December 12, 2005

Sock Puppet Marketing...

Just today I was taught the wonderful term "Sock Puppeting," which is when someone creates extra accounts to post in online forums and agree with themselves: "Oh, man, I totally support Bob's crazy position... he's so smart!"

Well, I'd like to introduce the term "sock puppet marketing," which is when someone from a company reviews his own products and fails to disclose he's not a neutral party.

I started noticing that every time I see Delicious Library mentioned on any site on the web, someone inevitably posts a comment about MediaMan, which is a program for Windows that completely ripped off our interface. Like, enough so that we should sue. I mean, go ahead, go to their site, and look at their shelves. Tell me that's not copyright infringement. And I should mention, as it will come up in a bit, that MediaMan used to be free, but now costs $39.95. (Seriously... they even copied our price.)

Now, sure, some mentions of competitors are to be expected, but we have several competitors on Mac OS X and several more on Windows and Linux, yet the one I keep seeing mentioned in the comments, over and over, is MediaMan.

So let's look at some web forums I found that wrote articles about Delicious Library, and the comments left on those sites by user(s):

From Delicious Construction Kit | B.Mann Consulting
Delicious Idea!
Submitted by Christoph (not verified) on July 4, 2005 - 6:45am.

Very interesting thoughts, Boris. The idea of creating new libraries is really good, and so is the "post to blog" feature.

BTW, did you know that there's a similar software for Windows users? => MediaMan at www.imediaman.com.

Best regards

Christoph

Hmm. Sure, Christoph could just be a fan of MediaMan. I mean, hey, people recommend Delicious Library all the time, so people could be recommending MediaMan.

Wait, though...

From Vestal Design Blog: Deliciousmonster, not Delicious Monster

1 Comments:


Christoph said...

There's a similar software available for Windows users - MediaMan. Just in case this is of interest to you.

5:12 PM

Wow, that Christoph likes MediaMan so much so that he was the only person to post a response here. It seems like now matter how little the site, Christoph is the man on the scene if they mention Delicious Library...

From VMUNIX Blues » Delicious Monster and Delicious Lattes
Christoph  |  June 29th, 2005 at 5:20 pm

Just in case you’re interested, a similar piece of software is available for Windows:

MediaMan

I think it looks & feels so good, you could think you’re using a Mac. ;-) And it’s free, BTW.

Boy, you can't beat that free price, can you, Christoph! I mean, if it were true. And you were one of only two people who left comments here! But, I wonder, did you catch that mention of Delicious Library in "Richard's Notes"?

From Richard's Notes >> Blog Archive >> Delicious Monster
Christoph says:
June 29th, 2005 at 8:25 PM

Richard, David,

there's a similar piece of software for Windows called MediaMan. It works with all available Amazon stores US, UK, Germany, Japan, France & Canada. And it's even free! :)

Regards

Christoph

Free! Wow! That sounds great, except it's not.

--

Now, I invite the reader to click on Christoph's name up there, to see what Christoph set as his home page in Blogger. It's a live link that I copied from the actual web pages. Christoph's home page is imediaman.com. Notice he doesn't mention any affiliation with that company in his text, when he was gushing over how great the look and feel of MediaMan is.

Could this Christoph be none other than Christoph Janz, whose e-mail is <cjanz@imediaman.com>, according to this now-deleted, Google-cached Word document I found from iMediaMan site? (And is this the same Christoph Janz of the blog Christoph Janz on Web 2.0)?

Honestly, that's not a rhetorical question... it seems likely to me, but I can't know, of course. And it's not like I'm accusing Chistoph of doing anything illegal here, although if he were working for iMediaMan back in June or July, I believe what he did highly unethical. Some might find it just to be a clever marketing, but they'll certainly never get a job with my companies.

--

But, hey, the phrase "Sock Puppet" is funny, like, "Monkey" or "Galooly."

Labels: , ,

61 Comments:

Blogger Stridey said...

You know, you sound like you might be interested in a particular piece of software...

Honestly, I don't think there's anything *wrong* with this type of advertising, as long as it's actually being done by Christoph, and not a Christoph-bot. He has the right to plug himself.

