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June 1, 2006

Flying J Sued Over Ad Subbing on TV Feed

In one of the more bizarre stories of potential copyright infringement, broadcast and cable stations are suing Flying J because they substitute their own commercials for those being broadcast without - gasp! - compensating said networks.  Flying J is a truck stop chain that caters to long haul truckers with supplies, meals, showers, and the occasional group entertainment via the big screen.  It's the last one that is the problem.  Advertisers pay broadcasters good money to display ads for Ford trucks, cell phone services, upcoming movies, exercise equipment and videos featuring drunk college students in compromising situations.  Flying J bought an automated system that detected these and other commercials and flipped the channel to a feed featuring their own advertisers who were more targeted to truckers.  When the ads were over, they flipped back to the program.

Is that different when a piece of software displays ads for a rival company on the rival company web site?  At least one court found that practice legal.  (U-Haul Intern., Inc. v. WhenU.com, Inc., 279 F.Supp.2d 723 E.D. Va 2003)).  How about when trademark infringement was alleged when a rival plopped an pop-up ad on the site of a competitor?  That was legal as well.  (1-800 Contacts, Inc. v. WhenU.Com, Inc., 414 F.3d 400 (CA2 2005)).  Of course, these were trademark cases and not copyright cases.

The story on this comes from Wired News, and asks the interesting question as to what liability could or would arise if the process were manual an not automated.

June 1, 2006 | Permalink

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