Another chapter in the Facebook vs. Lamebook, errmm, book: the social networking giant has confirmed to us that it has moved to diligently block all outgoing links to Lamebook.com, shut down the two-person company’s Facebook Page (previously at facebook.com/thelamebook), and blocks visitors of the funny site from ‘liking’ posts to boot.
For your background: Facebook wants the Austin startup to quit using the name Lamebook, deeming its activities under that name an “improper attempt to build a brand that trades off Facebook’s popularity and fame”, and filed a trademark infringement lawsuit last week.
Update: Facebook CTO Bret Taylor has written this statement, explaining that this was a mistake:
This was a mistake on our part. In the process of dealing with a routine
trademark violation issue regarding some links posted to Facebook, we
blocked all mentions of the phrase “lamebook” on Facebook. We are
committed to promoting free expression on Facebook. We apologize for our
mistake in this case, and we are working to fix the process that led to
Lamebook had previously filed for declaratory judgment on its non-infringement of Facebook’s trademark, saying it operates a parody website and as such is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Bill McGeveran, law professor at the University of Minnesota, is just one of many to believe Lamebook actually has a pretty strong case:
Without some lenience for parody, comment and so-called “nominative use,” it would become impossible even to refer to an iconic brand without using its name, thus infringing on trademark rights. Fortunately, when faced with these disputes, most courts now realize their role as protectors of speech.
And even Facebook doesn’t even try to stop use of the company’s trademark in a newspaper story about the company, or go after sites that track it (or, for that matter, in the highly fictionalized and rather negative account of its founding in The Social Network.)
But if Facebook won’t be prevailing in court, that doesn’t mean they can’t just try and proverbially choke Lamebook to death.
They’ve most certainly dealt a major blow to the two-person startup by actively discouraging Facebook users from posting links to their website and refraining them from liking posts. Removing Lamebook’s fan page is one thing, but it’s safe to assume their funny site used to get a fair amount of traffic from the Facebook site that it’s no longer getting now.
For a tiny startup that relies on those pageviews for income – it’s an ad-supported website – Facebook’s move could cost them dearly.
Lamebook, meanwhile, is actively soliciting donations from visitors for its ‘Legal Fund’. The site also put up a notice on top of its website, which reads:
Well, Facebook didn’t like us sticking up for ourselves, so they shut down our Fan Page, are preventing any users from “liking” us, and won’t even let you share URLs with your friends if they point to Lamebook. In light of this, be sure to follow us on Twitter so you get updated with the latest and funniest of the lame!
I got in touch with Facebook, and they confirmed that they’re actively blocking Lamebook links and likes. Here’s their official statement on the matter:
Our terms prohibit posting of material or other activities on Facebook that infringe the rights of others. We reserve the right to pull down any content we believe is infringing. We also specifically prohibit use of any Facebook or confusingly similar marks (See SRR Sec. 5.1, 5.2 & 5.6 http://www.facebook.com/terms.php)
To be continued, no doubt.