December 12, 2005 8:49 PM

 
Blogger Wil Shipley said...

He has the right to post what he wants, but I think it would be unethical for him to talk about a piece of software as if he weren't selling it and were just a customer giving a testimonial.

The line between advertising and testimonials is an important one to keep bright. We don't like watching T.V. programs where commentators have been secretly paid to plug a product. We don't like reading magazine articles and finding out the guy writing the article invested in the company he's talking about. There are a ton of journalist standards in this area, and it behooves those of us in business to adhere to them or end up looking like slime.

December 12, 2005 9:00 PM

 
Anonymous matt said...

I agree with wil. there is nothing wrong with the author of a piece of software letting a potential audience know about his/her product by posting in the comments of a similar product post.

The problem is when he/she doesn't disclose the fact that they are the author. All it takes is a quick "Hi I'm christoph and I make another product that you might want to check out". I'd be much more inclined to trust the product if the author of it is out promoting it honestly.

As far as the interface goes...it looks like an ugly windows app that's centerpiece has been inspired by Delicious Monster. Lame ass if you ask me.

December 12, 2005 9:12 PM

 
Blogger tmhawk said...

I'm with you Wil, these kind of games are for the very uncreative and uncool.

December 12, 2005 9:12 PM

 
Anonymous Jay Tuley said...

Yeah but you've just given him more free advertising.

December 12, 2005 9:41 PM

 
Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Jay: Yes, also, those articles about Enron and Worldcom really gave them a lot of free advertising, too.

December 12, 2005 9:46 PM

 
Anonymous alex strand said...

You must be smoking some serious crack if you're not going to sue these guys for ripping off your UI....

Although I don't know if the marketing stuff is anything to worry about, people usually make a mental note of "spam" when people start recommending windows software :)

December 12, 2005 10:13 PM

 
Anonymous Jay Tuley said...

Yeah but that's a little different. You're not that harsh in your writing about them, and you have a lot of positive quotes, while in context they illustrate your point, Google doesn't care about context. Plus you include the links back to that knock off within each positive quote which Google loves.

Run OS X's summarization service to strip away context and you can get

...Now, sure, some mentions of competitors are to be expected, but we have several competitors on Mac OS X and several more on Windows and Linux, yet the one I keep seeing mentioned in the comments, over and over, is MediaMan.

Sounds pretty flattering, heh.

December 12, 2005 10:21 PM

 
Anonymous Isaiah said...

While uncool and definitely not something I've done for my own (super cool and you should really come buy it) software. If I did I definitely wouldn't be able to sleep at night (as if I do anyway). I kinda have to say, "find a new soapbox, Will."
I'm not saying everyone does it, but a healthy amount of testimonial is BS. Just take a look through Amazon's "reviews" to see how many people are astro-turfing (creating false grass-roots buzz) for their own products. Heck... some of the "testimonials" have sound-bites snipped right from their latest press releases.
I'm not saying it's OK. I'm just saying it's part of the game... the high-cleats-slide-tackle-while-the-refs-not-looking part of the game.

Isaiah

P.S. Stealing your product AND your interface is another story. I'm not religious but I'm hoping that there's a special lower level of hell reserved for that sort of scum. Let the lawyers out. Fight scum with scum.

December 12, 2005 10:25 PM

 
Anonymous jon said...

Very interesting thoughts, Wil. But did you know that there's a similar piece of software for Windows.

It's crap!

December 12, 2005 10:38 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hrmm... just tried emailing the guy to see where I could get this free version, and the email bounced back. Yay.

The look is definitely stolen, only theirs looks like a cheap windows app while yours actually looks DAMN good.

December 12, 2005 11:28 PM

 
Anonymous schlarb said...

yeah. dude is a biter. the spam posts only add insult to injury...

December 13, 2005 12:25 AM

 
Anonymous Mark Grimes said...

In terms of the similarity in interface design and false advertising the product as free is certainly unethical marketing, but this is not copyright infringement. This is not a reproduction or derivative work. The unfortunate reality is the average computer user (and hence purchaser) is not passionate about code nor a crusader of cause... if it works and performs what they need they will buy it... and largely this decision is solely weighed on interface and the one or two functions they need it to do (even if it leaks memory and is horrible on the big-Oh). If people cared about software quality, we'd have a very small collection of software to evaluate.

