Thanksgiving Tradition: Bogus Legal Threats From Stores Against Posting Black Friday Prices

from the goes-well-with-Turkey dept

It seems like every year we get a story like this. The day after Thanksgiving is known in the retail business as "black Friday," as it's a huge shopping day. Many of the big chain stores hold massive sales on that day, which usually are detailed in newspaper circulars. However, there are a variety of websites that post the details of the sales well before Friday, and it seems to have become a Thanksgiving tradition for the stores to send out bogus cease-and-desist letters demanding that the info get taken down. This year, Wal-Mart has added a unique twist on the tradition: it's sending letters to various sites before they've even posted the info. The letters claim that the info is protected by copyright law, but that's not exactly true. Price information is considered factual information -- which (as we were reminded just this week) cannot be covered by copyright. Other information in the flyers could be covered by copyright, but just the prices are not. Just like in the past, it seems that these efforts are really just designed to intimidate these sites.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Barrenwaste, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 9:05am

    It's a good thing Walmart sent out those preventative letters. Wouldn't want such sensitive information getting back to the Chinese.

    Seriously, use that kind of exposure, don't quash it. Who ever thought this policy up ought to be relegated to the anals of history and a sign hung for posterity....or the anal moron should be kicked in the posterior...

     

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  2.  
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    bshock, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 9:09am

    a plot

    This sort of thing almost makes me want to put up a site with Wal-Mart Black Friday prices.

    I wonder how many other people feel that way, how many will actually do it to "spite" Wal-Mart, and ... is this actually Wal-Mart's intention? Free advertising!

     

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  3.  
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    Simple, Really, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 9:17am

    Don't shop at WalMart

    you're just supporting the exporting of jobs anyway

     

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  4.  
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    Evil Mike, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 9:21am

    "Who ever thought this policy up ought to be relegated to the anals of history and a sign hung for posterity"

    I'm sure you mean "annals"...right?

    "you're just supporting the exporting of jobs anyway"

    Do you even understand economics?

     

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  5.  
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    Barrenwaste, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 9:39am

    Ok, annals. My therapist says it's not my fault and that I have deep seated issues stemming from a rejection I experienced as a child. Personally I just thought I was having a problem because I rejected english class, who knew?

     

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  6.  
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    Mark Murphy, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 9:41am

    I agree that Wal-Mart and kin are kinda heavy-handed in their approach to dealing with Black Friday ad leak sites.

    That being said, I think there may be a problem with the "price information is considered factual information" argument. That argument is on solid ground when referring to current or historical prices. But I would expect it could be problematic when referring to possible prices that have not yet been set and won't be for some time in the future. Until such time as it has been set as an actual price, it's merely informed speculation as to what a price might be.

     

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  7.  
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    Barrenwaste, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 9:46am

    Re: Mark Murphy

    Well, speculation isn't illegal, either. I mean, how can there be a copywrite violation on intellectual property that doesn't exist yet. That's not the answer.

     

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  8.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 10:10am

    Re: Don't shop at WalMart

    That's funny, I was just watching a Penn and Teller Bullshit episode this morning on anti-walmart people. And I just spent $70 there during lunch.

     

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  9.  
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    John Maynard Keynes, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 10:17am

    Death to WalMart.

    I understand economics (have a Master's degree) ... and if you support WalMart, you are supporting one of the devils of the US economy.

     

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  10.  
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    Michael Brutsch, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 10:43am

    Unfortunately, it works

    Black Friday has already taken theirs down. That's the beauty of a society run by lawyers.

     

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  11.  
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    Ben, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 11:43am

    Free promotion via the Striesand Effect

    Remember, the lawyers for Wal-Mart do not want you to go to Gottadeal.com or Dealtaker.com!! Way to promote them on your PR dime.

     

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  12.  
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    Max Powers at http://ConsumerFight.com, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 12:18pm

    Wal Mart Running Scared

    I don't know if your local Wal Mart has posted this sign yet "Wal Mart grants you a license to shop" but I wrote a post about it which you can link to on my home page.

