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Code of Conduct and Adware Guidelines

by Wayne Porter

Short Backgrounder

In New York, New York on November 7, 2002 affiliate marketing industry leaders convened at the Yale Club to hold a debate and fact finding mission to better understand the nature of adware and to assist leading affiliate networks like Commission Junction and BeFree (both now companies under the flagship of ValueClick publicly traded symbol:VCLK) ValueClick and Perfomics in preparing a policy that would be fair to all parties. Meeting minutes for this meeting can be found at AffTrack.com Meeting Minutes. A joint press release was released at the CJ Corporate Site.

There is still much debate on whether this solution has been good for publishers or not. It is obvious that strides have been made in protecting small publishers from link interception, however many publishers feel the CoC has not been 100% effective in halting potentially unethical behavior. This leads us to our ultimate question- can the industry police itself? We don't think so. Find the entire copy of the Code of Conduct below.


We, the undersigned Service Providers, believe that fair business practices produce optimum results for online consumers and all parties participating in online pay-for-performance advertising and affiliate marketing programs. In particular, fair business practices are important to the continued vitality of online advertising and the continued availability of advertiser-supported content. These practices include compliance with contractual obligations and all applicable laws and regulations, as well as adherence to high ethical standards as responsible members of the online advertising community. To this end, we have jointly drafted the following Code of Conduct (the "Code") to provide guidance to each of our advertiser customers ("Advertisers"), Web publisher customers ("Publishers") and software download technology providers ("Technology Providers") regarding the use of certain downloadable shopping software applications.

The Service Providers involved in drafting this Code recognize that consistent enforcement of the Code is critical to its adoption and acceptance as an industry standard, and to the ultimate accomplishment of the Service Providers' goals of maximizing efficiency and vitality in the online advertising business segment. Each Service Provider has committed to enforcing the Code through means consistent with its own business operations and practices, and to communicating and cooperating with its customers regarding enforcement and interpretation of the Code. Furthermore, the Service Providers recognize that notwithstanding a Service Provider's application of the Code, each Advertiser retains the right to choose whether or not to work with a Publisher even if they are in compliance with the Code.

Notwithstanding their commitment to enforcement, the Service Providers recognize that Publishers and Technology Providers must be given sufficient time in order to modify their business practices to comply with the Code. Accordingly, enforcement of the Code will begin immediately, however, companies that are found to be non-compliant may be given up to sixty (60) days to bring their activities into compliance. Grace periods for compliance with this Code do not supercede any pre-existing contractual obligations of Publisher.

While the Code of Conduct is intended to address many, if not all, of the major concerns raised by all interested parties, the practical aspects of drafting such a document make it impractical to cover all issues that may arise. As such, in addition to adherence to the Code of Conduct, all Publishers and Technology Providers are expected to perform their advertising and referral services with honesty and integrity in any situation not specifically covered by the Code.

Other interested industry parties are encouraged to adopt or endorse this Code.

Be Free, Inc., a ValueClick Company
W. Blair Heavey, Executive Vice President & General Manager

Commission Junction, Inc.
Jeffrey A. Pullen, President & CEO

Performics Inc.
James Crouthamel, President & CEO





The following actions, practices and conduct, whether active or passive, direct or indirect, are prohibited:

Interference with referrals. No Web publisher ("Publisher") or software download technology provider ("Technology Provider") may interfere with or seek to influence improperly the referral of a potential customer or visitor ("End-User") to the Web site of an online advertiser ("Advertiser"). No Publisher or Technology Provider will automatically replace or alter any component of a Service Provider's technology that results in a reduction of any compensation earned by another Publisher. For example, a Publisher or Technology Provider may not use methods or technology to automatically replace a Service Provider's tracking identifier of another Publisher with its own Service Provider's tracking identifier or otherwise intercept or redirect an End-User from being referred through another Publisher's Link.

Publisher may notify an End-User once that End-User has arrived at the Advertiser's Web site of an opportunity to utilize technology employed by that Publisher and obtain the End-User's consent via affirmative action upon each occurrence to proceed with the operation of such technology. Implementation of software application functionality requires that the notification be easily understood by the average End-User, that it occurs on each instance that the functionality is to be activated, and that it is not objectionable to the Advertiser.

Altering another Publisher's site. Publishers may not alter, change, substitute or modify the content of or appearance to an End-User of another Publisher's Web pages, use that Publisher's content to obtain an End-User referral, or obstruct access to another Publisher's Web pages (regardless of receiving permission from the End-User).

Software installation and de-installation. Publishers may not bundle downloadable shopping software applications with other applications, whereby the installation and de-installation is not obvious, easy or complete. Licensing and terms of all software downloads and applications of any type must be clearly presented to and accepted by the End-User, and de-installation must be obvious, easy and complete.

1. A Publisher Link is a link to an Advertiser where an active affiliate relationship exists with one of the undersigned affiliate service providers and that:

Links to any of the following domains:




Contains a parameter named 'afsrc' set to any value.
e.g. http://www.mysite.com/redirect?offerid=12345&afsrc=1

This 'afsrc' parameter option is provided to address the case where affiliates modify or mask the links provided to them from the affiliate service providers and it becomes impossible to determine that they are affiliate links based on their appearance.

2. A Publisher Web Page is a page that contains a Publisher Link and is part of a website where an Advertiser and the Publisher have an active affiliate relationship.

First Published: December 10, 2002

Amended: February 10, 2003

This article is copyright 2005 by XBlock.com.
It may not be reprinted or copied without the express written consent of the author.

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