In terms of socket puppeting, this is done on much larger scales with companies and subsidiaries. "Use XYZ product from Company B", says Company A, yet Company A bought Company B. This may suck and be wrong, but it is everywhere around us. Although I disprove of it and would never work with someone that did it... Yet if people are going to buy a product because some John Doe said it was cool, then they obviously have money to throw away. They'll most likely buy another product that does the exact same thing when John changes his mind and things the next new thing is cool.

Fortunately for you it's marketing for a non-competing platform. I'm sure it works to your behalf because DM is not a work-oriented application... some people may use XP at work, but retire to OSX at the end of the day. Their media library is presumably at home.

Amusing read, and it seems you get off easy...
There are far worse examples of stealing things... like writing thin wrappers around corporation-unfriendly licenses like GPL in a commercial product and claiming it is their own. Or getting a call from a major IT security company claiming someone just submitted your resume for a job. :/

December 13, 2005 12:41 AM

 
Blogger uv said...

I agree, although if I were you, I would have stripped the actual links to MediaMan. Blogging about it with links will just rate it higher on Google...

December 13, 2005 12:55 AM

 
Anonymous Mark Grimes said...

Free! Wow! That sounds great, except it's not.

Ah but in all fairness, in June & July 2005 iMediaMan was free. He states on his own site that he didn't drop the freeware version until August 2005... unless he

I retract my disapproval of false advertising commercial s/w as free for sake of not following the bread crumbs.

Sounds like just a guy that lacks all design creativity and maybe dangerous enough on Windows to tackle it with the right "borrowed idea".

The only thing that would have saved you would have been patents -- but what developer that loves to code supports patents that is not beaten by the uglystick of the company they work for.

December 13, 2005 1:15 AM

 
Anonymous Tomas Jogin said...

Wil's right. Christoph has the right to pimp his own products, but it's all about the way in which he did it. To say that "I've made a similar product that works on Windows, so if you don't have a Mac that might work for you" would be the _honest_ thing for him to do, but to instead pretend he's just a happy customer of said software (who btw thinks the interface is really neat) is, well, A LIE. Lies are bad, I think we can all agree on that (except perhaps you, Christoph).

Perhaps it's no coincidence that Christoph is unethical in both the "marketing" of his product, as well as in the shaping of it (I purposely didn't use the word "design").

December 13, 2005 1:32 AM

 
Anonymous Leden said...

Plugging yourself is part of the business but passing it off as a testimonial isn't cool.

But as far as the app goes, I've seen some ugly rip offs in my time but that takes the cake.

December 13, 2005 1:49 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Wil,

I had the same thing happen on my blog in July. Except this time someone named "Tatjana Porelli" left a comment, out of the blue, mentioning mediaman. She (he) was nice enough to say that Delicious looks fantastic. :)

December 13, 2005 1:59 AM

 
Anonymous Mark Grimes said...

Perhaps it's no coincidence that Christoph is unethical in both the "marketing" of his product, as well as in the shaping of it (I purposely didn't use the word "design")

Why not call it design? A pen on a napkin is not so different then laying out the nib. It's hard to get a good aesthetics, yet retain HI/usability... in fact it's significant time spent not implementing (coding). You win design awards on the Mac, someone is bound to clone your stuff...

Fortunately for Wil it's not a competing market in this instance like what Apple deals with wrt the iPod. It's got all the market share, so to wag the dog and appease consumers, Creative Labs has put out the pitifully copied Zen Vision:M. Them not having to think about design (erm at all...) led them straight to implementation so that they can compete sooner rather then later.

Yet with a corporation that whores patents and has money for a pack of overpayed lawyers, they cannot even keep CL down other then to have momentum and that people are generally trendy and care about branding.

December 13, 2005 2:38 AM

 
Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Mark:

Actually, I don't feel I "got off easy" or that it's "fortunate" that he's not in a competing market. I'm pretty confident that I'm outselling his product 100 to 1 - he's just a kid who's now selling his senior thesis. He's the lucky one... if he were in the Mac market he'd get crushed, and sued.

