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August 12, 2005

FedEx Throws A DMCA Fit Over Creative Use Of Their Boxes

Corporate lawyers really do have no sense of humor, do they? Recently, one of the popular sites that was getting linked and passed around was FedExFurniture.com. It was, like so many "pass around" sites, an amusing website that you looked at, laughed at, and moved on. A software engineer trying to save some money ended up building a bunch of furniture for his new apartment using sturdy FedEx boxes. If anything, it was a nice little advertisement for the quality of FedEx boxes. FedEx lawyers, on the other hand, saw otherwise. They sent him a takedown notice, somehow believing that the site infringed on the DMCA -- a law that has been misused more times than some of us can count. Luckily, the smart folks at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society agreed to take his case. They pointed out, quite correctly, that this case has nothing to do with copyright, and so the DMCA doesn't even remotely apply (mis-applied or not). If anything it's a trademark issue -- and even that is a weak claim. Would anyone going to the site actually think that it was FedEx's site? FedEx also claimed that this use of the boxes violated their terms of service, but as the folks at Stanford pointed out, there doesn't appear to be anything in the terms of service that prevents making furniture out of the boxes. This is another case where corporate lawyers completely overreacted to any use of their company's name. FedEx easily could have left this guy alone -- or, even better, encouraged him. It would have made for a great, amusing, advertisement for FedEx. Instead, they look like a bunch of bullies.

Posted by dymaxion at August 12, 2005 12:01 AM


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