If you like crime stories, you’ll love this. ‘True Crime: Hammersmith’ is the story of a deranged criminal organisation (Datadial) and the ensuing legal battle to stop it.
Chapter 1. The Best Intentions.
On August 17th, 2010; the world was rocked to its core when the Datadial blog posted an article titled ‘Increase Conversion rates – advanced techniques’. Of course, it all seemed fairly innocuous. A simple review of tools to help increase conversion rates on your website. The article named several companies and their websites and praised them for their techniques. Indeed, one man even thanked Datadial for the mention! Clearly Mr. Eames didn’t realise that he was just a pawn in one man’s cruel game; the likes of which the legal world has never seen. …until now.
Chapter 2. The Worst Intentions 17th April 2013. Almost three years later. An email is sent from Fox Williams LLP to the author of the article and owner of the website, Mr. Robert Faulkner. The email was sent on behalf of Fox Williams LLP’s client, Shopzilla.co.uk. You’ve probably heard of Shopzilla. According to their Trade mark List of Goods and Services (which was supplied in the email) they specialise in: ‘Promoting sale of goods and services of others; Internet consumer comparison shopping services; providing ratings and reviews of businesses and products and services for use by consumers; providing databases containing commercial information relating to products and merchants’. As it transpires, Shopzilla had been mentioned in Datadial’s article all those years ago. Right at the bottom. As an honourable mention, as recognition for their online service. Shopzilla had finally gotten wind of the article, after all that time; and they did the only thing any self-respecting company would do. They contacted their solicitors to have the link removed. Chapter 3. Motives Why did they want the link removed? Why indeed. Allow me to reprint the grounds of the legal action and analyse each point in-depth:
- Trade Mark infringement
- Causing detriment to the distinctive character of the Trade Mark;
- Causing detriment to the reputation of the Trade Mark by creating an undesirable association with the Infringing Website; and
- Taking unfair advantage of the goodwill attached to the Trade Mark.
Now… as I’ve mentioned, Shopzilla is legally defined as one that “provides ratings and reviews of businesses and products and services for use by consumers”. It sets itself up as one. That is the legal definition of Shopzilla. If acknowledging this definition is ‘detrimental to the distinctive character of the trademark’ and it creates an ‘undesirable association’ I daresay they might need to have a brand re-think. I wasn’t sure exactly what ‘Goodwill attached to the Trade Mark’ meant. Suing for a mention of your brand doesn’t seem like an act of goodwill to me. I have since looked up ‘Goodwill’ in legal terms and it pretty much means ‘the right to do business without direct competition’.
Basically not stealing other people’s business. (If anyone has a better definition, I’d welcome it in the comments). I’m not quite sure how praising a company prevents it making profits; but I’m fairly sure Datadial didn’t steal any of their market, or any other products that Shopzilla recommends on its site.
As requested, I’ll provide an account of the profits Datadial made through the use of Shopzilla’s name alone:
£0, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000
We’ll happily share in these profits with Shopzilla. It’s only fair.
2. Passing off [Fox William’s LLP’s] client’s goodwill Our client has invested significant time and money in developing the Shopzilla® brand making it instantly recognisable amongst the public as a trustworthy and reputable online comparison shopping engine. It is highly likely that the average consumer will be confused, believing that our client is in some manner connected with the Infringing Website, either through ownership and operation or through a commercial relationship or endorsement with the operator of the Infringing Website. Such connection is causing our client damage. As such, your use of Shopzilla® in this way constitutes passing off.
I had to open my legal dictionary again for this one. Basically ‘Passing off’ means creating an undue association between two parties, specifically one claiming undue association with the goods sold by another company. I’d like to state unequivocally that Datadial’s use of a link congratulating Shopzilla® on its use of product comparison is not an attempt to gain an association with Shopzilla® or any products sold or compared on Shopzilla®’s website. It would be interesting to see if Shopzilla® could provide proof that Datadial has stolen any of its business.