Note that it appears (?) that Christoph isn't with his company any more, so it's just run by "He Shiming" in Shanghai.

December 13, 2005 3:00 AM

 
Anonymous Matt Thomas said...

I was wondering if you checked with your lawyer about this product? If he were in the US, I'd say you definitely had a case. With him being in China, it probably makes things a little more complicated.

December 13, 2005 5:23 AM

 
Blogger bbrown said...

Just add rel="nofollow" to each of the a tags and Google et al will ignore the link.

googleblog.blogspot.com

December 13, 2005 7:02 AM

 
Blogger cjwl said...

Too bad there is no Dharma/YellowBox, easily releasing a windows version of DL would be payback.

December 13, 2005 7:31 AM

 
Blogger Rory Prior said...

Unless he's actually stolen the graphics pixel for pixel from your software I'm not sure how you can say it's a copyright violation. He's 'borrowed' your shelf metaphor alright, but surely that's something you would need a patent on to protect? Given your shelves look like their real world equivalent I imagine it would be hard to argue you own their 'unique look and feel'.

December 13, 2005 7:52 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erm, exactly what do you want to sue him for? Interface designs can, afaik, not be copyrighted. Or do you hold a patent for your design?

Aren't you replicating some of Apple's design patters yourself? Like "zooming" of shelf items and the list of collections on the left? Reminds me of iPhoto ...

Really, Wil, your blog is the only one I read regularly, but if you state things like "we'll sue them for", then please provide exact info and not just FUD. Anything else is just bad promo for your cause and yourself.

December 13, 2005 8:19 AM

 
Anonymous Mark Grimes said...

Well said Rory, and was the long-winded point I was trying to make. If you don't like what he's doing then you need to change your stance on patents. For there to be a legal case you actually need to show that his application is reproducable or a derivative work infringing on your copyright. Pixels are about as good as it gets since I'm not too sure I'd buy a Cocoa->WTL exact translation, your code is not public, and unless you can prove he RE'd it (which is a more difficult sell), there's no DMCA litigation either.

December 13, 2005 9:25 AM

 
Anonymous Jeff Atwood said...

To me, this just underscores that you guys need a Windows version.

If the Apple market alone is all that and a bag of chips, then why is the iPod available in a Windows version?

I guess you don't want to own TWO totally hot cars instead of, y'know, just one. Which is cool with me. Money is overrated anyway.

December 13, 2005 3:03 PM

 
Anonymous boulder paul said...

looks like "He Shiming" is the guy behind imediaBlech... Janz appears to be his cohort. Shiming is out of China though.

Following link says He Shiming is the "creator"

Click for google cache link - He Shiming/ Christoph Janz


PS: I tried a target=blank - blogger won't allow it.

December 13, 2005 3:49 PM

 
Anonymous Jonathan Grynspan said...

Straying far from the topic of conversation...

The original blog entry did make a good point about a "content construction kit." Being able to scan custom media types (software titles, for instance) would be a major selling point for me--and while I'm not a heavy drinker, I can think of a few people who would go crazy at the chance to import their wine bottles into their Delicious Libraries.

Any plans to do any sort of plugin architecture in Library? :)

December 13, 2005 3:54 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee Wil,

Didn't you tell us in your talk at WWDC that marketing in the Windoze world is hell? Look at what the poor suckers making windoze apps have to do to get any attention!

But I agree, it's pretty fucking lame.

-jcr

December 13, 2005 4:53 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, I would say that the most likely scenario here is that one guy in China with a little bit of cash, hired a body shop to write a knock-off, where the deliverable had to match DL as closely as possible. It doesn't look like they found the talent to implement the bar-code reading, though.

Wil, this isn't anyone you should have any sympathy for. Call your lawyer, get a nastygram out to the perp, and get their ISP to yank the web page.

-jcr

December 13, 2005 5:06 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey everybody. if you like Delicious Library you should check out MediaMan. It's free.

December 13, 2005 5:49 PM

 
Blogger Steven said...

