Story printed on: December 7,2002
Wal-Mart calls off Web duel
By GEORGETTE BRAUN‚ Rockford Register Star
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The issue: copyright infringement.
Wal-Mart Stores wanted to know who had leaked information about its holiday shopping discounts to FatWallet.com. To find out, the retail giant issued a subpoena against FatWallet and its founder, Tim Storm.
Earlier this week, though, FatWallet threatened to retaliate with its own legal action, and Wal-Mart backed off.
"We believe our copyright has been protected, so we dropped the subpoena," said Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams.
Wal-Mart was upset be-cause FatWallet gave its browsers early notice of the prices that would be used for its post-Thanksgiving sales. Along with other major chains, such as Target and Best Buy, Wal-Mart claimed the pending sales prices were its intellectual property and fell under federal copyright protections.
FatWallet removed the post-Thanksgiving sales information from its site but continued to maintain that the retailers were wrong to claim the advertised sales as intellectual property.
FatWallet attorneys said Wal-Mart's decision to drop the subpoena asking for the identity of whoever supplied the sales information to FatWallet was an important victory for Internet users who want to share information but remain anonymous.
Storm said he knows the e-mail address of his source.
He said Wal-Mart tried to use copyright laws to silence free speech.
"We stand by our belief that consumers have a right to share the factual shopping information required to be a smart consumer," he said.
Throughout the dispute, FatWallet and Wal-Mart have maintained a business relationship.
The retailer pays FatWallet 5 percent on sales it directs to Wal-Mart.com.
Plus, Storm, his wife and two children also shop routinely at Wal-Mart. "I shop at Wal-Mart out of convenience and necessity," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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