DMCA takedown as competition squasher

Posted on Thursday, September 23rd 2010 at 4:17 p.m.

Slashdot posted a story today about ZenMagnets’ legal wranglings with the much larger Buckyballs company. (Note - I will not be posting links to anything Buckyballs related for reasons which will soon become clear.

Both companies make strong micro-magnets that can formed into all sorts of cool shapes. ZenMagnets posted an eBay listing that offered sort of a Pepsi Challenge approach - get both sets of magnets and figure out which was better. Buckyballs CEO Jack Bronstein then responded with a voicemail threatening legal action. ZenMagnets posted the voicemail in a video, as well as running both Buckyballs and ZenMagnets through a series of quality and strength tests. Bronstein countered with a DMCA takedown notice on the video. Thanks to the internet, the video has been mirrored and resurfaced on YouTube.

This is an example of the DMCA being used, not to protect copyright, but as a blunt instrument to silence discussion of a product. The only grey area in the video as far as I am concerned is the posting of the actual audio of Bronstein’s amateurish threatening phone call - posting a transcript of the message would have sufficed. Nevertheless it really irritates me when a company responds to competition not through building a better product or demonstrating the value of the product, but by trying to silence criticism of the product through legal gymnastics.

I hope ZenMagnets prevails in this case.

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