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Thread: Sister forum takes shot from stores: "Stores Unite to M

  1. #1
    L14 Officer Protégé Ménacé's Avatar
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    Sister forum takes shot from stores: "Stores Unite to M

    ***Cliff Notes on next post***

    More Articles from NY Times, the Register, and the Washington Post on the retailers use of the DMCA against Fat Wallet....

    'Prices are trade secrets' - stores unite to make DMCA look stupid
    By John Lettice
    The Register
    Posted: 21/11/2002 at 11:09 GMT

    Four major US retailers have thrown their weight behind the anti-DMCA campaign by making it look ridiculous. The bargain hunter site has been given notices under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act by WalMart, Target, Best Buy and Staples claiming that their sale prices are copyright trade secrets.

    Aren't lawyers clever, people? Who'd have thought a price list could be copyright? But they're an arrangement of facts, a particular arrangement, so maybe they're art, good heavens. Not that it matters much in this case whether or not the clever lawyers have a case, because --------- has complied with the notices, at least for now.

    --------- gets under their skins because its forum members swap information about sales in stores, current and forthcoming, the idea being for them to know where to go, when, and how to get the best deals. So for example you might be able to go to Staples and pick up a hard drive, CDRW, scanner, pile of RAM, and a pair of webcams for just a couple of dollars, plus coupons.

    No, we've no idea why that just popped into our heads just now.

    Some of the information might come from insiders, but given the nature of the business they wouldn't have to be particularly deep inside; stores mounting sales have to produce ad copy, print leaflets, and so on, so there's a pretty big pool of people in the know.

    In a posting explaining the issue, --------- says that while it believes "that sale prices are facts and can not be copyrighted, We have made the business decision to comply with the DMCA notifications.

    "Our reasoning for this is very simple - Our mission is to serve consumers - If we were to choose to fight this battle, It would require more resources than are available - and we would no longer be able to serve consumers."

    And the next bit is significant, because it shows how the outfits that can afford the lawyers can force their victims to comply with their wishes, no matter how flimsy their legal justification:

    "Part of the DMCA Safe Harbor provisions state that in order to qualify for safe harbor protection, we must have no knowledge of the infringing activity. If we become aware of the removed content being reposted on our site, We have no choice but to remove the content, or forfeit our safe harbor provision. I respectfully ask your cooperation on this matter."

    --------- is still providing sales information, but not, obviously, the infringing stuff. It has contacted the Electronic Frontier Foundation and (which runs a clearing house of 'cease and desists', and no doubt they will be taking the matter up.

    Internet Sites Delete News of Sales by Big Retailers
    NY Times

    Several Internet shopping sites have removed information about post-Thanksgiving sales after major retailers including Wal-Mart and Target threatened legal action under a digital copyright law.

    Legal experts said invoking a copyright law in this context was unusual, because the information appeared to be a set of facts rather than the kind of original or expressive work that is typically covered by copyright law. The Supreme Court has ruled that telephone white pages directories, for instance, do not fall within copyright law.

    But the retailers said the law enabled them to exercise control over their lists of products and prices - even when it leaks onto the Internet ahead of its intended release.

    "We believe copyright covers a compilation of facts," said Tom Williams, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, which sent out at least seven letters to Web sites over the last week. "It's our data about our products that we put out, and we don't want customers to be confused."

    Among visitors to the discussion forum of, the removal of information - which included lists of products and prices apparently designated to appear in sales circulars on Nov. 29 - was greeted with accusations of censorship. "While I believe it would be very difficult for them to claim a copyright on this, quite frankly you've got to pick and choose what your battles are," said Tim Storm, ---------'s owner. "Going up against Wal-Mart, well, it can be very expensive to be right."

    Mr. Storm said he also received letters from Target, BestBuy and Staples. He removed the information immediately.

    Jason Wolfe, the operator of the site, said he did the same after receiving the Wal-Mart letter. But he did not comply with the company's request for the personal information of whoever had posted the information on the site. "I said I was not going to give that to them unless they supplied me with a subpoena," Mr. Wolfe said.

    At, the site owner posted the letter he received from Wal-Mart with a note asking site visitors not to post information from any more advertisements for Black Friday, as the day after Thanksgiving is known among retailers.

    Under the statute invoked by the retailers, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, most Web sites and Internet service providers are immune from prosecution as long as they remove infringing material after being notified of its presence by a copyright holder.

