Wal-Mart Now Going After Search Engines For Linking To Sites With Black Friday Ads

from the gotta-keep-the-lawyers-busy dept

It would appear that Wal-Mart's lawyers need to come up with excuses to keep billing Wal-Mart every year around this time. Despite the fact that Wal-Mart employees admit that sites posting "Black Friday Ads" help drive more business, Wal-Mart's hired guns keep threatening sites for posting the ads, falsely claiming a copyright on the content (hint: you can't copyright prices). This year, they've stepped it up a notch and are claiming that it's illegal to even link to a site that has such content.

Specifically, Wal-Mart's high-priced law firm has sent a takedown notice to the site SearchAllDeals.com, which is a search engine/aggregator of various deals sites. The site doesn't host any content itself, but that didn't stop Wal-Mart from sending a false DMCA takedown claim to the site (and, of course, a false DMCA takedown is illegal). So, we have Wal-Mart, whose employees think deal sites are helpful, getting its lawyers to send out bogus takedown notices over content that isn't copyrighted, and then sending them to search engines that don't even host the content in question.

It makes you wonder how much the lawyers are charging Wal-Mart... and if the fees are being paid out of the legal budget, or the marketing and promotions budget.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    anon, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 11:16am

    something tells me someone at the walmart corporation is gonna get subpoenaed

    at least, i wish ):

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 11:30am

    Illigal

    "are claiming that it's illegal to even link to a site that has such content."

    it should be illigal to give out false legal info without clearly stating that you're joking/lieing

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Lonnie E. Holder, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 11:44am

    Accurate Pricing

    Mike:

    There is one little detail in this notice that I would find concerning, if true. The notice requires publication of a notice that the advertisement included unauthorized changes that reflected inaccurate price information. If that allegation is true, I can see Wal-Mart being rather annoyed because of all the people that would go into Wal-Mart pressing to be sold whatever item or items were advertised at the incorrect price, assuming the price or prices were too low. Then you get those people that threaten to sue for false advertising, when Wal-Mart had nothing to do with the erroneous price.

     

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  4.  
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    Snarky Comment Alert, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 11:53am

    Non issue

    Best Buy will probably have a better Black Friday special this year anyway.

    Best Buy also appears to have better grasp of this concept called "Marketing" and how "Promoting" creates this funny thing called "Demand", which generally creates something called a "Profit".

    But whatever.

     

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  5.  
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    Jarrett, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:00pm

    TechDirt has written about how when corporations take actions like this to shutdown a site (PirateBay for example) they end up driving more traffic to the site. Could Wal-mart actually be smart enough to use legal action as a ploy to gain attention for their black Friday prices?

     

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  6.  
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    RBSplat, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:11pm

    Come On Think About It

    Sure the takedown notice seems a little.. all right a lot.. ridiculous, but how many sites spread the ad around and bring notice to an ad that a lot of people might not see any other way.

    It's called free advertising...

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Sean, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:16pm

    Not only Search Engines... TechCrunch also...

    TechCrunch also got "educated" by Walmart lawyers... Look at this...

    http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/11/14/walmart-wants-it-both-ways/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    BinaryRock, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Accurate Pricing

    I may be wrong, but I thought there was some sort of law that protected companies from typos in advertisements. Would this fall under the same category? Besides, I believe all sales papers have fine print that says something along the lines of "prices subject to change without notice."

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Gil S, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:43pm

    Playing with fire...

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:44pm

    pft

     

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  11.  
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    Joel Coehoorn, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:45pm

    Streisand

    This is another case of your 'streisand effect'.

    Some of these sites are really only relevant one month out the year or less, and the best site changes every year. So November rolls around and even people who are interested in this kind of thing aren't exactly sure which site will have the best info.

    It sure is nice of the retailers to clear that up for us, and make it possible for more people to find these sites via the publicity generated from the lawsuits.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Lonnie E. Holder, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Accurate Pricing

    Binary:

    Yes, there are laws that protect companies from typos. However, if the company put the price in intentionally and later realized before release of the advertisement that pricing was erroneous, then they would be unable to argue typographical error.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 1:35pm

    Walmart could probably make their prices even lower if they didn't try to sue everyone they possibly could for frivolous reasons.

     

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  14.  
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    Scott, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 1:37pm

    Look at the TechCrunch/CrunchGear one

    Click through to the ad. They reproduced a sales circular. Evidently without permission. If so, WalMart has a case. Against CrunchGear.

    I think if CrunchGear had linked to blackfriday.info and summarized the contents instead, they should have been in the clear. But that photo is on CrunchGear.com and contains the IP of WalMart.

     

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  15.  
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    DanC, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Look at the TechCrunch/CrunchGear one

    But that photo is on CrunchGear.com and contains the IP of WalMart.

    And it should fall easily into the realm of fair use. Fair use provides for the use of copyrighted material for the use of critique or comment, which is exactly what TechCrunch is using it for.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 3:41pm

    Re: Re: Look at the TechCrunch/CrunchGear one

    How so? All the text does is list the items included and a suggestion that "It might even be good enough to forgo post-turkey sleep and wait in line with soccer moms at 2:00am to ensure you get one of ‘em. Just make sure you’re a Sam’s Club member before Black Friday."

    What's the "critique" or "comment" that is a fair use there?

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    DanC, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Look at the TechCrunch/CrunchGear one

    What's the "critique" or "comment" that is a fair use there?

    Not exactly sure why critique or comment are in quotes, but to answer your question, the use of the picture is fair use, because it's being posted for the purpose of commenting. In addition to the minimal comments in the article itself, there's also the 17 user comments on the ad/article. And they posted an update correcting the pricing error.

    They don't have the whole ad book, they used a single picture from it, commented on it, and linked to the full book (which is no longer working). Looks like an open and shut fair use case to me.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Hello, Welcome to Walmart, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 6:17pm

    What a Nightmare

    If Wallyfart spent less money on silliness like this then maybe they could give their employees better compensation.

     

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  19.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Nov 14th, 2008 @ 6:30pm

    Re:

    "Could Wal-mart actually be smart enough to use legal action as a ploy to gain attention for their black Friday prices?"

    Huh. I wonder how WalMart would react if I posted a site that attributed insanely high prices to them (best estimates, of course, not based on advanced knowledge.)

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Erik, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 11:00pm

    Wal-Mart would do well to embrace these sites that are providing them with publicity and advertising. But, since Wal-Mart is run by shortsighted greedheads, they sic their lawyers on people they have no business attacking. Stupid, always stupid.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    teraom, Nov 17th, 2008 @ 2:47am

    Re: subpoenaed

    It is not walmart who is called to the court. Walmart is dragging search all deals to the court..

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Brow, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 5:29am

    Why are they complaining? Walmart is one of few companies that are surviving in this economic slump...makes no sense to push business away.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Adam Patterson, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 2:48pm

    Google

    Considering the site search says powered by Google should Walmart not take on Google?

    That would be an interesting battle.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    JULIE PIERCE, Nov 19th, 2008 @ 8:58am

    WALMART BLACK FRIDAY ATTORNEY FEES

    ARE PROBABLY BEING PAID THROUGH THE WALMART ASSOCIATES CRITICAL NEED TRUST FUND.
    THEY USE IT FOR RELOCATION FEES SO WHY NOT?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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