Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bridal association litigation takes down over 3000 sites, but some of these were legitimate and were destroyed by the aggressive litigation

Electronic Frontier Foundation today has a chilling story (by Daniel Nazer)  about site-blocking tactics that destroyed a few small businesses along the way, the sort of nightmare that SOPA could have created.

The alleged culprit is the American Bridal and Prom Industry Association which secured a temporary restraining order in Illinois shutting down over 3000 sites around the world for presumed trademark or copyright infringement.  Many of the companies served were domain name registrars, payment processors, or possibly advertisers.  The association claims that the defendants where Chinese hackers who had submitted fake WHOIS information, but some of the companies were legitimate, in various parts of the world, including Europe.

The EFF article explains several problems with the TRO’s, including jurisdiction, joinder, and due process.

But the ABPIA site’s home page confronts the visitor with the possibility that she could have been fooled by a fake website.  (Oh, it’s the “father of the bride” who arranges things, right? I don’t think that was true in my own parents’ case in 1940.)  Of course, fake websites are a problem in many business areas, because they could be vehicles for malware (even maybe ransomware) as well as lure payments away from the legitimate businesses they copy.

Search engines show that the downside of the litigation had not been reported much before. Here is a story on “ewednews” warning of the battle against online pirates back in 2012.   There seem to be other lawsuits, like described here in New Jersey  or this story.

The story is also cautionary.  Small businesses, whose owners really depend on their sites for a living (in a way that I personally don't right now, as if that "isn't fair") are indeed at peril for ordinary things. 

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