    It concerns how their prices in their stores are not to be copied or transmitted or they will call the cops.

    Now the Black Friday problem. Why are they so scared?

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Death to WalMart.

    I understand how much I bring home each week. You can go shop at Ethan Allen and I will go shop at Goodwill and Wal Mart. Go ahead try an make me feel guilty for attempting to stretch my dollar. I am sure I should pay extra for pharmaceuticals from CVS and Walgreens, extra for an oil change from the dealer, and extra for clothes from the GAP because a wal mart job isnt as good as a job at these other places. Nevermind that the GAP, CVS, and the dealer are all paying the same price as wal mart and jacking up the price. It is just downright evil to support low prices and affordable meds- maybe I should be ordering them directly from Canada instead?

    Masters in economics means you are a socialist elitist who thinks everyone should have tenure and not have to work to earn a dime.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 12:27pm

    "I understand economics (have a Master's degree) ... and if you support WalMart, you are supporting one of the devils of the US economy."

    Wow...well your command of the facts has convinced me.

    I actually like the anti-Walmart elitism. It let's me know who's a poser that has never had to stretch a dollar, and who has actually had to carefully provide for a family.

     

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  15.  
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    John Maynard Keynes, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 12:36pm

    WalMart Shoppers ...

    To Anonymous Coward ... keep adding to the problem. The US economy is $9.1 trillion dollars in debt (mostly foreign) and has a falling dollar against world currencies. Soon you will be on welfare in a country of unemployable low income service workers and won't be able to afford the rising prices at WalMart either. Maybe you will be able to emigrate to India to improve your lifestyle.

     

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  16.  
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    Not an MBA, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: Death to WalMart.

    "Masters in economics means you are a socialist elitist who thinks everyone should have tenure and not have to work to earn a dime."
    Huh? I know a lot of people with economics degrees and have never heard any of them make a statement anywhere close to that. Your argument is not very good to begin with, it completely misses the point, but that last comment destroys any credibility that you may have had.

     

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  17.  
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    John Maynard Keynes, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 1:21pm

    Blind to Reality ...

    To Not By an MBA (neither am I, Economics is not an MBA degree)... really??? You are just making that up, any decent economist knows that the US economy needs repair. You can't deny the falling dollar nor the $9.1 trillion dollars in debt (and growing).

    Too much to write here, but in simple form ... most goods in WalMart are imports from China which increases US foreign debt and reduces US manufacturing. Money flows out of the country and increases our foreign debt which helps to lower the value of the US dollar, plus, meanwhile the Chinese income and lifestyle increase while US workers lose production jobs. The rising Chinese dollar and lower US dollar will certainly cause imported (Walmart goods) to rise. Expect higher US taxes with less service soon to go along with that.

    Walmart's business practices and the way it uses only part time workers just adds to the problem of the ailing US economy.

    How do I miss the point, ... I think it is you who are shortsighted and not seeing that you are killing your own standard of living. The world is flat and the US has to get itself in shape to compete ... and right now, it is losing the battle.

    Do yourself a favor and fight against corporate greed and those lining their own pockets while killing the US economy. Bring back integrity and social conscience to the US rather than just everybody looking out for themselves for short term gain.

     

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  18.  
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    Think First Post Later, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Don't shop at WalMart

    Dont be a newgroup troll. The same products are sold at retailers nationwide, Walmart is responsible for demanding cost cuts from its suppliers but how those costs are reduced is still the decision of the management of the manufacturer. Some manufacturers appearantly still have morals and say no to WalMart.

     

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  19.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Blind to Reality ...

    "most goods in WalMart are imports from China which increases US foreign debt and reduces US manufacturing"

    That comment right there proves you have no idea what your talking about. How the hell douse WalMart buying Chinese stuff add to a debt that is owed by the government?

    As for US Manufacturing, Yes let's all go and buy only things that are made exclusively in the US by the big corporations you so despise for more money. Those $12 pants, imported, Local $20. We have minimum wage laws, safety regulations, and a masive overabundance of taxes that increase prices. Example, Min wage was raised by over two dollars in PA, all prices went up accordingly. For someone on a budget (have you ever been on one?) that's a vary bad thing.

