Opponents of a Walmart in New York City have been accused of copyright infringement for designing a website that the retailing giant says looks suspiciously like something they would have created.
But Walmart claims the website looks so much like something they could have created that they are hoping to direct the curious to their own website, walmartnyc.com
The website, AskWalmart.com, riffs off the superstore’s tagline, “Save Money, Live Better” with its own motto, “Live Better. Tell the Truth.” It contains a host of negative assertions about Walmart’s record on local economies, the environment and labor unions.
“The askwalmart site disregards U.S. Copyright Laws and we have requested that it be brought down or sufficiently modified,” said store spokesman Steve Restivo. “We have a duty to protect our brand.”
Pat Purcell of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 said his union and some of their allies were behind the website, and he said he had not yet heard of a complaint.
“We have no knowledge of any pending issue,” he said. “It’s not as if we are competing with Walmart to sell products. It’s a ridiculous attempt to stop this information from getting out. It’s a blatant attempt to circumvent the First Amendment.”
Purcell said that while Walmart uses a sunburst, their site uses an asterik and noted that there were other subtle differences.
“You can’t copyright the color blue,” he said, adding, “They are running a political campaign of information. Since they are not coming forward, this website makes clear that people are asking questions.”
Walmart’s legal team submitted a complaint to Domains by Proxy, which sets up website for people and companies who do not want to reveal their personal information. Domain by Proxy takes on the responsibility of insuring that the sites they put up do not violate copyright law.
Wal-Mart said that they are sincere about their desire to have New Yorkers direct questions their way so that they can be answered.
“We think the concept of asking questions is a good one and encourage folks to visit our Facebook page or walmartnyc.com to ensure their inquiries are addressed with factual information,” Restivo said.
Today Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito weighed in:
“Since they’ve been sued so many times for wage and sex discrimination, lack of bathroom breaks, overtime and a trampling death I guess Walmart’s lawyers decided they wanted to file their own lawsuit for once. Instead of ignoring Council hearings and trying to shut down websites that only seek to expose the truth and the facts of how they do business, Walmart should be welcoming the opportunity to actually engage with New Yorkers rather than bombard them with ads and slick mailpieces.”