Trying To Understand: Facebook's Lawsuit Against Power.com Makes No Sense

from the help-me-out-here... dept

Facebook has apparently sued social networking aggregator Power.com for a variety of things, including copyright and trademark infringement, unlawful competition and violation of the computer fraud and abuse act. I'm having trouble seeing how Power.com violates any of these things. Power.com, like plenty of other aggregator services, lets you bring together all your different social networking profiles in one spot. That seems like it could be valuable if you use a lot of those services. It doesn't do anything fraudulently, and it does not appear to misrepresent that it is a separate service. Users have to decide whether it's worth providing their username and password to Power.com, but it's not as if Power.com tricks anyone into doing so or does so in a misleading way. There's no confusion, so it's difficult to see what the trademark problem is about. It seems like a pretty big stretch for Facebook to also claim that showing the content from a user's profile is copyright infringement as well. Computer fraud? Please. Unlawful competition? Again, it may be (slightly) competitive, but it appears to actually improve the value of Facebook, rather than diminish it.

This is a pretty weak response from Facebook. Basically, it looks like Facebook trying to exert undue control over what other websites and services can do, and it's not clear that it has any real legal basis for doing so. It's a shame that a company like Facebook is becoming a legal bully at such a young age. I would have expected better. In the end, though, if Facebook keeps up actions like this, it will only hasten the shift to other social networks that don't try to limit what their users can do. Facebook might want to take a lesson from the eventual flop of Friendster after that social network was accused of being too controlling.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    identicon
    Peter Thomas, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 3:29am

    How ironic...

    ...given that Facebook encourages you to hand over your username/password to your hotmail/Yahoo/GMail account so it can pick up any friends in your address book!

    This legal action is "do as we say, not as we act".

     

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    slayerboy, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 3:53am

    wait huh?

    On the Power.com website it says:

    "Power is introducing a new version of Facebook inside of Power in late January.

    We have been in discussions with Facebook to get their feedback on the best ways to work with them. Facebook would like sites to use Facebook Connect and they are continually open and available for feedback and comments on how to expand Facebook connects functionality. We support mutual industry cooperation to help responsibly create a borderless web. We are working with feedback from Facebook to implement Facebook connect inside of Power. We are also offering Facebook feedback on how to enhance and improve Facebook Connect functionality and will be launching a newer version of Power using Facebook connect in late January.

    Power.com is focused on providing value added services to social network users and it is not necessary for us to store the users name and password if a site prefers that we don't.

    To build on this focus, we will be shortly announcing and introducing a new standard to the the industry called Social InterConnect that will allow users to freely share their account information for any site with any other site without the host site needing to store the username and password. Power.com will provide this option to all sites for whom we collect account information inside of Power.com and will support existing social networks which already offer a solution such as Facebook connect."

    So is this old news or is someone lying?

     

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    AJ, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 5:26am

    Looks like some scum bag is trying to hack you guys... Good job on the SQL Injection prevention :-)

    Hey JOHN, scum like you deserve to die.

     

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    mslade, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 6:16am

    John fails at hacking.

    The end.

     

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    AJ, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 6:27am

    FAIL

    I run a small not-for-profit community service website and I rely heavily on SQL db to run the site. I've been bombarded with these a$$holes trying to inject code into my database. It took a bit, but I finally closed most of the doors. I have a long and deep burning hatred for scum like this. I hope you have his URL and do something to run him down.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 7:01am

      Re: FAIL

      And I have a long and deep burning hatred for self-appointed "developers" who couldn't write a secure line of code if their lives depended on it. If you can't even protect your app from SQL injection, you deserve to be hacked, and I hope it leads to severe monetary loss.

       

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  •  
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    AJ, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 7:17am

    always

    Geez, AC... always the nice word from you. And, know your audience before you sling your poison arrows...

     

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    Dallas, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 9:00am

    mini-fail

    the fact that he was able to comment using those char's is a mini fail. doesn't mean that his encoded query won't be run during a upgrade or conversion of some sort.

    everyone FAIL (no go for john, stored and exploit in the db for the site.)

     

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    CrushU, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 1:45pm

    Hacking

    You'd expect they'd be trying it in the comments on this article.

     

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    Coy, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 2:51pm

    In all fairness

    Facebook TOS clearly states that anything on their website (inlcuding user added info and data) belongs to Facebook and they own the copyright for it, so by it being displayed elsewhere by other sites without permsioon, the copyright arguement is valid. Whether or not the law should be changed is a different issue.

     

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      Mike (profile), Jan 5th, 2009 @ 3:39pm

      Re: In all fairness

      Facebook TOS clearly states that anything on their website (inlcuding user added info and data) belongs to Facebook and they own the copyright for it, so by it being displayed elsewhere by other sites without permsioon, the copyright arguement is valid. Whether or not the law should be changed is a different issue.

      Copyright isn't determined by Terms of Service, it's determined by copyright law, and I'd have a difficult time understanding how this use would not pass the four factors test for fair use.

       

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    anonymous coward, Jan 5th, 2009 @ 7:41pm

    duh

    yeah! other social networking sites
    do ask for the username and pass!
    i don't think power.com copied their own!
    duh! i can't believe they would think like that!

     

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    Peter Rockefeller, Jan 6th, 2009 @ 12:59pm

    suggest 2 options:

    1) get off of facebook.com since it wants to control its users

    2) look at truly open source id connecting

    any business, power.com included, is trying to build a business around monetizing its users

    power.com is no different, it is backed by venture capital and wants to own the user some day

     

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    Neahga Leonard, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 6:26am

    Facebook vs Power.com

    You haven't done your research, a few seconds on Google brings up lots of articles discussing this matter. According to http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/01/02/facebook-defends-its-turf-sues-powercom/ the following quote from their article explains the main source of conflict:

    "Specifically they object to the storage of user credentials on the Power.com servers, the scraping of “proprietary data” from Facebook (user data), and other issues."

    Facebook has been concerned with the security of the user data. Having that data mined and placed into someone else's hands concerns them and their clients.

    Pretty straightforward. The other stuff is part of the typical lawsuit negotiating tactic... doesn't make it right, but that's the way it's played. The primary data privacy issue is a valid one though and well worth bringing to court.

     

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    sprearson81 (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 7:05pm

    Boggles the mind.

     

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