    Some legal experts have voiced concern that the law provides little incentive for Internet companies to stand up for material that may be protected by the First Amendment.

    "The smaller the company is on the defending side, and the bigger the company on the challenging side, the more likely it is that people will take down information even if it might be fair use," said Pam Samuelson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

    Retailers Wield Copyright Law Against Shopping Sites
    By Brian Krebs Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 20, 2002; 8:07 PM

    Several national retailers, citing Internet and intellectual property law, last week threatened to sue consumer Web sites that revealed the retailers' sales prices in advance of their official unveiling.

    The retailers took action after members of online shopping forums posted sales circulars from about a dozen major chains two weeks before they were supposed to be released.

    The product prices were slated to be published on "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving that marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season and is considered the most profitable shopping day of the year for the nation's retailers.

    Wal-Mart and other retailers demanded that several Web sites remove the prices, arguing that the postings constituted copyright infringement, according to the head of one of the comparison-shopping sites.

    Tim Storm, founder of, said his Web site and roughly a half-dozen others faced costly litigation and the possibility of jeopardizing affiliate relationships with the companies, so they backed down.

    "They've got all the chips in this poker game," Storm said of the retailers. "Our business is educating consumers, not fighting lawsuits. For me, this was a real simple business decision."

    Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams said the company's actions were justified, citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a 1998 statute that extends traditional copyright protections to the Internet.

    Under the law, Internet service providers and Web site operators cannot be prosecuted for copyright violations on their networks as long as they immediately remove any infringing items upon notice from a copyright holder.

    Critics of the DMCA said that when faced with the prospect of a court battle with well-heeled opponents, Web site operators often will choose to censor their content.

    "The courts have always been very hesitant to hold publishers liable for the substance of their information, and only do that in rare circumstances," said Cindy Cohn, legal director for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It would be unfortunate if we adopted a rule that said Internet publishers don't get those same protections."

    Mike Godwin, staff counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, said long-established copyright law does not prohibit a Web site from posting established facts.

    "It's the expression of information that's protected and not the information itself, so a price alone would probably not be considered a [copyrightable] work," Godwin said.

    Williams noted that all of the Web sites contacted by Wal-Mart took down the disputed postings.

    Paul Capelli, spokesman for Staples Inc., said his company considers its pricing information a trade secret.

    "It was a premature disclosure of information we thought could have serious adverse impact on our business," Capelli said in explaining why Staples contacted the consumer sites.

    Cohn said that the EFF is talking with's Storm and officials from the other Web sites about the possibility of resisting the retailers in the future if it becomes necessary.

    In the meantime, the retailers' holiday circular information is being traded on Internet newsgroups and mailing lists. Some newsgroups are asking consumers to boycott the major retailers, with some calling for the establishment of a "Black Friday Blacklist."

    "To the extent the retailers were trying to quash this information, it has apparently backfired," the EFF's Cohn said.

  2. #2
    L14 Officer Protégé Ménacé's Avatar
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    the website is JUST like this site except a lot more people

    they had posted the deals for next weeks thanksgiving deals at various stores.

    said stores got pissed and forced our forum to take down the ads.

    now our forum is getting UBER media coverage such as washington post, enw york tiems WERE EVEN ON CNN

    this is a huge deal, the stores are claiming that their ads are copyrighted when really they are stated facts.

    heres the thread on ---------:

  3. #3
    L14 Officer Protégé Ménacé's Avatar
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    part 2:


    Web-Savvy Shoppers Get
    Sneak Peak at Holiday Sales

    Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

    This year's after-Thanksgiving sales have started early for some Internet-savvy consumers, and the nation's biggest retailers are scrambling to slam the doors on them.

    Users of several cult Web sites with names like ( and ( have somehow obtained and then posted lists of sale prices at retailers including Target, Best Buy and Staples -- before the sales are officially announced. These are discounts the retailers had no intention of making public until around Thanksgiving, with the hopes of making a splashy launch to the traditional holiday shopping season.

    Here's a sample of the enticing prices: After Thanksgiving, OfficeMax plans to sell a feature-laden H-P printer for $200, 33% off the current price on its Web site. Best Buy plans to offer a Kodak digital camera for $99.99, compared with $149.99 on The store also plans to put the soundtrack for "8 Mile," the Eminem movie, on sale for $8.99. Currently, it sells for $14.99 on the Best Buy site.

