More on the LinkedIn and the cease and desist notice

17/04/2009 at 3:23 pm 2 comments

We reported a couple of weeks ago about a letter we had received from LinkedIn ‘demanding’ that we remove our popular address book importing tool from the WeCanDo.BIZ website. The tool enables our users to fetch existing contact lists and addres books that are elsewhere across the web or on their own PC — it’s very helpful in connecting on WeCanDo.BIZ with people you already know and have a relationship with. Such tools are commonly used by other social networking sites and web mail services, such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and, ironically, LinkedIn.

Since our last post on the subject we have now responded to LinkedIn and I wanted to share our comments with you through this blog.

LinkedIn had a number of issues with what it saw us doing.

Firstly, it believe that we were gaining unauthorised access to its servers and services and stealing data. We have assured LinkedIn that our website does not access LinkedIn’s servers and we categorically and unequivocally state that WeCanDo.BIZ does not make use of any information whatsoever obtained from www.linkedin.com. On the pages of our website to which it referred in its allegation we provide access to a commercially available application from Octazen (www.octazen.com) for our users to import data owned by them and residing on many other websites. WeCanDo.BIZ has a commercial licence with Octazen to provide access to this service and the pages on our website that LinkedIn was getting upset about access only the hosted application from Octazen; the Octazen application feeds back to WeCanDo.BIZ details of the contacts owned by our users on other websites, when our users give the Octazen application express permission to fetch their contacts for them. In all cases this includes nothing more than the names and e-mail addresses of our users’ own contacts. This data is not reetained by us and is only used to make contact with those contacts if/when the person fetching the data instructs (and then only that once unless they re-import the data to mail them again).

We stated in our response to LinkedIn that if it felt that users of its own website may be breaching LinkedIn’s User Agreement by using such applications on websites across the web then we suggested they raise that with the users bound by their agreement.

To help clarify the position, we have added some text to our website which states that use of such tools MAY contravene Terms of Use that our website users have with other service providers across the web. You can read it here.

We did point out in our letter that the things to which LinkedIn was showing concern are the very tools it makes use of itself to enable its users to perform the exact same function. Our view: if LinkedIn believes use of such applications possibly breaches usage agreements on other websites, California Penal Code or other laws as it states then it should perhaps review its own use of such applications.

Secondly, and a very big point in our view, is the assertion by LinkedIn in its letter to us that a user’s contact list fetched from Ltheir service through the Octazen application is somehow owned by LinkedIn. Although the LinkedIn User Agreement permits them use information that its users submit to them, we are clear in our belief that user information belongs to the user. The UK Data Protection Act 1998 is very clear in stipulating that and WeCanDo.BIZ, as a Uk organisation, is strictly bound by those terms by law, regulated by in the guise of the Information Commissioner’s Office.

This is important from the perspective of it being clear that WeCanDo.BIZ is acting lawfully; but also from the perspective of reinforcing the point that websites do not own user data. If you wish to take your information away then you, as a user, are entitled to do so. LinkedIn may not like you using your login credentials away from their site in order to port your data to other services (that is for them and you under their Terms of Use), but they can’t argue with your right to do it, under law.

Our revised contacts import tool graphic

Our revised contacts import tool graphic

LinkedIn’s final issue was with use of their logo, which they claimed implied an association between our websites. We refute that and made that statement in our letter to them, but all the same have removed the LinkedIn logotype from our website. We have also added some text to our legal notices page to make it very evident just who we have associations with and who we don’t.

The letter went to LinkedIn’s lawyers on Thursday of last week and we have not heard anything back. With all their concerns addressed we don’t expect to hear any more, but we’ll let you know here if we do.

Feel welcome to let us know what you think of the corrrespondence we’ve had with them.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. simonhamer  |  18/04/2009 at 9:04 am

    Linkedin is getting serious about its base and its copywrite. I would not expect this issue to go away quickly, and rather than get into legal battles, I’d be inclined to act cautiously. See John L Evans post on yahoo about Linkedin’s actions against him.

  • 2. wecandobiz  |  18/04/2009 at 12:19 pm

    That’s a very interesting post. My read of the John L Evan’s situation is that he founded LinkedIn Open Networkers (LION), a group on LinkedIn that essentially befriends all to build their network to an enormous size (5,000+ contacts), a practice that LinkedIn has done all it can to stop. The aim of “Open Networking” is to help people make as many contacts as they can to fundamentally make LinkedIn more useful by providing greater visibility of other site users. LinkedIn seems against this.

    When LIONs first started feeling the pressure from LinkedIn a few months back I commented then that it was a shame that people who were trying to work around LinkedIn’s lack of tools for brokering valuable new connections were finding their ingenious actions punished — arguably, LIONs are the biggest fans of LinkedIn as they have so much stock in it and it’s never good practice to piss off your biggest fans.

    From what I can gather though LinkedIn believes Evans has gone too far in using the LinkedIn name in the promotion of his own aims, which they see as at odds with theirs.

    There are many Open Networker groups, although not all use “LinkedIn” in their name, so we’ll have to see what happens with the rest.

    As an aside, has anyone ever wondered what would happen if Twitter took the same view as LinkedIn? How many companies and sites out there could be argued to be making an association with Twitter through the explicit use of “Twitter”, or even “Twit” and “Tweet” in their names?

    Ian Hendry
    CEO, WeCanDo.BIZ
    http://www.wecando.biz

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