Demand Media Threatens Critic Blog

from the are-these-lawyers-stupid? dept

There are a ton of so-called "sucks sites" out there, set up to critique or just ridicule a particular company. Early on, companies often tried to sue such sites out of existence using questionable trademark claims. These efforts mostly (though not always) failed. But, more importantly, the process really backfired thanks to the Streisand Effect. Every time a company went legal after a sucks site, the site and its content only got significantly more attention. Two years ago, it was claimed that corporate lawyers had finally wised up and realized that going legal on such sites only gave those sites significantly more attention.

However, since then, we still hear about such legal threats all the time. Apparently there are still a lot of lawyers out there who haven't received the message. The latest apparently is Demand Media, the content farm giant. Its lawyers sent a cease & desist and a takedown to Demand Studio Sucks.

Rather than a full legal threat against the site, it was focused on the fact that some users on the site had apparently uploaded a presentation in the forums, which Demand considered to be proprietary. Thus, the basis of the takedown was that it violated the company's copyrights and trademark. It appears that DSS's ISP overreacted and rather than taking down the specific content, took down the entire forum. Of course, all this has done is drive much more attention to the content Demand wants removed: a presentation slide showing how Demand is trying to increase quality (now that Google has changed its algorithm to punish crappy quality content that Demand has been associated with in the past).

Demand's lawyers claim:
Demand Media has not granted you any license to use the Demand Media trademark, to publish or copy Demand Media copyrighted content, or to publicize Demand Media’s confidential and proprietary business information. Accordingly, in addition to violating Demand Media’s intellectual property rights in the referenced materials, the postings are disruptive, damaging and harmful to our business practices and reputation.
The intellectual property claims seem totally unfounded. There's no trademark claim. There's no consumer confusion or dilution here at all. No one thinks that DSS is "endorsed" by Demand Media. The copyright claim is dubious. Looking at the blog post in question, I can't see how it's not fair use. It's showing a single slide from a presentation that's certainly relevant, and providing significant commentary on that slide.

The "damaging and harmful to our business practices and reputation" claims are also pretty dubious, though I guess there could be some random state law claims they're thinking they could use here. But, I just don't see it. Someone reporting critically on your business may be disruptive and damaging, but is not illegal. And, honestly, the slide presentation in question is hardly some giant corporate secret. The slide is so bland and pointless and corporatey, it doesn't really give away anything.

Honestly, it's hard to believe anyone thought it was a wise move to go after DSS this way. It just gets them more attention and makes Demand look petty and silly. It's no surprise that the Forbes coverage of this story (the original link above) highlights that this happened at the same time as Demand's valuation dropped under $1 billion for the first time....


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    xenomancer (profile), Jul 25th, 2011 @ 3:35pm

    Free Publicity

    Oh the irony of Demand Media NOT wanting its content accessed. Still, one would venture a guess that any news of higher quality content from them would be something they might want to share with the public.

     

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    SUNWARD (profile), Jul 25th, 2011 @ 4:13pm

    result?

    clicked on the links to find out what was so important.

    When will they learn?

     

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      identicon
      DCL, Jul 25th, 2011 @ 4:52pm

      Re: result?

      Maybe they didn't want their shareholders to find out about their higher quality scheme as then the shareholders would expect it. It might lead to the company getting sued for not being a good stock issuer.

      A stock price is the market's perception of what everybody's else's perceptions are. So if you keep the expected perception low and over deliver (or not at all) then you are doing well!

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2011 @ 5:35pm

    What happened to free speech?

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2011 @ 6:27pm

      Re:

      What happened to free speech?

      It got penned into a free speech zone. Tear-gassed. Pepper-sprayed. Cuffed with plastic ties.

      The TV news crews videoed it, from their safe vantage point behind the police lines. Viewers watched without sympathy: ”The dirty protesters had it coming.“ Most people, though, just flipped the channel—tuned into American Idol.

