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Wal-Mart Threatens Site Over Black Friday Ad Deals

from the didn't-we-do-this-already? dept

Want to know how we know the holidays are coming? It's not the Christmas decorations already showing up in stores; it's the annual ritual of retailers threatening any website that posts the deals from their "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving) sales circular prior to that day. Last year, Wal-Mart went beyond what others stores had done, in pre-threatening sites. In the past, companies like Target and Best Buy had simply threatened to sue sites after the ads went up. But Wal-Mart took it a step further and threatened to sue before the ads even went up, ignoring, of course that they don't own pricing data. The data on sales prices are not copyrightable and cannot be owned. Wal-Mart simply has no legal leg to stand on in demanding the data from the circular be taken down.

But why let that stop them? An anonymous reader alerts us to the fact that Wal-Mart is already sending the notices out to various sites, threatening legal ramifications if the sites were to post the prices prior to the date Wal-Mart makes them "official."

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  1. identicon
    Hugh Mann, 6 Oct 2008 @ 2:40pm

    Trade secret

    Price data CAN be a trade secret, if the idea is that it gives them a competitive advantage, and they take reasonable steps themselves to keep it confidential. Once Wal*Mart publishes the info, though, it's no longer secret (obviously), and is not otherwise protected by copyright. So, if this pricing data is posted by someone who got it legitimately (e.g., in their own newspaper), and was just being ambitious in getting it posted online, that's likely not something that can be stopped by Wal*Mart. However, if the way it gets posted is by someone who "misappropriated" the data (e.g., an employee leaked it), Wal*Mart may very well be able to succeed in a legal action against the wayward employee and anyone downstream who knew or should have known the data was supposed to be kept secret. HM

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