First, let me say that I occasionally do shop at Lowe's, but not that often. There is one literally across the street from my office, so it's easy to stop by after work -- but my office is a good 25-minute drive away, so if I just need stuff on weekends, there are about six Home Depots that are much, much closer. Lowe's also feels oddly sterile, whereas Home Depot has the feel of a place where people are actually getting stuff done. That said, I'm sort of in awe at the monumental insanity of Lowe's having a special license agreement you're supposed to fill out
to link to its site (as pointed out by Ars Technica's Nate Anderson):
Not quite knowing where to start, I figured I'd just list out the ways that this is just crazy:
- Okay, let's start with the obvious one: you don't need, have never needed and will never need a license to link to another website. Sorry. It's just ridiculous to even contemplate such a thing -- especially in this day and age.
- Yes, okay, so we've heard a few stories of sites doing similar things in the past... but they were either wacko sites run by nutty people, or they happened a decade or more ago, before people understood the web. Well, or a government-connected bureaucracy. That this would be a giant retailer in 2012 requiring such a license to link? That's just insane.
- Note that they have not one, but three separate licenses to link. The other two are much more about if you're using logos or other trademarks, which is only slightly more understandable (though there are plenty of situations under which you wouldn't need a license to use their logo or marks either...). But this highlights the key insanity. If it had just been one license that talked about logo/mark usage, they may have been able to claim that's really all they meant. But here, they've specifically carved out the situation under which no logo/mark is being used. In other words, they've deliberately carved out the situation in which no license would ever be needed.... and then offered up a license for that. That's insane.
- The only way to send the signed license in is to fax it. Yes. The only way. For a license about internet links. Is to fax it. Fax. That's insane.
- Lowe's insists that it can terminate this license for any reason. Except... um... such a license is not valid and anyone can link to them. So, terminate away.
- When Anderson contacted Lowe's PR about this, rather than taking down the bogus license or just running and hiding in shame for being digitally clueless, the company stood by the license:
"Managing link agreements is part of protecting our brand," is the polite reply I received. "The process we have in place to handle links to lowes.com is a business decision."
Let's be clear about this: nothing in that statement makes one iota of sense. It's pure insanity. Managing link agreements does nothing to protect your brand, because it's licensing something that doesn't require a license because you have no control over it. At all. In fact, it's the opposite of protecting your brand, because it makes your brand, and your entire company, look clueless. Also, it may have been a "business decision," but it's one that makes no sense, carries no legal weight, and makes the company seem entirely ridiculous.
Of course, it looks like it might be working in keeping people from actually linking to Lowe's. If I do a quick search to see how many sites are linking to Lowe's, Google tells me 822. If I do the same for Home Depot, it's 27,700. Perhaps Lowe's might want to stop restricting how people link to it...