Tag Archives: Copyright infringement

You Always Hurt The One You Love

There is an old song made famous by The Mills Brothers. The first two lines are:

You always hurt the one you love
The one you shouldn’t hurt at all

Today’s screed is the unbelievable tale of a media entity that is doing just that. Why unbelievable? Because if I asked you to tell me the absolute dumbest thing any company could do you just might respond with exactly what this company is doing. Let me explain.

The Walking Dead is AMC’s (and maybe TV‘s) biggest show. Not unexpectedly, there are many fan groups that interact via social media. One of the biggest – about 400,000 strong – is a Facebook group called “The Spoiling Dead Fans.” As you might guess from the name, part of what the group does is to make predictions about what will occur in upcoming episodes, and lately, it’s about who was killed by a barbed wire coated baseball bat (named Lucille). These fans, as you might guess, would be classified as “hard-core.” They watch the show, the discuss the show, they pick apart every episode for clues. In short – they’re what every media entity wants: engaged, excited consumers.

So how has AMC rewarded these loyal fans? In their words:

In the past two years, AMC has filed several wrongful DMCA notices against us with full knowledge that we could not file counter-notices, hired investigators to intimidate our members, and threatened our local members with arrest, among other questionable acts.

Yep. They’re threatening to sue them. AMC believes “the predictions on the board are based on copyright protected, trade secret information about the most critical plot information in the unreleased next season of The Walking Dead”. If you’re not shaking your head about now, you should be. It’s not as if the fans have released footage or are torrenting purloined episodes. All they’re doing is keeping the show top of mind while it’s off the air between seasons. Is suing them for that really the best response?

If you’re over the age of 30, you’re old enough to remember when the music industry spent a lot of time and money suing consumers rather than using those resources to come up with a better business model (Steve Jobs did that for them). I think that alienation persists to this day.

I can’t imagine any instance where suing your best customers – hurting the ones who you shouldn’t hurt at all – is the best solution to a problem. Frankly, I’m not even sure that in this case there even is a problem. You?

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Filed under Huh?, Reality checks

How The Cookies Crumble

This Foodie Friday we’re doing something a little different and putting on our intellectual property hats. I know – how is that food-related? Well, I came across a lawsuit last week that involves both things: food and IP.

English: Milano mint chocolate cookies by Pepp...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve ever been to Trader Joe’s you’ve probably seen a number of products on the shelves or in the freezers that look vaguely like other products you’ve seen in supermarkets. There are goldfish shaped crackers that are not Goldfish (capital G), cream-filled chocolate cookies that aren’t Oreos, and oval-shaped cookies with a layer of chocolate that are not Milanos. It’s these last items that triggered the lawsuit.

Apparently Pepperidge Farm does not consider imitation to be the sincerest form of flattery. As Reuters reported:

In a complaint filed on Wednesday in the New Haven, Connecticut federal court, Pepperidge Farm said Trader Joe’s is damaging its goodwill and confusing shoppers through its sale of Trader Joe’s Crispy Cookies.

We can debate whether or not a consumer would confuse the similar shape and packaging with the original cookie, but I’d like us to think about something.  When you see a store brand or other generic product in a store, are you confused as to whether this is the name brand?  I’d venture most of us aren’t.  Generics generally are competing on price while offering relatively equal (they claim) quality.  The issue, then, is how unique is your product?  There are lots of phones running Android (yes, I’m aware most of them us a forked version, unique to the phone and carrier).  While there have been lawsuits (Apple suing Samsung, for example) about the various features of a phone, no one is confusing an iPhone with a Galaxy.  I know about laws on things such as trade dress (the package, for example), but can you protect a flavor?  A shape?  Generally, when I buy a store brand, I know I’m trading off something for the price savings.

Rather than worrying about consumers buying “fake” Milanos, maybe Pepperidge Farm needs to focus on educating consumers as to why their cookie is just better and worth a few pennies more.  As a society, I think we spend too much time looking for people to sue and not enough time making what we sell better.  Better products usually mean better sales and better market share.  That’s the way those cookies crumble in my book.  Yours?

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Filed under Consulting, food


Image representing RIAA, Recording Industry As...

I’ll admit that I’m not the brightest guy in the world but it’s apparent even to me that suing your customers is a bad idea no matter what business you’re in.  When you’re in a business that is struggling due to a sea-change in the economic model under which you’ve operated, alienating the customer is tantamount to suicide.  And yet… Continue reading

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Filed under digital media, Helpful Hints, Huh?, Reality checks