       

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    Sparkle Plenty, Jul 25th, 2011 @ 6:14pm

    Use Google Chrome and Mark All the Demand Media Crap as Spam

    I use Google Chrome and Take Great Felight in Marking all the Demand Media Crap as Spam. Try it! Watch their ranking tumble into the dust!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2011 @ 8:48pm

    It's not exactly a fan site. Damage and harm is the point. My defense would be: Yeah, so what?

    There is a higher bar to pass to prove libel against public figures such as politicians than for ordinary citizens. I'd argue that once a company pays a lobbyist to affect legislation they become politicians. That should open them up to them same level of free-wheeling criticism that politicians endure.

     

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    ken (profile), Jul 25th, 2011 @ 10:27pm

    Freedom of Speech DOES Apply to Corporations

    Many corporations have the mistaken idea that the Constitional gaurantee of Freedom of Speech on applies to criticizing the government, however the Constitution makes no distinction. If the government did these things you could sue the government for civil rights violations. It may be time to do the same for corporations that trample on Constitutional rights.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2011 @ 10:43am

      Re: Freedom of Speech DOES Apply to Corporations

      You are an idiot. It does not apply to corporations. It is explicitly the restrictions of government.

      Show me a line in the US Constitution where it states the government can limit the power of corporations? You might notice if you can read that it states that congress can regulate interstate commerce. That is the closest thing to mentioning corporations in the document.

      Try reading before you make a fool of yourself again.

       

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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Jul 26th, 2011 @ 6:13am

    Well, they truly do suck, don't they?

    So if they suck so bad, what's their bitch? Oh, I get it! They're a bunch of thin-skinned pussies, who suck. That about covers it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2011 @ 8:37am

    Didn't know

    I didn't know Demand Studio sucked. Now I do. Thanks, Demand Media, Inc. Legal Department!

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Jul 26th, 2011 @ 10:14am

    Demand and its takedown

    To paraphrase Will Rogers, "God must love ignorant people - he made so MANY of them!".
    LAWYERS don't run a company. LAWYERS don't make strategic decisions. Like engineers, tech writers, etc., LAWYERS are told to do "X" and figure out how to use the legal system to do it.
    I visualize a lawyer telling the corporate officers who wanted a take down that it is not a good idea; and being told to "just go do it".
    But, bloggers, who seem to be more intelligent than most, fall into the same trap as the ignorami; attack the messenger!

     

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    Lyrafire, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 8:44am

    Oh, DMS, Quit Sniveling

    DSS would never have formed if DMS weren't utterly and idiotically inconsistent with contractors. What is good is bad; what is bad, is good. Today. Tomorrow, it will be different. Editors who haven't read the guidelines routinely send work back for a rewrite, asking for changes that go against guidelines. The writer's choice: violate guidelines and let the uninformed editor make policy on the fly. Defy the editor and risk a rejection. If that happens and the writer asks them to reconsider, there's a very good chance that the powers that be will rake through the article until they find a comma error or something, and then acknowledge that the editor made a mistake, but the rejection stands because the article did indeed have an error in it.

    Why the Board of Directors allows twenty-somethings who do not know what good writing is and who clearly have no administrative experience make policy is beyond me.

    So DSS crops up. No surprise there.

     

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    identicon
    Lyrafire, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 8:53am

    Oh, DMS, Quit Sniveling

    DSS would never have formed if DMS weren't utterly and idiotically inconsistent with contractors. What is good is bad; what is bad is good. Today. Tomorrow, it will be different. Editors who haven't read the guidelines routinely send work back for a rewrite, asking for changes that go against guidelines. The writer's choice: violate guidelines and let the uninformed editor make policy on the fly. Defy the editor and risk a rejection. If that happens and the writer asks them to reconsider, there's a very good chance that the powers that be will rake through the article until they find a comma error or something, and then acknowledge that the editor made a mistake, but the rejection stands because the article did indeed have an error in it.

    Why the Board of Directors allows twenty-somethings who do not know what good writing is and who clearly have no administrative experience make policy is beyond me.

    So DSS crops up. No surprise there.

     

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


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