3. Copyright Infringement The use of the Infringing Website of text and graphics taken from our client’s websites is an infringement of our client’s copyright. You have copies and communicated the copyrighted work to the public through the Infringing Website. The use of the copyrighted work has occurred without the consent of our client, the copyright owner. We put you on notice that any continued use of our client’s text and/or graphics (in whole or in part) on the Infringing Website will constitute and infringement of our client’s copyright. This is without prejudice to our client’s position that you already have the requisite knowledge to establish such liability.
I was totally on-board until the last sentence. Even my module in Forensic Linguistics couldn’t have prepared me for that. I guess they’re suggesting that because Shopzilla® is a well-known website we should know that everything on their site belongs to them.
If Fox Williams LLP is reading this, I would recommend visiting The Plain English Campaign’s site. I’ve provided a link so you know what I’m talking about. . http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/ I hope they don’t sue me…
Legalese notwithstanding, Datadial hasn’t stolen any content from Shopzilla®. Neither text nor images have been used. Shopzilla®’s name wasn’t even used. It was a link via a URL, and you can’t copyright a URL. And even if you could (WHICH YOU CAN’T) it was a mention in a review so it’s fair use! What’s even more confusing is that Shopzilla appears to have sold out on Point 6 of its own philosophy:
‘Information is Empowering: Share it Wherever Possible’.
Chapter 4. Reasons. So far as I can tell there are no legal grounds for removing a hyperlink. We have been advised by Fox Williams to seek legal advice, so I am hoping the readers of this article can offer some help. Fox Williams have not mentioned that this is a link clean-up operation; and surely they would have gone down the normal route if that was the case. If they’d sent us a polite email asking for the link removal, we would have explained that since we have a reasonably high domain authority of 50+ the link in question would likely have little effect on their rankings and it’s 3 years old anyway so any effect would have been discounted anyway…etc As a precautionary measure we have taken down the link, as requested. If anyone has any thoughts on why Shopzilla wanted this link removed so badly, please share them here though keep it legal! Chapter 5. A riposte. Datadial is not a law-firm, but it is an internet marketing agency. We know how to use Google. Upon receiving the email, we took to the web to find out all we could about the legalities of Hyperlinking. Here are some insights into the subject as documented by Out-Law.com.
- “…hyperlinks do not transmit a work, (to which they link) they merely provide the viewer with information as to the location of a page that the user can choose to access or not. There is thus no communication of the work.” (source)
- “Just as an improved search-engine that improves the ability of users to locate material for which they are searching should not be required to obtain permission as a matter of copyright law, so providing links or access to material already publicly available should not be regarded as an act that requires any authorisation” (source)
- “every internet user enjoys access to the work simply by learning the uniform resource locator (URL) the court held. The hyperlink technique obviates the need to enter the URL manually and merely provides an easier and more convenient way to use the internet.” (source)
- “Kranten.com successfully argued that such deep linking to other sites is a widespread and commonly accepted practice on the internet and because, as in UK law, news articles can be copied for the purpose of reporting current events, provided there is sufficient acknowledgement.” (source)
The author of the original article has never been in trouble with the law. He’s an honest man who does business by the book. You can imagine his upset when he received the original letter. Faced with the fear that he would spend the rest of his life in prison, he considered transfering all of the company’s money to The Battersea Cat’s Home, and move to a Tibetan Monastery. However, he quickly rationalised the situation and sat down on his sofa with a glass of wine and a Twix. Since Shopzilla® and its lawyers are solely responsible for causing an undue amount of stress, it only seems fair that they reimburse him for the glass of wine and Twix. Twix: £0.80 Glass of wine: £2.40
Chapter 5. Prologue.
Shopzilla’s VP has come forward to apologise for the misunderstanding. The apology is in the comments below. They acknowledged that it was a mistake and said they were sorry it happened. I guess we’re not being sued anymore!
We just received a courier delivery…
I wonder what it is…
Well, how about that! A bottle of Red Wine and a box of Twixes. Thanks very much Shopzilla!
What is Movember?
- Movember (a combination of the terms Moustache and November), is an annual national incentive welcomed far and wide by mo bro‘s (Movember brothers, I think) who help to raise awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and other male cancer initiatives, by the growing of their moustaches.
