Mr. BlackFriday, Take Down Those Prices!

by on November 15, 2006 · 10 comments

Best Buy has forced BlackFriday to take down information about its upcoming sale prices. I agree with Matt:

This is absurd. We’re inching toward companies being able to prevent newspapers from publishing any sort of adverse information just all on vague copyright grounds. Facts are facts and people are entitled to circulate them.

Best Buy (ab)used the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown provisions to force the prices off the web. Alas, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Four retailers pulled the same stunt back in 2002.

This is a serious problem with copyright law that doesn’t have a clear solution that I can see. It’s fairly common for a big company to send cease and desist letters to small companies or individuals alleging copyright infringement. Much of the time, the law is on the side of the little guy, but even hiring a lawyer to make the appropriate argument in court is far more expensive than complying with the letter’s demands. A good first step, though, would be to scale back the draconian statutory damages that now apply to copyright infringement. It might also be good to either have an expedited process to get frivolous copyright lawsuits dismissed or some kind of loser-pays provision for frivolous copyright lawsuits.

Although some people blame this sort of thing on the DMCA, it’s not clear to me that the DMCA is the culprit. The ultimate problem is the underlying copyright liability, which would exist with or without the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown provisions.

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