Rip-off Report Back in Court

By Eric Goldman

It’s been a few months since I’ve blogged on new Rip-off Report litigation. For many companies, a blog hiatus might signal good news, but in Rip-off Report’s situation, it merely reflects that I’ve been falling behind in tracking all of the new lawsuits. I don’t blog all of their cases, but two relatively new lawsuits caught my attention:

Certain Approval Programs v. Xcentric Ventures, 2:08-cv-01608-MHB (D. Ariz. complaint filed Aug. 29, 2008).

Among the plaintiff’s allegations are that automatically putting the words “Rip-off Report” into a user report page’s title tag is defamatory and not covered by 230. The complaint has some useful screen shots depicting how Rip-off Report works.

Xcentric Ventures, L.L.C. v. Opinion Corp. dba Pissed Consumer, 2:08-cv-01841-JAT (D. Ariz. complaint filed Oct. 7, 2008).

Rip-off Report is on the plaintiff’s side (again), this time suing a putative competitor and its web host for copyright and trademark infringement. Among the interesting tidbits:

(1) Rip-off Report successfully sent three DMCA 512(c)(3) takedown notices to the web host but is suing the web host anyway for failing to terminate the hosting relationship.

(2) if Rip-off Report has ownership or an exclusive license to the user-supplied reports sufficient to have standing to sue, would this alter its ability to disclaim responsibility for the content of the reports? I think the answer should be “no”–see Schneider v. Amazon and Blumenthal v. Drudge–but exclusive control over user content for copyright enforcement purposes but without concomitant responsibility for other purposes will strike most people as counter-intuitive.

(3) the putative competitor allegedly infringed the Rip-off Report’s trademarks by creating and using the URL “http://rip-off-report.pissedconsumer.com” and putting “Rip-off Report” in the site metatags. Hmm…does Rip-off Report really want to establish the precedent that these activities infringe???

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