Any statements that you provide a hyperlink to might be used against you in a court of law

April 05, 2004

Each new function the Internet performs requires application of existing legal doctrines to factual scenarios never before considered.  One such example is the Internet’s ability to allow independent users to swap files, which continues to broaden the application of the Copyright Act, challenging the Copyright Act’s viability in the new millennium.  Along those lines, the Internet—and specifically hypertext linking—raises an interesting issue of apparent first impression under Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(B), the adoptive admission exception to the hearsay rule.

Most Americans know that if they are placed under arrest that their statements may be later used against them in a subsequent criminal proceeding.  Many people also probably know that conversations, emails, letters, etc. may later come back to haunt them in civil cases—such as sexual harassment suits and child custody cases.  However, many people probably have not considered that one day hypertext web links may allow statements on other websites to be used against them in a later lawsuit. 

This article will discuss the adoptive admission doctrine under Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(B), applying it to hypertext linking in an attempt to address the following question:  Can linking to the website of another cause statements on that website to be admissible against the person or entity providing the hypertext link to that website?

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