FedEx Throws A DMCA Fit Over Creative Use Of Their Boxes

from the lawyers-have-no-sense-of-humor dept

Corporate lawyers really do have no sense of humor, do they? Recently, one of the popular sites that was getting linked and passed around was It was, like so many “pass around” sites, an amusing website that you looked at, laughed at, and moved on. A software engineer trying to save some money ended up building a bunch of furniture for his new apartment using sturdy FedEx boxes. If anything, it was a nice little advertisement for the quality of FedEx boxes. FedEx lawyers, on the other hand, saw otherwise. They sent him a takedown notice, somehow believing that the site infringed on the DMCA — a law that has been misused more times than some of us can count. Luckily, the smart folks at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society agreed to take his case. They pointed out, quite correctly, that this case has nothing to do with copyright, and so the DMCA doesn’t even remotely apply (mis-applied or not). If anything it’s a trademark issue — and even that is a weak claim. Would anyone going to the site actually think that it was FedEx’s site? FedEx also claimed that this use of the boxes violated their terms of service, but as the folks at Stanford pointed out, there doesn’t appear to be anything in the terms of service that prevents making furniture out of the boxes. This is another case where corporate lawyers completely overreacted to any use of their company’s name. FedEx easily could have left this guy alone — or, even better, encouraged him. It would have made for a great, amusing, advertisement for FedEx. Instead, they look like a bunch of bullies.

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Comments on “FedEx Throws A DMCA Fit Over Creative Use Of Their Boxes”

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Loudsound says:

I posted this to the FedEx complaints site

Comments: I will write this with a very slim belief that it will get to anyone of importance. I jsut got done readin and research and article concerning FedEx and your recent handling of a internet legal matter. I can say in no unequivical terms that this was handled just about as poorly as possible in this day and age. Please do not try and justify it to me or have your lawyer-mongers seek spiteful retribution upon me either. Specifically this concerns the gentleman who was making furniture from your boxes. A humorous and a slice of the internet that makes web surfing interesting. Yet in with some perverse wisdom that only lawyers possess and managers listen to, FedEx deemed this man corporate enemy #1. I canoot impress upon you how foul and disgusting this makes FedEx look in the public eye. Again do not try and defend this – it cannot be done. It simply was the wrong thing to do. Where you could have used this as a viral marketing tool or promotion (some kind of!
contest perhaps? FedEx shipping giveaways?) you instead have taken the action that will cingularly and certianly do the most damage to your corporate goodwill. I will be vocal as many other internet authors already are in voicing our disfavour with FedEx. I think I have made my point quite clear and I only hope in some moment of clarity you will listen to it. Please, have a meeting at some point after the froth of your heavy handed and goulish choice has died down. At this meeting look around the room and ask “Is FedEx better off for having threatened a man with a website, do our customers feel better about us, is our service better. Was the public backlash really worth all of this?” This may take some time as I can tell you internet denizens have precious little appetite for megalithic corporation and their salivating pack-hounds of lawyers working tirelessley to justify their own existence. I am no MBA, I am not even a manager, but as an educated and professional man I t!
hink I know this: Making a non-operations choice that results in raisi
ng the ire of the common public to levels of “hate” and alienating existing and future customers……just seems – plainly stupid. Those are my 2 cents on the matter – good luck.

Ivan Sick says:

No Subject Given

They [FedEx] are probably worried that there will be a bunch of copycats. If 100,000 people see the site, and five percent of them decide to do the same thing, it could become expensive for them, since they distribute their boxes free (at least to account holders). Understandable, but really dumb.
P.S. Mike, I cant believe you didn’t bring up the Streisand effect again. You’ve been quite successful in propagating the term. First five Google hits either are Techdirt or refer to Techdirt. Much better than Dan Savage’s “santorum” push. (Only the first hit). Good job!

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