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  1. #1
    Affiliate Marketing Consultant Andy Rodriguez's Avatar
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    ( BW)(FL-METROGUIDE.COM) MetroGuide.com Sues Hotels.com; Seeks Damages for Copyright Infringement and Predatory Advertising

    Business Editors/Legal Writers

    HOLLYWOOD, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 27, 2003--Hollywood-based MetroGuide.com, Inc. (MetroGuide) filed suit Monday against Dallas-based Hotels.com (Nasdaq:ROOM) and its president, Robert H. Diener, alleging violations of federal copyright and unfair competition laws. The action was filed in the Southern District of Florida: MetroGuide.com, Inc. vs. Hotel Reservations Network, Inc. d/b/a Hotels.com and Robert Diener, Case No. 03-20170, CIV-SEITZ.
    A longstanding business partner of Hotels.com, MetroGuide alleges that its intellectual property has been misappropriated by Hotels.com, which provides the reservations back-end to MetroGuide's HotelGuide Network website. The suit contends that Diener personally directed marketing activity at Hotels.com, utilizing predatory advertising to cause "pop-up" ads to appear over MetroGuide's websites. Hotels.com also rewarded competing affiliates who stole MetroGuide's copyrighted content.
    "Disputes of this sort are normally seen between competing entities that have no business relationship," observed James A. Gale and Samuel A. Lewis, both of Feldman, Gale & Weber, P.A., which represents MetroGuide in the suit. "To the best of our knowledge, of the number of Gator advertising-related lawsuits out there, ours is the only suit alleging that a business partner has been caught using predatory advertising to steal away customers from one of its own business partners."
    Some customers, while trying to book a hotel on the HotelGuide service, saw a Hotels.com ad, unauthorized by MetroGuide, appear on top of the HotelGuide website. These "pop ups," samples of which are reproduced in graphic detail in the lawsuit, obscured the HotelGuide brand and content underneath them, enticing the customer to book the room directly with Hotels.com.
    "Predatory advertising was part of a series of deliberate and specific actions taken by Hotels.com to unfairly derive income from MetroGuide's copyrighted work," said Mark Metz, MetroGuide CEO.
    "It's been a stunning betrayal," said Metz. "We've worked for years to build a content-rich family of websites and have vigorously pursued those who infringe on the content and goodwill we have generated. But in this case we have been forced to take action to recover losses from a company that was supposed to be on our side."
    The lawsuit also alleges that Hotels.com is liable for vicarious copyright infringement for the de-facto financing of multiple Hotels.com affiliates engaged in the wholesale theft of MetroGuide copyrighted work. "Copyright infringement has hurt our company tremendously," said Metz. "We have seen various affiliates of Hotels.com receive financially lucrative placements in search engines resulting in part from copying our content onto their websites."
    "Hotels.com receives monetary benefit when any of its other affiliated companies makes a sale, and some of those sales have been clearly tainted by the theft of our content," said Metz. "I can't help but conclude that, despite the many times we notified them of violations, financial gain is the ultimate reason for Hotels.com's deaf ear to our requests for rectification.
    "The most difficult thing for me over the past few years has been to watch people do things online that would be absolutely shocking if done off-line," said Metz. He observed that because it is the Internet, people don't seem to take otherwise tortious actions as seriously as they would if they were done in the real world. "I can attest that the money amounts involved are quite real. I watch my business being disassembled, brick by brick, byte by byte, not by those competing fairly in an open marketplace, but by companies operating as if normal business rules and ethics don't apply.
    "Having spent much of the last year in battle fighting Internet pirates who stole our content, I am well aware of the toll of the litigation process even when one is one-hundred percent in the right. I choose litigation in this matter only as a last resort," Metz said. "The Internet is still young, and what we do now sets the stage for its future."
    MetroGuide, located at http://metroguide.com/, is among the largest Internet providers of global travel information and reservations. Incorporated in 1996 and privately held, MetroGuide's network of websites attracts more than two million unique visitors monthly to its quarter-million-plus pages of travel related e-commerce sites. MetroGuide stands at the forefront of the battle to combat digital copyright piracy, with multiple recent court awards.
    For more information contact Scott Rogers, (954) 981-5850.


    --30--BL/mi*

    CONTACT: Hilton Images, Pembroke Pines, Fla.
    Beverley Hilton, CPRC, 954/962-8111
    or
    MetroGuide.com, Inc., Hollywood
    Scott Rogers, Esq., 954/981-5850

    KEYWORD: FLORIDA TEXAS
    INDUSTRY KEYWORD: E-COMMERCE INTERNET LEGAL/LAW TRAVEL
    ADVERTISING/MARKETING
    SOURCE: MetroGuide.com, Inc.



    Andy Rodriguez,
    Online Advertising / Affiliate Marketing Manager

    TigerDirect.com
    P: (305) 415-2313
    E: andy.rodriguez@tigerdirect.com
    ICQ: 175010
    AIM: miamitigercub

  2. #2
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    enough said....

    Keep Your Hands Off My Cookies

  3. #3
    ABW Ambassador
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    Finally, another shot at the opportunity affiliates have been waiting for - a legal precedent.

    Obstinatedon

    You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

    Mahatma Gandhi

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador BareNecessities's Avatar
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    From a merchant perspective, and from an affiliate perspective, these companies are a blight on the industry.

