If anyone ever doubted that politicians are often one memory stick short of a motherboard, read on.

The story starts when Jennifer Reisinger, a web designer was involved in a effort to recall mayor Juan Perez.  While the effort was unsuccessful, there were repercussions.

Completely separate from the websites used in the recall effort, her business website Brat City Web Design had a link on it to the Sheboygan police department’s home page.

The mayors secretary asked City Attorney Stephen McLean if Reisinger could link to a city website and he told her what we all know, “Anyone can create a link to someone else’s Web site very easily without the knowledge or consent of the linked party.”

The City Attorney also said that he could issue a “Cease and Desist” order and Mayor Perez told him to go ahead and do it.

Assistant law professor at Marquette University, Bruce Boyden, a specialist in Internet law and copyright says that not all speech is protected and that somebody might “use a link to communicate a threat or violate a copyright, and that wouldn’t be protected.”

Sorry, that last doesn’t fly very far here.  A link is simply a pointer to the internet location of a website, page or file and nothing more.  Anybody trying to make it more than it that has, in my opinion more than a few screws loose.  Besides, this is a freedom of speech issue.  One of the many comments on Slashdot about the case summed it up nicely:

a woman posts a link to a municipal government website, so the mayor sends her a cease-and-desist letter and then launches a police investigation on her to intimidate the woman and coerce her into removing the link. and you see nothing wrong here?

it doesn’t matter that the city withdrew its demand after the lawsuit was filed (or possibly after the media broke the story). the point is that government officials should not be bullying political dissidents like this–especially not in concert with the police department.

the woman in this story was smart enough to contact a lawyer and fight back, but most people would probably be intimidated and just back down. this story should be reported if only so others know that such demands have no legal basis.

Finally, Because I believe in freedom of speech, I’ll join with a quickly growing number of people that are adding a no-follow Link to the Sheboygan Police Department to their websites as well as adding do-follow links to Brat City Web Design in support of freedom of speech and I urge everybody to do the same.

Technorati Tags: web design, freedom of speech, text link, politicians, brat city, sheboygan police department, lawsuit, link

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