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Twitter’s Response To PeopleBrowsr Lawsuit: ‘This Is Contracts 101′

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When the news broke earlier this evening that PeopleBrowsr had won a temporary restraining order protecting its access to Twitter’s firehose of data, Twitter provided a terse response saying that it plans to “vigorously defend” itself in the broader legal case. Now the company has given me its actual filing in response to PeopleBrowsr — technically, the filing focuses on the restraining order (an issue on which Twitter lost), but it also lays out the other side of the story, and some of Twitter’s broader arguments.

As a refresher, Twitter is trying to end its contract with PeopleBrowsr, directing the company to work with third-party data resellers like Gnip or DataSift. PeopleBrowsr argues that the move would do serious harm to its business, that Twitter is stifling competition, and that Twitter has an “obligation to provide an open ecosystem.” (That last claim may raise some eyebrows, but PeopleBrowsr tries to back it up by including public and private comments from Twitter employees about their interest in an open ecosystem, and it says it built its business around the assumption that the ecosystem would remain open.)

Twitter’s response is pretty dismissive. It writes:

This is Contracts 101. Although PeopleBrowsr attempts to dress its case up as some sort of grand antitrust or interference case, it is not. The operative facts could not be simpler, or more dispositive. PeopleBrowsr and Twitter negotiated, at arm’s length, an integrated contract with a one year term, after which either party could terminate at will after giving 30 days’ notice. Twitter has exercised that contractual right. PeopleBrowsr attempts to ignore the plain language of the contract by imagining completely different contract, arguing that ‘Twitter contracted to provide an open ecosystem.’ … Nonsense.

Twitter goes on to say that its business relationships have changed over time. With the demand for firehose data growing, it’s no longer interested in having direct relationships with every company that wants access, and instead, it’s working with three intermediaries (Gnip, DataSift, and Topsy) to resell the data:

Unlike its competitors, PeopleBroWsr has repeatedly demanded that it be allowed to continue, apparently forever, to receive a product and pricing structure that Twitter no longer offers. After repeatedly being told that Twitter does not choose to enter into such a contract, as is unquestionably Twitter’s right, PeopleBrowsr asks this Court to compel Twitter to continue do business with it — not on the terms Twitter offers to PeopleBrowsr and its competitors, but rather on whatever terms PeopleBrowsr demands.

Here’s the full response.

2012-1.11.28 Opposition to Application for TRO