology has been claiming loudly to be the victim of the largest copyright infringement case in U.S. history,” FACTNet said in a statement, “However … the real perpetrator may be Scientology itself, and the lawsuit could turn out to be the largest case of copyright registration fraud in U.S. history.”
This isn’t the first lawsuit that the Church of Scientology has slapped on a Net-oriented group. Complaining that Scientology is victim of the religious bigotry of members of the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology, Church officials have seized the hard drives of a number of online anti-Scientologists, slapped copyright-infringement cases on others and peddled a Net filter that prevents church members from viewing critical Web sites. They have also won several lawsuits, so FACTNet’s battle is not over yet.
— Janelle Brown
SALON | Nov. 10, 1998
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A costly tour of the Gates mansion
$42,500 is a princely sum that could be a respectable annual salary, orenough to buy a Sports Utility Vehicle, or the cost of 4 years’ tuition at apublic college. It’s also the cost of a personal tour of the mansion of BillGates.
Or rather, it’s the sum that one Microsoft employee was willing to pay tosee the home of his boss — as last week’s winner of an online auctionconducted by Microsoft as part of the company’s annual charity fundraisingdrive. The employee, who is going unnamed but is “not an extremely highexecutive,” according to a Microsoft spokesperson, will get a private tour ofthe mansion — including a session with Gates, who will reveal “his favoriteroom” to the winner.
The simple fact that Microsoft employees would — and could afford to –pay so much to see where their chairman lives speaks to both the legendary auraof “billg” and the grandiosity of the house itself. As Microsoft spokespersonDan Leach modestly puts it, “Bill is a very popular executive with theemployees of Microsoft. It seems that everybody wants to see the technology [inGates' house]. I personally would love to see it.”
The sum will be matched by Microsoft and given to the charity of thewinner’s choice. Overall, Microsoft’s drive (which also included events likerubber ducky races and executive promises to bleach their hair should targetsbe met) raised $12 million for charities.
– Janelle Brown