    I applied at WalMart after college. They offered me over $10/h with stock options, health care, and payed vacation for stocking shelves full time.

    WalMart isn't an evil corporation, you're just falling into the same trap as everyone is with Google. Once a company gets to a certain size, people start thinking it's evil even without prof.

     

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  20.  
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    Not an MBA, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Blind to Reality ...

    John Maynard Keynes. Easy big fella, I was supporting your argument. The person that I was dismissing was Anonymous coward above, that is why his comment is in quotes at the beginning of my post. I understand that Economics degrees and MBA are not the same thing. The Not an MBA thing was in reference to my not having a masters degree. Granted, not very clear on my part.

    As for your passage "most goods in Wal-Mart are imports from China which increases US foreign debt and reduces US manufacturing. Money flows out of the country and increases our foreign debt which helps to lower the value of the US dollar, plus, meanwhile the Chinese income and lifestyle increase while US workers lose production jobs. The rising Chinese dollar and lower US dollar will certainly cause imported (Walmart goods) to rise. Expect higher US taxes with less service soon to go along with that." I understand this all very well.

    So again, I am supporting your argument. You may want to ease off the elitist rhetoric lest you prove anonymous coward right.

     

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  21.  
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    Barrenwaste, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 3:36pm

    Walmart really does damage local economies as well as the national debt. For those of you who do not know, and I see several by posts here, when we speak of a deficet it does not refer to a lump sum that we owe some investment bankers. Especially when talking about our foreign deficet. It isn't something the government owes to another government or group of governments.

    As for Walmart... I agree, it has initiated a few good things, and I will also admit that it isn't the antichrist in disguise. However, for the damage it does to the economy I can only despise it. If you look at county records you will see that nearly everytime it moves into a new location it causes more loss of employment than it creates jobs. Not only that, but by importing most all of it's product while exporting nothing it continues a dangerous downward spiral in the national economy. Some rationalize it by saying it's a changing market and if your business couldn't stand the competition then it only proves that the competing businesses provide better service/goods at lower prices. That is a fallacy. Three stores in my area just went out due to the economic pressure of Walmart and all three of them offered lower prices and one on one service for equal or better quality product. Walmart simply crushed them with money and glitter. Say what you want, wear all the blinders you want. But when the rug get's jerked out from under you don't whine to me. You did it to yourself by refusing to educate yourself to the realities of the world you are creating.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 3:12pm

    Legal Threats

    I wish it were illegal to threaten people by lying to them about the law.

     

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  23.  
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    Copyright Protector, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 7:32am

    Black Friday Wal-Mart

    It is true that price informaiton is not protectable but in the past many of these sites actually posted coupons or other fliers about to be released. I assume that Wal-mart has filed a registration for these works and is giving special notice so that if these materials are used they will be looking pretty on statutory damages and attorneys' fees.
    Also, one other thought/question that I would be interested to know if anyone has ever researched. While price information is factual and can't be protected, you can still have a copyright in the compilation of specific price information. It is a very thin copyright (assuming it exists at all) but would that not be enough to say that these sites are infringing the compilation of public information and not just one price?

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 10:55pm

    Re: Black Friday Wal-Mart

    It is true that price informaiton is not protectable

    You need to tell that to Walmart.

     

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  25.  
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    I am an MBA, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 6:20am

    Re: Re: Blind to Reality ...

    I agree, very well stated. Just to add, the Chinese Gov. continues to manipulate the value of the yen, causing the value of the dollar to drop as well. With trade tariffs working for the most part in the favor of foreign trade, the value of the dollar has no where to go but down. With the majority of their employees on welfare, I tend to look at the story of the well treated employee as a rarity. By the way who gets a degree just to go stock shelves at Walmart anyway? Sounds like a waste of a degree and a lot of money. The underutilization of resources also contributes to economic decline.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2008 @ 2:45pm

    "Bogus Legal Threats"

    Pricing information falls squarely within the domain of trade secret law, so using the word "bogus" is misleading.

     

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