Answer: Should you ever be a victim of click fraud, there are legal options available.
First, examine the search engine. If fraud occurs on the engine’s network and they have the ability to stop it, they may have a legal responsibility to do so. As the entity that makes money from this fraud, the search engine should not be able to intentionally allow fraud to take place to increase profits. Reassuringly, most times engines act responsibly with regard to click fraud.
Next, consider distributed sites. These sites, which make a profit from clicks off their Web sites, are a strong suspect for click fraud. Should the operators of these sites encourage click fraud among a group of people, conspiracy charges can be considered.
The concept of trespassing, as a defense from click fraud, is one that has not been tested but is interesting to consider. The idea that the perpetrator of click fraud is clicking on your Web site against your will (and costing you money) is a viable claim for trespassing. It is vital, before considering this option, to send a letter denying that person access to your Web site as a warning. Once that warning has been issued, any additional violation could be a trespass scenario of resources and money.
Whenever considering legal action, it is important to consult with a lawyer to represent your best interests. Since there has not been a case of click fraud from an advertiser, it is important to understand there are no definite answers to these questions.
Matt Naeger is VP-general counsel at Impaqt. He can be reached at matt.naeger@IMPAQT.com.