- The idea was launched circa 1999 by a group of 80 guys in a pub in Adelaide – and since then has gotten great publicity for it’s cause, with ambassadors including many well known celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg and UFC Lightweight Champ Frankie Edgar.
- The campaign has even gone on to partner with Google Chrome to create a video:
Great! – What can businesses learn from Movember?
Aside from the success that comes with the genuine promotion of a charitable cause, there are many things all business owners and it’s employee’s can learn here, including:
1) Teamwork increases the odds of success!
It was a team of 80 guys that first started the initiative, not just one. Now, while it is entirely possible to begin something on your own and grow it from there, it is so much easier having people agree on the same thing from the start.
Aside from the team of people being on the same wavelength, being part of something gives it more power, which gets things going faster than if you have to wear all the hats yourself!
2) The best gains can be gotten through giving something away!
There’s a reason why on your lunch-break, if you’re lucky you’ll see a coca-cola van parked up, attached to a trolley full of free drinks it’s giving away – branding.
Being known to seduce potential customers with your product is an age-old tactic and is regularly used, use it!
The original mo bro’s gave away their freshly shaven upper lips and gained tonnes of cool-points in return.
Whatever your business niche, offer up some freebies! It might lose you money in the short run, but could very well gain you leads and will strengthen your brand awareness in the long run.
3) People outside of your niche, will help you – if what you are doing helps them!
With the recent banking scandals and shortfalls related to the Olympics, it might be hard to believe it, but people like to be nice! – Even more so when other people appreciate their niceness.
One example of this is Qantas - the flag carrier of Australia, who painted a moustache on one of its airplanes in aid of the charity in 2011.The famous ‘tache can also be spotted at the Qantas terminal where it is displayed proudly on the entrance building:
The business of aviation isn’t particularly well known for charity among the masses, however Qantas getting involved in this shows that it doesn’t matter what you do, it will be recognized if there is genuine goodwill behind it!
4) Forget paid promotion in hopes of going viral, if your idea/cause is a good one, that is PR enough!
It’s true you can buy your way to a million views on YouTube and etc. but I’m guessing the satisfaction isn’t nearly as close to when something genuinely takes off!
Of course working with internet giants Google can bring any cause to the attention of the masses, mostly because Google pretty much run the inter-web. However, it wasn’t Google that shed light on Movember alone.
The charity worked its own way to the forefront for many reasons the biggest being that it relates to men, who make up a huge scale of the population!
Allowing/encouraging others to get involved in your cause, means they’ll feel closely related to it, and if it appeals to them personally they’ll be even more likely to continue or at least acknowledge it among peers.
After that, going “viral” is almost the next step, simply because people will want to be a part of something so good!
Ask Men‘s Movember movie comedy short:
MovemberTV: Movember’s Impact on Awareness
Online trading is a fast paced world. Whether it be in stock and shares, grants for start-ups or otherwise, there aren’t many examples to date that show the benefits of waiting around.
Let’s look at some examples of once leading technologies, that have recently or notably had to resort to publicising selling shares, or changing hands to stay (or become) relevant; which of these companies/ventures/subsidiaries do you still associate with “cool“?:
Known originally for: Pioneering the discovery of new music online…
Now thought of as: A dated money leaking endeavour that has passed hands more than a hot potato.
Known originally for: The only key to dial up internet…
Now thought of as: American acronym that we see online from time to time, mostly trying to be spammed-in as the default homepage for your browser when downloading freeware.
Known originally for: Groundbreaking search engine and most famous Google competitor…
Now thought of as: Fairly annoyingly designed interface that we’re surprised is still around.
Known originally for: Quirky news discovery site…
Now thought of as: Recently sold to a company for $500, 000 (much less that it was once worth ($175, 000, 000)
Known originally for: The new zeitgeist and awesome brainchild of cool-techie Mark Zuckerburg…
Now thought of as: Slightly spammy/stalky connect-service offering the chance to re-establish relasionships with distant relatives & old “friends”
Known originally for: Newbie picture service that made Twitter pics look really cool…
Now thought of as: Lovely money-maker for start-up entrapeneur Kevin Systrom (he knew when to sell)
Known originally for: Having a great customizable email service that tied closely to MSN messeger and then windows live…
Now thought of as: Uber-spammy email service that looks outdated & unsure of its design.