Mark Grimes ought to add "IANAL" to each of his posts. I'm not sure you know what you're talking about, Mark.

I'm also not a lawyer, but I work in IP law. Designs, such as that of an application's user interface, would be protected by copyright most of the time. Delicious Library holds a copyright, but what does it protect, exactly? If the design is protected, you likely have a case. BUT, and this is a rather big but, it could be very difficult to get any remuneration from such a case, even enough to cover the lawyer fees. Decide to do it on principle, or for an order to cease & desist, if you do decide to go through that headache.

December 13, 2005 6:09 PM

 
Blogger Christoph Janz said...

Hello Wil and everyone else,

I just noticed this thread and would like to explain a few things and let you know my view of this issue.

(1) At the time I made those debatable postings, I was considering working with MediaMan's creator and I was already trying to help him promote the product a little. I never received any money for what I did, although I concede that this doesn't necessarily make a difference.

(2) I didn't deliberately try to hide my identity or my affiliation with MediaMan. Doesn't the fact that I entered the product's website as my homepage show that? Wil, I don't understand why you're citing this fact for my alleged sinisterness - I think it really shows the opposite. Also, if I had really wanted to hide my affiliation with MediaMan, why would I have been so stupid as to use my real name? (which was listed on MediaMan's website)

(3) I agree it would have been clearer if I wrote "MediaMan" below my name in those postings or if I explicitly pointed to my affiliation with MediaMan otherwise. I should have done that to avoid confusion, and I apologize for this.

(4) I think it's legitimate to post comments pointing to a product in a relevant blog discussion, whether you're a customer, the creator, a friend of the creator, an employee or whatever.

(5) At the time of my postings, MediaMan was free. When MediaMan became pay software, I was already gone for weeks or months.

(6) I don't want to comment on the similarity between Delicious Library and MediaMan because I think this is not my concern. As a general note, everyone of us knows dozens of examples where several representatives of a certain software product/category look extremely similar. And this is even more true for websites, where every great new site is followed by a couple of "clones".

(7) My previous comment does not mean that the creator of MediaMan DID clone Delicious Library. I don't know when he started working on the software and what his inspirations were. It seems like he was inspired by Delicious Library, but I don't know.

Finally, since the two products in question don't compete for the same customers because they're for different platforms, I can't fully understand your anger, Wil. Maybe it's even beneficial for both products if the awareness for this type of application grows!

I hope that this helped to clarify my position. Once again, I'm sorry if I didn't make my affiliation with MediaMan clear enough. Wil, if you would like to continue discussing this, please feel free to email me at cjanzATweb.de.

Thank you for reading this awfully long posting. :-)

Christoph

December 13, 2005 7:06 PM

 
Blogger Abhi Beckert said...

I'm an admin at a fairly large forum, and we'd delete every single one of those comments as spam.

If you come to our forums and your first post is an advertisement, you're gone.

December 13, 2005 7:09 PM

 
Blogger Abhi Beckert said...

I think it's legitimate to post comments pointing to a product in a relevant blog discussion, whether you're a customer, the creator, a friend of the creator, an employee or whatever.

It's only relevant if somebody asks for a windows alternative. Any off-topic post that was made for the sole purpose of telling people about a product is spam, wether or not the author is affiliated with that product.

We get posts like the ones you made all the time, and in our experience allowing them to stay annoys our forum members, and therefore we delete them.

December 13, 2005 7:31 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christoph,

The person you describe as the "creator" of MediaMan hasn't created anything at all. He has COPIED Delicious Library as closely as possible, given the limitations of the Windows platform and his apparent incapability of implementing the image processing code to read bar codes from a video source. This is plainly obvious from even the most cursory viewing of his screen shots.

-jcr

December 13, 2005 9:39 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no patience for these kinds of ridiculous shenanigans ;)

It appears that maybe this was a little harmless promotion on Chris' behalf and I understand the reactions from Will. But I think it's damn wrong for people to come on here and bash Will on the subject as he simply cares about something that has taken a lot of effort to produce as a 'Stand-Out' application for the Mac OS X platform (not an easy feat).

