April 22, 2011

Flickchart Plans Suit Against Movieweb for Infringement

Flickchart, the movie comparison site that has film buffs ranking their all-time favorites, for any decade, genre and many other ways to debate cinema, is inches away from taking Movieweb to court for "a rather obvious duplication of the concept, functionality, user interface, and formatting" of their site. An 11-page legal brief from Flickchart's lawyers to Movieweb, submitted Thursday, alleges theft, infringement and "a complete lack of any attempt by Movieweb to conceal its wrongdoing".

The legal brawl was sparked following the introduction of a feature on Movieweb's site called "Face-Off" last Saturday, April 16th, which they called "the coolest movie ranking app yet". Similar to Flickchart, the Face-Off feature let users rank movies in terms of which they thought was best, have head to head "face-offs" between favorites, and the ability to compare tastes with other users. All of these are features highlighted by Flickchart since the site debuted in 2009.

One Thumbnail Example of Alleged Copying by Movieweb

(Side Note: The initial post on Flickchart was on this blog in May of 2009)

Flickchart's founders, Nathan Chase and Jeremy Thompson, are not taking kindly to the new competition. The next day, April 17th, Chase posted a link to Movieweb's new offering on Twitter, saying, "Well, I guess they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?" By Monday April 18th, Chase posted a series of thumbnails comparing Flickchart to MovieWeb's Face-off on FriendFeed, the social service aggregator owned by Facebook, and said "we've already contacted our lawyer."

The series of thumbnails in that post, and the blog post issued Friday, April 22, draw up a clear parallel in terms of features and display from Flickchart and the new Face-off, including feature set, wording, placement, graphics, social site integration, and more. While it's entirely possible to create a similar site either in parallel or inspired by competition, the direction seems like a clear duplication of the Flickchart service.

The legal missive spares little in its wording saying "Movieweb has stolen the fruit of years of work... in such a blatant manner that, quite frankly, shocks the conscience." The filing reports the copying is fed in no small manner by the direct copying by one of Movieweb's employees, as it states "a managing editor of Movieweb registered an account with Flickchart in December 2009, and has logged in as recently as April 6, 2011." This would have been 10 days prior to the launch of Face-off, making any argument that Movieweb was unaware of Flickchart's similar functionality appear dead on arrival.

The brief says Face-Off! "would not exist" had it not been for the reproduction, duplication and copying of Flickchart, which violates the site's terms of service. If Face-Off! is not immediately removed from the site, Flickchart anticipates filing suit "to seek statuatory damages, actual damages, punitive damages, disgorgement of Movieweb's profits, injunctive relief and an award of attorney's fees and costs." Deadline was given for Face-Off's removal by 5 PM Pacific time on Friday April 22nd, and that deadline has since passed, with Face-Off! remaining up and running.

The full brief, hosted by Google Docs, is below:

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