    I cannot wait until these companies are taken down, and I hope that they are made to pay BIG TIME!

    Michael

    Michael
    973-621-6211 x 5040
    michael(at)barenecessities.com

  5. #5
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Wake up call for all merchants who seek to destroy their competitors with preditory advertising BHO affiliates.

    I love the moxie of this guy Metz calling it like it really is ...outright theft regardless of the ethic issues.

    "The lawsuit also alleges that Hotels.com is liable for vicarious copyright infringement for the de-facto financing of multiple Hotels.com affiliates engaged in the wholesale theft of MetroGuide copyrighted work. "Copyright infringement has hurt our company tremendously," said Metz. "We have seen various affiliates of Hotels.com receive financially lucrative placements in search engines resulting in part from copying our content onto their websites."
    "Hotels.com receives monetary benefit when any of its other affiliated companies makes a sale, and some of those sales have been clearly tainted by the theft of our content," said Metz."

    Hope the networks take a hint that the courts soon will dictate who they can accept as affiliates and put and end to the excuse the "end-user" agreed to the theftware BS.

    Charlie ...

    If they won't adopt and feed a bird ..flip them one! Where's the love and show me the money?

  6. #6
    Domain Addict / Formerly known as elbowcreek Thomas A. Rice's Avatar
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    That article just warmed my heart.

    Time Is A Parasite's Friend

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador mousejockey's Avatar
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    Time for dancing bananas

    "I haven't failed, I've just found 10,000 reasons why it doesn't work"
    Thomas Edison

  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador ShoreMark's Avatar
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    quote:
    Originally posted by EcomCity.com:
    I love the moxie of this guy Metz calling it like it really is ...outright theft regardless of the ethic issues.



    quote:
    AtNewYork Article
    Diener said Hotels.com experimented with a Gator ad campaign for a couple of weeks, not knowing where the ads would run. The company stopped using them, he said, deciding they were ineffectual. Still, he defended Hotels.com's use of Gator, which he pointed out has hundreds of advertisers.

  9. #9
    ABW Ambassador DesignerWiz's Avatar
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    We will all have to keep a close watch on the outcome of this legal issue.

    DesignerWiz.com CEO http://DesignerWiz.com

  10. #10
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Scumbag advertising and those behind it are the blight of the Internet.

    "Through the use of pop-up windows ... [Hotels.com] has altered the appearance of MetroGuide Web pages to make it appear that the advertisement is in some way affiliated with or sponsored by MetroGuide," according to the complaint.

    Diener said Hotels.com experimented with a Gator ad campaign for a couple of weeks, not knowing where the ads would run. The company stopped using them, he said, deciding they were ineffectual. Still, he defended Hotels.com's use of Gator, which he pointed out has hundreds of advertisers.

    "We see no infringement of their copyright," he said. [Diener clearly thinks that Ford placing their cars and Ads in GM showrooms will never raise some eyebrows.]

    The complaint asks for compensation for past damages. According to Nielsen//NetRatings' AdRelevance unit, Hotels.com parent USA Interactive, which operates a variety of online travel-related companies, was the No. 2 pop-up advertiser in December 2002, trailing only X10. [wonder if Orbitz and CheapTickets are USA Interactive properties?]

    "I'm just heartbroken and disappointed it's come to this," Metz said. "We have to enforce our rights at some point and draw the line." [Oh this one will be repeated as the courts dole out huge fines to BHO's -networks and sleezy competing merchants]

    Charlie ...

    If they won't adopt and feed a bird ..flip them one! Where's the love and show me the money?

  11. #11
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    Hi Mike....

    Orbitz - no. But TravelNow.com certainly is.

    Obstinatedon

    You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

    Mahatma Gandhi

  12. #12
    Domain Addict / Formerly known as elbowcreek Thomas A. Rice's Avatar
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    Eh, heh, 'hundreds of other advertisers', oh, lordy, I just can't help but think there's going to be some big time 'back-pedaling' going on, once a coupla' more advertisers end up in somebody's legal crosshairs.

    Time Is A Parasite's Friend

  13. #13
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    Will the merchants also be punished when MetroGuide wins? And is there a possibility to get compensated for affiliates?

    carneol

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    quote:
    Originally posted by carneol:
    Will the merchants also be punished when MetroGuide wins? And is there a possibility to get compensated for affiliates?


    No and No. What will probably happen is that the case will be settled out of court. Hotels.com will probably pay MetroGuide an undisclosed amount of money and promise not to continue their practice on MetroGuides site, amoung other things.

    Mark Wolinski
    GigaGolf, Inc

  15. #15
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    Does that mean: if they clear it up off the court, and hotels.com keeps hand of their website, they will also keep hands off my website if I sue them?

    carneol

  16. #16
    Schlaumeier cumbrowski's Avatar
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    quote:
    Originally posted by carneol:
    Does that mean: if they clear it up off the court, and hotels.com keeps hand of their website, they will also keep hands off my website if I sue them?

    carneol


    Yes and May be. You can not refer to this trial if you sue (if they settle it off-court).
    You can reference to the trial, if they go through the whole thing and the court comes to an verdict.

    Carsten

    Shop-Links.net Partner
    Shop-Links.net

    If you can't move things, try harder!

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