So much that the sods from Apple have actually gone and kidnapped The Mighty Matas, Interface wonder kid :)

I think it's irresponsible for people to spam/market another product that has, ACTUALLY done something wrong. Regardless of patents etc, we all have automatic rights over anything we create.

Just leave them to produce yet another clone of an awesome 'stand-out' Mac OS X product. As you say Will; You are probably outselling 100-1 anyway. It reinforces the fact that your team has created one hell of a product and we all look forward to the future releases from Delicious-Monster.

What a platform Windows is shaping up to be: Vista, Gadgets, MediaMan - hahahaha

December 14, 2005 12:13 AM

 
Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Christoph,

Whenever someone copies an idea it makes the original idea seem less special. There are going to be plenty of people who don't know who copied whom in this whole thing, and that makes *me* look bad. It hurts my business and my reputation. If I'd wanted Delicious Library on Windows I would have written it myself.

Also, I've had a lot of customers tell me Delicious Library was the *reason* they bought a Macintosh. Obviously, if Windows users they think there's an identical product on their platform, they'll never check out the Mac product to discover that it's superior. This hurts me as well.

I also didn't let other kids cheat off me in school, for many of the same reasons.

Honestly, the fact that "He" was able to get so far on Windows is impressive, and speaks to him being a good programmer. I just wish he'd come up with his own ideas. Or, asked to license mine (I've given away free licenses before!) Or, hell, asked me for a job.

As to what you did: no, I don't think it's the biggest crime ever. It annoyed me, I thought it seemed deceitful, and I posted about it. It's a long time ago for you, but since those postings are still there, it's something that still affects me every day.

I appreciate your apology, though, and wish you luck in your endeavors. Despite my rants on this medium, I'm actually a very cool-tempered person, and not prone to grudges.

Except against my old, damnable Treo 650. Man, that thing pissed me off.

-Wil

December 14, 2005 3:07 AM

 
Blogger Christoph Janz said...

Wil,

Thanks for the quick reaction. I'm glad we've been able to pour some oil on troubled water.

I think you can be very confident that MediaMan or other similar programs won't hurt your reputation. I think all those iPod clones didn't hurt the fame of the original - in fact, maybe they even reinforced it.

Nevertheless I can understand your annoyance. However, I think it's something one needs to live with. Success always leads to imitators and ideas can't be protected.

I've been involved with other startups and products and it was always a challenge to stay ahead of the rest. Only constant innovation can give you a sustainable competitive advantage. At least the consumer benefits from that.

That's a digression though. I'm just that guy who did a few postings on MediaMan.

Oh, and since you brought up the topic, I always let other kids write off me in school.

Good luck and continued success with Delicious Library.

Christoph

December 14, 2005 4:01 AM

 
Anonymous Jimothy said...

Christoph said, "I don't want to comment on the similarity between Delicious Library and MediaMan because I think this is not my concern."

If you genuinely don't want to comment on this similarity, might I kindly suggest you avoid making comments such as this:

"BTW, did you know that there's a similar software for Windows users? => MediaMan at www.imediaman.com."

And this:

"Just in case you’re interested, a similar piece of software is available for Windows: MediaMan"

December 14, 2005 6:50 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I've been involved with other startups and products and it was always a challenge to stay ahead of the rest. Only constant innovation can give you a sustainable competitive advantage. At least the consumer benefits from that."

Ah yes, "constant innovation." Would you really know it if it came up and bit you in the ass? Metaphorically speaking, of course.

December 14, 2005 9:14 AM

 
Anonymous Mark Grimes said...

Delicious Library holds a copyright, but what does it protect, exactly? If the design is protected, you likely have a case.

I had no idea that you had to qualify what is protected. I assume the copyright protects your work (the whole work) -- not the ideas, the implementation. The license states what the recipient can and cannot do with it, yet the copyright provides basic provisions such

Can someone qualify this with factual information?

Copyright law (17 USC Sec.106) protects the following rights of a copyright holder to do or authorize the following:
(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and
choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly; and
(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly.

Please do tell how my argument has swayed from the interpretation of Copyright law.

Steven: I'm also not a lawyer, but I work in IP law. Designs, such as that of an application's user interface, would be protected by copyright most of the time.

