Shopzilla Threatens To Sue Site For 3 Year Old Neutral Link To Shopzilla... Then Apologizes

from the but-did-they-fire-their-lawyer? dept

I really thought we were past the days when lawyers would send out cease and desists over linking, but that's what happened last week to Datadial, who received a legal nastygram from Shopzilla, arguing that the mention of Shopzilla with a three year old link to the site was infringing on both copyright and trademark law. Datadial exaggerates a bit, and claims that they're being "sued" for linking, but it doesn't appear any actual lawsuit was filed, just the threat letter was sent. Still, that letter is crazy. The mention of Shopzilla certainly is neither copyright nor trademark infringement. It was just a listing of a link of "other product review sites" because Datadial was doing a review of a competing site. Thus, the legal threat makes less than no sense. It was just a link. There's nothing infringing about it.

The "good" news to come out of this is that the folks at Shopzilla quickly responded and insisted that the letter was sent in mistake. Shopzilla's VP of Operations, David Bixler responded in the comments:
I'm terribly sorry you received the letter from our attorney's office. We appreciate that your site is not a spam site and is not mis-using our trademark. We flag up thousands of backlinks that are potentially spam and unfortunately your site slipped through our filter. Please disregard the notice...
That's a semi-decent response, but not really. Links alone are not infringing. Even if they're worried about backlinks, that doesn't mean they get to abuse the law even just to take down backlinks that may be judged as spam. Furthermore, they suggest that this "slipping through" is just a minor accident, though if I were them, I'd be looking for a (much) better lawyer -- because anyone sending cease and desist letters based on that obviously non-infringing use is billing too much money.

That said, Shopzilla did do one cool thing. In the original post, Datadial joked that the threat made the original author sit down and eat a Twix bar and drink some wine, and they asked Shopzilla to pay for the food, saying the consumption of it was brought on by stress from the threat. In response, Shopzilla sent them a bottle of wine and a box of Twix. That part was nicely handled, though it still seems problematic that any of this ever happened at all.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 9:42am

    Well...

    At least there was an apology.

    Even if this shouldn't have happened in the first place.

     

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

  2.  
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    Ninja (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 10:03am

    Re: Well...

    For twix and wine? Yes, please threaten me!

     

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

  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 11:26am

    Links alone are not infringing.

    Willfully blind, as per usual. A link can make the linker liable as an indirect infringer, Mike. Why ignore reality? I know you don't like it, but lying about it doesn't make it go away.

     

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

  4.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 11:34am

    Re:

    This is hilarious. Do you write newsletters or something with that crazy, AC?

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 11:40am

    Re:

    Considering we're talking about links *to the site* complaining about infringing, I'm afraid Mike isn't the one lying.

     

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

  6.  
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    Leigh Beadon (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 11:44am

    Re:

    Willfully blind, as per usual. A link can make the linker liable as an indirect infringer

    That is an entirely different issue, to do with linking to infringing content.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Well...

    Of course, if it weren't something that shouldn't have happened in the first place, then there would be no need to apologize.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:06pm

    Re:

    Spend a day vrowsing the web at ransom, and determine the copyright status and owner for every piece of information, including files and images. Note, copyright status include licensed for use. If you can do that you can claim linkers are wilfully blind.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:10pm

    Re:

    Indirect infringer eh?

    There is no such thing (at least there should not be), a link is a link, it means nothing without the content it links to. The content is what is infringing (and that's questionable too), the link is merely an address. Of course for the big media companies, they cant be bothered with that, they just spam Google with DMCA notices for every link on the page, hoping to, I don't know, crash their servers.

     

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

  10. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:28pm

    Yet another mistake twisted by Mike to attack copyright.

    "Even if they're worried about backlinks, that doesn't mean they get to abuse the law even just to take down backlinks that may be judged as spam." -- It's not an abuse of the law to threaten suit against a spammer. Mike apparently sides with spammers too.

    And it may be a PR stunt. Who ever heard of either before?


    Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up same place!
    http://techdirt.com/
    Where Mike Monetizes Mania.
    08:27:55[j-730-1]

     

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

  11.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:40pm

    The real question is

    How has Shopzilla not been sued by Toho?

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Yet another mistake twisted by Mike to attack copyright.

    Here comes the banhammer...

     

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

  13.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Re: Yet another mistake twisted by Mike to attack copyright.

    So such thing on this site, other than when dealing with spam-bots. TD's version of the banhammer is simply the report button, putting the power to hide comments the readers object to in the hands of the readers.

     

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

  14.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Yet another mistake twisted by Mike to attack copyright.

    *No such thing

     

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

  15.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 4:54pm

    Everyone screws up at times

    It isn't the screwup (usually) that is a problem (sometimes), but how you deal with it. It sounds like Shopzilla handled this pretty well, and though it remains to be seen if they clean up their act, their overall behavior makes me hopeful that they will stop acting like bullies.

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2013 @ 1:28am

    Not again!

    I'm sick of hearing these "whoops, sorry, our legal department went overboard" excuses from misbehaving companies. I want a full explanation of exactly what caused this!
    What the heck was Shopzilla doing?! What do they mean by "spam site"? What is "flag up thousands of backlinks that are potentially spam" even supposed to mean?!

    The closest thing to a logical explanation I can come up with is that Shopzilla runs a bot that looks for link farms or content farms based on some sort of (apparently flawed) algorithm and sends a legal nastygram to any such site that links to Shopzilla. I guess it gets site owners' e-mail addresses via WHOIS or something?

    Of course, that's not technically a logical explanation, since I'm not sure what exactly they'd gain from doing that, and besides, last I heard Google was downranking those farms into irrelevance. Does anyone know what's actually going on with Shopzilla?

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Pete Austin, Apr 25th, 2013 @ 1:54am

    This is not unusual

    My company was involved in a similar incident when we added integration with a fast moving eCommerce vendor to our system, at the request of a mutual customer, and mentioned the support on our Website.

    Although this could only benefit them, because we already supported their competitors, their lawyers sent a similar letter to the one in this post. I assumed that the lawyers were using an automated system and that whoever had checked the results before sending out letters had simply made a mistake.

    We reacted by cutting back by re-focussing our marketing to help users of different ecommerce systems, because the cost of dealing with companies that communicate via their lawyers is higher.

     

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

  18.  
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    Anders Nielsen (profile), Apr 25th, 2013 @ 1:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Yet another mistake twisted by Mike to attack copyright.

    When you get above 100 posts and 99% of them is reported, I think it's time to get the GTFO hammer.

     

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


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