August 11, 2005 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Yoink! John Walkenbach (J-walk) wrote a cute little thing for his site about something called Wifi Speed Spray. Recently he was alerted that not only had someone completely stolen his idea and put it in a ebay auction, they took the artwork and all. When John contacted the seller to ask him to cut it out, the guy refused, claiming that John couldn't prove he was the author. What does one do in the information age when someone completely rips you off, claims credit for what you wrote, and refuses to admit any wrong doing?

Obviously, John could go through the legal hassles of contacting a lawyer, writing a cease-and-desist, etc. etc. but for a webpage that was made on a lark, it's really not worth the effort and expense. John's apparently already contact eBay about it, but has yet to hear back from them, assuming they take any action at all.
posted by crunchland to Law & Government (14 answers total)
There's not precedent for a case in this instance, due to prior art. The "WiFi Speed Spray" novelty is a variation of the Internet Cleaning Day" hoax, and could be dismissed as derivative.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:30 PM on August 11, 2005

The Internet Archive is presumably an impartial source, and he can use that to prove it's been on his site since at least June 29, 2003.
posted by smackfu at 1:31 PM on August 11, 2005

Register the domain http://www.*sucks.com and complain about the thief's actions. Googlebomb as best you can, or buy Google ads so that people know what's up.

On subsequent work, if you plan to make money from it and it isn't software, add a Creative Commons license marker that specifies clearly which rights you reserve.

While you reserve all rights automatically, you can assume your work has been entered into the public domain for all the logistic difficulties in defending that copyright after the fact, if you do not clearly mark your property.
posted by Rothko at 1:32 PM on August 11, 2005

Since this stuff doesn't actually work, couldn't this auction be pulled for false advertising? I didn't see a disclaimer about it being a novelty gag either.
posted by idiotfactory at 1:45 PM on August 11, 2005

Auctioneer's website.
posted by jimmy at 1:52 PM on August 11, 2005

Consider it flattery, take a deep breath, and move on.
posted by mendel at 1:52 PM on August 11, 2005

eBay is pretty good about removing listings reported to its VeRO program.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:59 PM on August 11, 2005

Use the VeRO program, and consider whether a DMCA take-down notice might be applicable.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:12 PM on August 11, 2005

If you send a notice to Ebay they'll probably take down the auction. This guy has 98.1% positive feedback score and 227 positive feedbacks. That crap is important on ebay, and if he gets his account suspended, it would suck for him.

The DMCA allows the author to send a notice without proving you own the copyright, and he could even get the guys' site taken off the 'net. That, also, would suck.

I don't think this is worth getting a lawyer over.
posted by delmoi at 2:31 PM on August 11, 2005

The guy is basically just telling the same joke. I don't think that is a crime.
posted by ryanissuper at 3:02 PM on August 11, 2005

This isn't a solution to the larger problem, but he could probably email the editors of Gizmodo, who recently linked to the ebay auction, and might be a big part of the reason the auction is getting so much attention. They didn't do anything wrong in linking to the ebay auction, since they didn't (presumably) know it was plagarized, but they've got a pretty big audience, so a follow up on their site might at least let people know what's going on.
posted by MsMolly at 3:12 PM on August 11, 2005

ryanissuper writes "The guy is basically just telling the same joke. I don't think that is a crime."

The text and images seem to be lifted wholesale. This is copyright violation, at least. It's certainly subject to a DMCA take-down notice.

Posting this as an ebay auction without any indication that it's a joke is probably also fraud, which is a crime.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:25 PM on August 11, 2005

for a webpage that was made on a lark, it's really not worth the effort and expense.

IMO that's the best answer. J-Walk earns a living via copyright, and thus probably has an automatic reflex to defend it, but I can't see how it could possibly do him any good in this particular case.
posted by sfenders at 6:42 PM on August 11, 2005

Well, for what it's worth...

eBay : "The seller ended this listing early because the item is no longer available for sale."

spectropolis.com : "The requested URL /speedspray/ was not found on this server."
posted by crunchland at 5:20 AM on August 12, 2005

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