IANAL. It's a scary world if you interpret the lack of IANAL as legal advice in the annals of a comment in a s/w dev weblog -- I figured it was a moot point since obviously no lawyers have stepped forward here.

On the subject of patents, which protect inventions (which AFAIK is the topic of discussion here)

I think patents are the worst thing imaginable to software development as it limits creative works, but it is critical to understand the limits of your copyright. It protects your specific work, not your invention. Look it up. Again, to have a case you'd have to prove that he stole your code, used your graphics or reverse enginered your binaries... the latter being harder to prove given that MediaMan is not a Cocoa app nor open source and has not presumably defeated any (rhetorical) access controls that could have only been discovered through disassembling one's work.

I'll gladly dismiss my argument if someone will actually cite something rather then saying I'm wrong and rebutting with more opinion.

Either way it's important discussion to have due to the hard work invested in D&I.

Just because it's shady and unethical doesn't make it illegal -- let's get that point straight.

December 14, 2005 9:21 AM

 
Anonymous Ilkkka Huotari said...

Wil, create the Windows version of DL and your product will be known as the original concept, all across the map?

December 14, 2005 7:40 PM

 
Anonymous Manuel Dargulis said...

Steven:

You may "work in IP law," but you don't seem to have any better clue than Mark does. Let me start by saying that while I am not a lawyer, either, I can back up what I say with more than just multi-syllabic words.

Now first, you say some weird things about whether the design is "protected" or not, and I'm not sure what you mean here. You need not, in the US (which is all I know anything about) explicitly copyright anything. Works are copyrighted as soon as they are "fixed in a tangible medium" (http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html); registration, copyright notices, and the like, are all strictly speaking unnecessary (though can help in prosecuting infringers).

Secondly, the more germane question is whether user interfaces can be copyrighted, and whether they can be infringed upon without copying actual graphics or code. Unfortunately, I only know of a handful of cases that serve as precedent here, and they aren't really concrete.

First, in 1990, Lotus sued two companies (a small publisher called Paperback, who settled out of court for a nominal fee, and Borland, who you've probably heard of) for distributing a program called Quattro that cloned the menu structure of Lotus's 1-2-3. The district court initially ruled against Borland, claiming a UI was a form of expression (thus protected by copyright), but the circuit court, upon appeal, overturned that ruling, saying that the menu structure was a "method of operation" not protected under copyright.

Second we have Apple v. Microsoft, which, unfortunately, gives us very little clear precedent, since the concise ruling was essentially that Apple didn't create the windowed desktop environment and therefore didn't own copyright to it (leaving us with no clear ruling on whether it was copyrightable by the creators--Xerox).

So from these two (actually three) cases, we are left with the general impression that things like menu structure, windowing, and the like are not copyrightable, because they are methods of operation (possibly patentable), not expressive works. However, things like desktop backgrounds, button, icon, and GUI themes, and so forth, might be expressive enough to be copyrightable.

All in all, unless there's some other precedent I'm unaware of (which there may well be), this may be a valid copyright case, but it'd be a bit of a tough call, and certainly tough enough that it'd be breaking new legal ground. It's far, what I'm trying to say, from open-and-shut. Sending a C&D, if you don't intend to follow up on it, is just pointless.

December 14, 2005 11:07 PM

 
Blogger Danny Cohen said...

still doesn't not make it a douche move.

December 17, 2005 2:13 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Manuel,

You're mistaken about Apple v. Microsoft. The ruling was that MS's license to use the Mac "look and feel" didn't restrict them to doing so in software *for* the Mac, as Apple had assumed.

That license was probably the greatest of Sculley's many fuck-ups.

-jcr

December 17, 2005 5:40 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, have you heard of MediaMan? It's really great!

December 21, 2005 12:23 AM

 
Blogger Lard said...

So whens the date set for the courtcase when you royally take them down?

January 14, 2006 4:59 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be honest, unless you plan on making a Windows version I don't see why you are getting so upset. Plus there isn't much you can do to stop them anyway. It looks like the product is made in China and the Chinese government doesn't exactly help enforce International Copyright law.

