Category: Copyright Exchange 1998

stand your costco ground, citizen!

Date: Tue, 25 Aug 1998
From: Godfrey <>
Subject: stand your costco ground, citizen!

i had a similar experience when the 666 cough syrup people
objected to certain material on my site poking fun at the name
of their product. what ended up is that the president of the
company weighed in and, over the objections of his lawyers,
congratulated me on the site and offered to sponsor me in some
way. i'm still thinking on that one. but anyhow, the whole
story's at:

i enjoyed your parody. see you on the playa! (i'll be in

hochste lust!
godfrey daniels

By the way

Date: Fri, 7 Aug 1998
From: Dan Johnson <>
Subject: By the way

Rico, I know you were having some, uh, challanges with Costco,
so as a satisfied Costco Soulmate customer and a young
eager-beaver law student, I did a little bit of research on
your behalf...

I found this on Perkins Coie's own web site.  It is a landmark
case that decided that a provider is not responsible for the
content of its users over which it has no editorial control:

Zeran v. America Online, 129 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 11/12/97),
affirming 958 F.  Supp. 1124 (E.D. Va., 3/21/97), cert.
denied.: America Online (AOL) was not liable for allegedly
defamatory postings by one of its subscribers. Plaintiff
maintained that AOL was negligent in permitting anonymous
postings by an AOL subscriber accusing plaintiff of publishing
materials "glorifying" the Oklahoma City bombing. The court
affirmed that the claim was preempted by Section 230(c)(1)
of the Communications Decency Act, immunizing Internet service
providers from "distributor liability." Such liability would
create a disincentive for providers to review content for
potentially objectionable material, and would thus frustrate
one of the CDA's chief aims. If service providers were subject
to liability upon merely being notified of allegedly improper
material, it would place upon them a burden of investigation and
judgment far greater than that required of traditional print
publishers -- an impossible burden in the Internet context,
and a clear invitation to third parties to foment lawsuits and
leverage settlements by merely sending notice and demanding
action. This was not the intention of Congress.

Furthermore, you might want to point out that The Onion 
frequently has stories that parody not only real companies
but real people (Microsoft, Bill Gates, etc.)

Thought you'd want to know if it came up in the future.



letter from a law firm representing Costco

Date: Mon, 3 Aug 1998 
From: Jay Campbell <>
Subject: Re: web pages (fwd)

I received a letter from a law firm representing Costco
Wholesale Corporation explaining how your site was directly
violating copyright and state tradename laws, and a request
to take the site down to avoid legal action. Upon review of
your site, I am in agreement, and it will not be reactivated.

If you would like a copy of the letter (which also mentions
previous legal action around this same matter) please send me
a fax number.
Jay Campbell

web pages (fwd)

Date: Mon, 3 Aug 1998 
From: Jay Campbell <>
Subject: Re: web pages (fwd)

> I hope you are not allowing yourselves to be bullied by a 
> large corporation.

I'm afraid we are. In no uncertain terms, they've stated
"Costco must pursue this matter to preserve its rights and to
protect its reputation and goodwill." Admittedly, I don't know
all the subleties of trademark law, but I have noticed that
most television parodies I've seen use a spin-off of the name
being mocked -- not real names or logos. Even if your content
eventually proves to fall under the "fair use" category, I don't
have the resources to get tangled up in a legal fray at this
time. You may call it cowardice; I call it choosing my battles.

On a personal note, I'm sorry to see you being pursued. As a
rule, I do defend the rights of my customers to post whatever
material, regardless of social mores, that they wish .. without
letting the company step over to the wrong side of the legal
line. Our server houses conspiracy fanatics, fetish pornography,
and net.kooks of all flavors; it does not, however (to my
knowledge) house child pornography, nuclear bomb instructions,
or any other illegal content. Personal taste isn't a factor
.. it's the law. I won't rant any more; I just wanted you to
know this wasn't a cold, corporate, stock-answer decision.

Good luck in your future endeavors.
Jay Campbell


Date: Sun, 2 Aug 1998
From: Mark Krenz <>
Subject: Pricecostco

I'm sure you flinch at the sound of that word but I just
thought I'd let you know that some guy named Bruce called tech
support last night and left a voice message saying that we
should terminate the user that runs because
of the costco page. The guy said that he was a stockholder
or something.

I had to forward the message to AJ and John, but I just figured
you'd like to know and also wanted to say, "more power to
ya!". ;-)