    For committed shoppers, early access to this information can result in big savings of both time and money. Shoppers are saving money by knowing weeks in advance what's going on sale at what store and buying it there instead of a competitor. Consumers are also buying the products at full price and later getting credit for the difference after the product goes on sale. The Web surfers also save time by buying the merchandise in advance and avoiding the holiday crush.

    The big retailers are now fighting back. "Someone, somewhere is getting information they shouldn't be," says an OfficeMax spokesman. Target, Best Buy and others have demanded that the Web sites take the information down. Most have complied, but scores of readers had already copied the data and posted it elsewhere on the Web.

    No one knows exactly where the leaks are coming from or who is behind them, but the companies don't dispute the accuracy of the information. Now, these posts threaten to disrupt the carefully laid plans and pricing schemes of the nation's largest retailers, since they tip off competitors and alter consumer behavior.

    The fray highlights the growing popularity of the shopping sites, which cover everything from consumer electronics to personal finance. The sites have been around for several years, but have grown significantly in the past 12 months. Some even posted the holiday specials last year, but the retailers failed to take note.

    Popular sites include --------- and (, which make it easy for users to search for bargains on specific products. For example, you can hunt for a computer deal by typing in "Dell" and "coupons" and find people giving away Dell coupons that they can't use or doling out advice on how to use multiple coupons at once to save the most amount of money.

    There are also specialist sites like (, where users review different machines and offer tips on which stores have the best prices. Other enthusiast sites are famous for publishing unwritten rules and secret codes. On (, a site for frequent-flier-mile junkies, users regularly post information on special mileage promotions.

    Both types of sites have published lists of hundreds of items that will be available on "Black Friday," the popular shopping day after Thanksgiving when retailers often break into the black for the first time all year. So far, people have posted data from Target, Kmart, Wal-Mart Stores, Staples, OfficeMax, Best Buy, Sears Roebuck and Toys 'R' Us.

    Surfers can still find the information by doing a Google search for "Black Friday" and the store name. One person started a Yahoo group Wednesday morning to collect the banned information. More than 2,400 people had signed up by nightfall.

    Other shoppers have taken it further. Last year, Thomas Jones read on --------- that a PC drive would go on sale at Best Buy after Thanksgiving. So he bought it a day early for $150 -- then came back on sale day to claim the $50 discount. Despite making two trips to the store, he saved time because when he arrived on sale day, there were 200 people standing in line just to get into the store, but "I just walked to customer service where there was no line," he says.

    Mr. Jones adds that he feels no guilt over having used this information to save time and money. "The moral turpitude, if any, lies with the person who posted the information in the first place," he says.

    The companies agree. The problem is, they can't figure out who's posting the sneak previews. A few months ago, a person on said he had been fired from Home Depot for posting sale information before it became public. Home Depot doesn't comment on personnel matters.

    Now, people who post similar lists of products and prices are cagier about revealing their true identities. "It could be coming from anywhere along the chain," says Tim Storm, the founder of ---------. "It could be employees [of the retailers] giving it to friends who post it or the delivery boy from the printing house that produces the newspaper circular."

    The retailers are pushing hard to stem the leaks. "We will take appropriate legal action as soon as we discover how the information got on the site and who posted it," says a spokesman for OfficeMax, which is about to ask sites to remove the data. Staples, which has successfully asked --------- to remove the data, worries that OfficeMax will see the report and match their prices. "We are in a competitive industry," says a Staples spokesman. "You don't want to be telegraphing information that's not meant for public view."

  4. #4
    L14 Officer TheRingWraithe's Avatar
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    Live interview with Tim Storm of ---------

    National Public Radio aired the story today. If you'd like to hear the broadcast, here is a link to it. Including an interview with Tim Storm of ---------.

    RealAudio link

  5. #5
    L9 Corporal Sparr's Avatar
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    Their forums are like ours, with users sharing deals, but the main site at FW is completely commercial advertising. They dont hunt for deals, they CHARGE companies for listings on the front page.

  6. #6
    L14 Officer Protégé Ménacé's Avatar
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    thats why i only go to the forums to find the deals, and the deals are the same oens we have ehre, but mroe people finding more deals ;)

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