January 14, 2006 1:41 PM

 
Blogger Mark Stultz said...

Wil,

If you like "Delicious Library", you should really check out this piece of software called "MediaMan".

Best of all, it's for Windows and it's F-R-E-E.

Mark

:P

January 18, 2006 2:18 PM

 
Blogger Mark Stultz said...

nooooo the guy 2 posts above me beat me to the joke :L

January 18, 2006 6:26 PM

 
Blogger Ross Pruden said...

Will -- even the government is doing it now! Read my blog about it.

January 27, 2006 1:11 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where I can find a similar program to Delicious Library that will work on Windows?

July 18, 2006 5:56 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi

Just thought I'd let you know about a great Windows software called mediaman. It works a lot like Delicious Library and it only costs $39.99. I think it's great.

www.imediaman.com

Have a great day!

August 03, 2006 2:58 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DL looks great, but I'm not a Mac user. Does anyone know if a similar product exists for Windows?

March 13, 2007 1:44 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have used the mediaman product. It looks good on the website but when you use it, it is not so great. It crashes every now and then and I could not figure out why. It is advertised as having webcam barcode scanner support which does not work 99% of the time. Anything you want to do, you have to answer these stupid wizards/dialogs (i.e. it is just stupid). It can not figure out what needs to happen next.
And for large collections, it just grinds to a halt.
So enough of mediaman.

I used it on Windows XP.

May 02, 2007 7:29 AM

 
Anonymous Austin said...

I think quite a few (nearly all) of you need to get over yourselves.

People plug their own products and services all the time. It hurts nothing.

Everyone here who entered a Web site link for their name is spamming if we're to believe what some of you said.

Further, he didn't "deceive" anyone because he told us (via his name and link) who he was. He also didn't try to come off as a "testimonial" in any of those posts. He simply stated that there is a product for Windows that has similar features and is free (too bad it's for Windows).

If it weren't for people plugging the shit out of Delicious in the early days, the app would be nowhere. The hype-machine has to work both ways my friend. You got your rep from others helping you, now you're bagging on someone else for doing the same thing.

May 27, 2007 9:33 AM

 
Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Austin:

It's pretty clear that what he did is unethical -- his posts were written in a style that made it sound as though he didn't work for the company, when he did.

That's simply not cool. You can disagree, but then you'd be wrong.

May 27, 2007 1:49 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi: I just learned about the term sock puppet today. I am interested in it because I have been stalked on line by someone using a fake cyber identity. I found out, had a forensic specialist trace the messages to this person and the person confessed (the issue is now in court.) Here's what I am wondering: this person said the sock puppet was used for "business reasons" (in addition to stalking, I guess). This person is a real estate agent. In real estate law, if you do business by another name, you are supposed to file a fictious business name application and disclose your "true" identity. In something like real estate, which is known for its hucksters, it seems really shitty that someone would be so deceptive. I've told the department of real estate about this and they just yawn. Is if just me, or does anyone else find this behavior disturbing...?

July 16, 2007 2:16 PM

 
Blogger brandon said...

people like Christoph will continue to do this until they get smacked, and smacked really hard.

There are two questions though:
1. Who's going to smack them, and
2. Where is the line that we don't want to cross?

If I had written a program (which would hopefully not be a direct copy of someone else's program) I would want to market it. And I don't know, but it seems that posting in forums where I think there may be interest makes sense.

The line, one could suggest, is the line of deception, but where exactly is that? Christoph didn't (as far as I know) actually lie, but he did act as though he was simply an interested user. But could an employee not act in that way too?

I would certainly agree that what he did is very annoying, and it *feels* wrong, but I can't quite articulate a clear principle that he violated.

This leads to the first question: who's going to smack people like Christoph? The government won't get involved, since he didn't (as far as I know) commit any crime. Google's not likely to downgrade his site's ranking for this (or would they??? that would be nice). It's not practical to alert admins of all the sites he posts to and expect them to delete his posts.

About the only thing I can think of doing is to publicly embarrass him in a big way. This might, unfortunately, give him lots of publicity and sell his product all the more.

Is there any good solution?

October 02, 2007 10:56 AM

 

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