Known originally for: Creating the Blackberry; a respectable device for business-people…
Now thought of as: Annoying pingy device taken over by tweens and teeny-boppers who got excited about its messaging service, which is essentially not far from a text message.
Known originally for: Competing with the big boys and girls (basically Google) and doing that respectably…
Now thought of as: A failed Microsoft endeavour, that was close – but no cigar…
Known originally for: Clever algorithms that tailored music choices to the listener based on entering a few personalised details…
Now thought of as: Recently hacked music service that was long out-thought by competitors (Pandora, Spotify and iTunes’ “Ping“)
Known originally for: Pioneering photo technology as we knew it and introducing a sense of class to both the disposable and polaroid camera…
Now thought of as: A once amazing company that failed to follow technology into the world of digital and subsequently faced insolvency.
Don’t get left behind…
March 7th, 2012.
Barry from Search Engine Roundtable posted an interesting find from a Google Webmaster Central forums post. The OP pointed out that PC World (a leading electronics chain in the UK) is ranking with “Mothercare” (a leading baby/parenting chain in the UK) as it’s title in search results for the term ‘PC World teeside park’:
I’m still very intrigued as to how this happened, but after some digging around I think I’ve found a reason why (which I posted on Barry’s post).
1- It’s showing up for ‘mothercare teeside park’ as well (suggesting it’s not ‘one way’). Both results show a Google Places result with the same address and a phone number: 01642 618325
2- A quick search for ’01642 618325 pc world’ returns http://uk.wowcity.com/hartlepool/?what=digital+camera+consumer+products
3- On this page the first result for Mothercare links through to PC World’s homepage (although the details are correct for Mothercare). Note this passes through an internal tracking script and isn’t a direct link.
This looks to me like an error in Wowcity’s listing as the cause of the problem, and probably isn’t anything to do with the folks at PC World or Mothercare (or the agencies they may be working with), but is an interesting fine nonetheless.
If my theory is correct it begs the question- Does Google Places trust it’s citation sources too much? Would love to hear your comments (particularly if you work for PC World, Mothercare and Wowcity!) below.
November 17th, 2011.
One of my colleagues here at Datadial talked about the peculiar QR code and its uses previously on this blog. Fast forward to now and it seems to have evolved (or caught up with Japan who created them, since technically we live in the stone ages in comparison).
eBay are getting in on the act…
A post from the good folks at Econsultancy informs us of a new-age phenomenon set up by eBay, that will see customers sent online to buy goods only after scanning their bar codes with QR compatible devices.
After reading it, I started thinking about the future of shopping as a whole, with Google taking over the virtual world and taking on everyone from Apple (with Google Music) to Facebook (with Google+) are we living in a world where soon instead of buying food in-store we will be asked to produce our phones first, to then scan a code, pay online and wait for said food to be delivered? Could it become as outrageous as to be used in convenience stores for quick snacks like a chocolate bar or a packet of crisps?
If this is the present already, what does the future hold…?
Both funny and annoyingly true right? …and that’s just online shopping. If we are entering into a world of offline/online mergers what else could happen? I mean sure, in theory there are many problems it could solve:
- Store space would no longer be an issue (just like it no longer was for Cassette’s, CD’s and vinyl after iTunes was born)
- No heavy bags to carry home
- Lesser feelings of guilt because money becomes virtual too; if we can’t see it disappear from our purses then we might forget what we spent
- Scheduling goods to arrive at a time that works best for us
However, what if the downfalls included…
- The wrong item turning up at the door
- The annoyance of having to exchange an item and there being no store front to take it to (or in-store employee to blame for the journey)
- No bag to carry (everybody enjoys a little logo-bragging from time to time)
- That silly little “sorry, you were out when we called” card that the postman surely writes before he even knocks the door in anticipation of you taking longer than he’d like to walk down the stairs & answer it…
To conclude, I agree that this pop-up store (due to launch near Oxford Street, London on Dec 1st) is a great PR stunt for eBay, but is there any real use for the QR code if most people are happy just Googling a URL? – Or perhaps it’s just me that really dislikes the matrix-esque appearance of those ugly squares being forced on the nation…
July 8th, 2011.
