RealNetworks Destroying Dutch Webmaster's Life Because He Linked To A Reverse Engineered Alternative
from the seriously? dept
Via Slashdot, we get the story of a Dutch webmaster who is involved in a ridiculous lawsuit that RealNetworks (it still exists?) is putting him through. Apparently there’s a bit of free software out there called Real Alternative which, not surprisingly, is an alternative player for Real Media files. RealNetworks hasn’t been happy about this software for a while, even though it seems unlikely that many people still encode things in Real Media’s format. Either way, the company was successful in scaring the main distribution source about a year ago and has since gone after others.
However, in this case, it seems pretty clear that they’ve gone way too far. They sued a Dutch webmaster, Hilbrand Edskes, not because he was hosting or distributing the software, but because he had a link to the software on a webpage he maintains that lists a variety of freeware programs. It’s not hard to find all sorts of sites, including big names like CNET, that still distribute Real Alternative. Yet for whatever reason, it appears Real Networks chose to go after this guy for maintaining a list of freeware programs.
Making matters even more confusing and ridiculous, is that it appears that Edskes actually did remove the link when asked. Real claims he did not, but the company who seized his computers (after a judge ordered it, following a court filing from Real) admits that the links were actually removed right after he was told to remove them, and Edskes’ hosting company also confirms, via its backups, that he removed the link. But Real still saw the link at a later date due to some DNS caching… so it’s pushing ahead with the lawsuit. The article details how it’s already cost Edskes €66,000 in legal fees, and Real is asking for about €210,000 in fines and for its own €75,000 legal fees.
Even if Real Alternative is infringing (a claim that I think is pretty questionable in its own right), it’s pretty ridiculous to then sue someone just for linking to it, and to continue to sue him even after he shows that he removed the link in question. Real Networks was famous for having some nasty business practices and for forcing crapware on people, and it seems to be continuing that trend in the legal world as well.