Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Companies:
datadial, shopzilla



Shopzilla Threatens To Sue Site For 3 Year Old Neutral Link To Shopzilla... Then Apologizes

from the but-did-they-fire-their-lawyer? dept

I really thought we were past the days when lawyers would send out cease and desists over linking, but that's what happened last week to Datadial, who received a legal nastygram from Shopzilla, arguing that the mention of Shopzilla with a three year old link to the site was infringing on both copyright and trademark law. Datadial exaggerates a bit, and claims that they're being "sued" for linking, but it doesn't appear any actual lawsuit was filed, just the threat letter was sent. Still, that letter is crazy. The mention of Shopzilla certainly is neither copyright nor trademark infringement. It was just a listing of a link of "other product review sites" because Datadial was doing a review of a competing site. Thus, the legal threat makes less than no sense. It was just a link. There's nothing infringing about it.

The "good" news to come out of this is that the folks at Shopzilla quickly responded and insisted that the letter was sent in mistake. Shopzilla's VP of Operations, David Bixler responded in the comments:
I'm terribly sorry you received the letter from our attorney's office. We appreciate that your site is not a spam site and is not mis-using our trademark. We flag up thousands of backlinks that are potentially spam and unfortunately your site slipped through our filter. Please disregard the notice...
That's a semi-decent response, but not really. Links alone are not infringing. Even if they're worried about backlinks, that doesn't mean they get to abuse the law even just to take down backlinks that may be judged as spam. Furthermore, they suggest that this "slipping through" is just a minor accident, though if I were them, I'd be looking for a (much) better lawyer -- because anyone sending cease and desist letters based on that obviously non-infringing use is billing too much money.

That said, Shopzilla did do one cool thing. In the original post, Datadial joked that the threat made the original author sit down and eat a Twix bar and drink some wine, and they asked Shopzilla to pay for the food, saying the consumption of it was brought on by stress from the threat. In response, Shopzilla sent them a bottle of wine and a box of Twix. That part was nicely handled, though it still seems problematic that any of this ever happened at all.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2013 @ 1:28am

    Not again!

    I'm sick of hearing these "whoops, sorry, our legal department went overboard" excuses from misbehaving companies. I want a full explanation of exactly what caused this!
    What the heck was Shopzilla doing?! What do they mean by "spam site"? What is "flag up thousands of backlinks that are potentially spam" even supposed to mean?!

    The closest thing to a logical explanation I can come up with is that Shopzilla runs a bot that looks for link farms or content farms based on some sort of (apparently flawed) algorithm and sends a legal nastygram to any such site that links to Shopzilla. I guess it gets site owners' e-mail addresses via WHOIS or something?

    Of course, that's not technically a logical explanation, since I'm not sure what exactly they'd gain from doing that, and besides, last I heard Google was downranking those farms into irrelevance. Does anyone know what's actually going on with Shopzilla?

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