June 26, 2011

Following your competitor’s Twitter followers is now legal

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 3:52 pm

Two weeks ago the court in Amsterdam held that trying to get your competitor’s Twitter followers to follow you is indeed perfectly legal.

Mediavacature.nl (which means ‘mediajob.nl’) had asked the court to stop mediavacatures.nl from abusing their trademark. The court ruled that trying to hijack your competitor’s followers is not illegal per se (PDF, Dutch):

4.10 Twitter

The defendants admit that the Twitter account @mediavacatures is being used to follow customers of the plaintiff on Twitter. Twitter is all about following and being followed. Furthermore all data on Twitter are public. Following the followers of a competitor can therefore not be seen as an illegal act per se. What is more, profiting of somebody else’s product, effort, knowledge or insight is not illegal by itself, even if this harms the other party. This only becomes illegal if a Twitter user (intentionally or otherwise) causes confusion with the general public.

Unsurprisingly the court ended up finding for the plaintiff, but the defendant did not have to turn over their Twitter account, domain name and brand, as they were no longer allowed to keep using them anyway. The defendants call themselves MV Jobs Media now.

At Arnoud Engelfriet’s blog somebody claiming to work for Media Vacature (plaintiff) pointed out that the Twitter claim was just a small part of their set of claims.

(Illustration: Twitter logo. Link: De Pers.)

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May 17, 2009

Site convicted for Google’s automatic abstracts

Filed under: Automobiles,Online by Orangemaster @ 1:44 pm

If the case of car dealer Zwartepoort against website Miljoenhuizen.nl has been in the news before, it can only have been as the sort of easily mocked example of how some folks start lawsuits over really anything and everything, no matter how trivial and unwinnable their cases are. But now Zwartepoorte have gone and won theirs. When you searched Google for the company name, you would get amongst others a result from Miljoenhuizen.nl seemingly explaining the car dealer had gone bankrupt. You know the type:

Full name: Zwartepoorte. Specialty: BMW … This company has gone bankrupt.

These abstracts are machine generated. Google takes disparate phrases from a website and combines them into an abstract. Miljoenhuizen.nl obviously feels that the wrong people have been sued. Miljoenhuizen.nl told De Telegraaf (Dutch): “If the search result were to imply or insinuate that Zwartepoorte has gone bust, it would be Google’s responsibility, not ours.” I would take that a step further and say that nobody should have been sued in the first place.

It will be interesting to see what reasoning judge Sj. A. Rullman will come up with to explain her judgment. Meanwhile, I am waiting with trepidation to be sued by BMW car dealers, as I have my own story of the power of Google to tell. The last few weeks of December I got a constant stream of phone calls from people wishing to buy a nice shiny Beamer. My initials are B.M.W., and as it turns out I used to be the first link people would find when they googled for “BMW Amsterdam,” displayed prominently as part of Google Business with a map and a phone number. It got so bad that I stopped answering the phone, and started the message on my machine with the statement that “I am not a BMW dealer.” I must has cost some poor sod a lot of lost business that way.

Update: fixed type “Miljoenenhuizen.nl” to “Miljoenhuizen.nl.” Thanks, Nico.

Link: Iusmentis (Dutch). Photo by Gyver Chang, some rights reserved.

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