by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 19th 2007 8:43pm
A few years ago, we had a story about a store that was kicking people out if they caught them comparison shopping via a mobile device. Obviously, a store can kick out anyone they want to, but perhaps a better approach is to actually focus on better serving the customer so that when they're done comparison shopping, they still want to buy from you (either because you have the best price, or you offer some additional convenience or service they can't get elsewhere). This issue seems to be coming up again, but with a new twist. alex writes in to let us know that the bookstore at Harvard is kicking people out for taking too many notes about pricing (via Boing Boing). When confronted about this, the store's president actually claimed that book prices were the store's "intellectual property." Of course, just because you say something is your intellectual property, it doesn't mean it is. Unfortunately for the bookstore, the law is pretty clear that you can't copyright facts -- and whether the bookstore likes it or not, prices are facts. The store certainly has the right to refuse service to anyone, but that doesn't mean that it's smart for business or that copying down prices infringes on any kind of intellectual property. Update: To clarify, there are apparently a few different bookstores at Harvard. This particular one is the Harvard Coop, run by Barnes & Noble and the University. There is another bookstore, called The Harvard Book Store that is independent and has nothing to do with this story.
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