1. You didn’t explain exactly what it was that you wanted…
Did the SEO agency you chose actually understand what it is you do? Did you assume they would? I bet you did! Well that was a rookie error – just because they know SEO, it doesn’t mean that automatically they’ll know all of your business goals and aspirations. It certainly doesn’t mean that through SEO, all of your dreams will come-true overnight. Covering things such as budget and goals are essential in order for us to devise the appropriate strategy for you.
2. The SEO’s weren’t told what already worked (or didn’t work) for you…
Were you clear about what the best features of your online endeavours are so far? Did you talk about what proved successful, or things you tried and that were unsuccessful?
All conversions can be tracked which shows any progress SEO’s have (or haven’t) made. However, if you don’t inform the SEO’s of what already works or doesn’t then you can’t argue if there are repeat mistakes.
3. You didn’t indicate the importance of having one main person oversee the account…
Because any reputable SEO agency isn’t made up of just one person behind a desk and computer handling every enquiry made, but is rather formed of a team of people ranging in size (the team not the people, although this applies to both ) that help manage your account – it is likely that, much like a ‘Chinese-whisper’, your goals, aims and dreams are somewhat diluted to anyone that didn’t speak to you directly.
For example, when person 1, explained the information to person 2, who made brief notes and handed those to person 3, person 3 wasn’t following your direct instructions. They might not have fully understood the notes…however, you don’t have to accept this. If you only feel comfortable with one person in particular handling your account, request that only that person have access to it. This way, any changes made by you won’t come as a surprise to the SEO.
4. You didn’t understand the amount of work needed and so were surprised when costs were higher than expected…
Good Search Engine Optimization will get your site discovered in online search results. There is however, more to it than that. Many people in an SEO agency work to get your site to its optimum, and you need to be aware of just how much work goes into this.
This team will mainly be in charge of making sure that SEO is being carried out for all your online needs
This team works alongside the SEOs to help get you publicity online.
Usability & Design:
This team will have the job of creating a smooth user experience for all users that come across your website.
This team will develop, build and ensure things work – such as buttons on your site, conversion tracking and more.
Providers of Content:
This team will ensure that good content is maintained, and optimised so that people can find it.
5. You didn’t maintain a good relationship with the agency…
Chances are, you started off all guns blazing, before slowly falling into a pattern of laziness, assuming the agency would take care of everything the way you wanted – meaning you wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Further, you were unavailable for meetings, you didn’t specify what kinds of reports you wanted, and changes were (or were not) made that you caused dissaproval. When (on your say-so) these changes were reversed, rankings and conversions fell and this caused (even more) tension between you and the agency.
Remember, rankings and conversion rates can see-saw and any changes made to your site can take time to show the positive affect they are having. You should try not to ignore advice about possible re-designs or new pages that should be added to your site. Other things to consider are using services to monitor your online reputation and testing better versions of your website to get the best results.
Does anyone know this Matthew Fox from a company Fox Draper. He also goes under the name of Matthew Terry.
The little weazel conned me out of some money for telemarketing services which I stupidly paid for upfront and he has now disappeared.
Do you know him? Have you had a similar experience? please let me know.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN DEFRAUDED BY MATTHEW FOX PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW SO THAT WE CAN COLLECT EVIDENCE AGAINST HIM AND RECOVER OUR MONEY
Here’s the ruse he used:
He promised to bring in leads and said I would only pay him the remainder of the funds once he had bought in an agreed volume of qualified meetings.
He asked me to set up an email account which he could use in our name. He provided a contract and an address at Witheringdon Hill, Burwash Common, TN19 7JN, or at Unit 3 Bedgebury business Park, Goldhurst, TN17 2QZ (or 2Q2)
All seemed legitimate but once the money was paid we never heard from him again.
Since posting the blog post I have spoken to two companies who were about to deal with him but found this blog post first. For them he claimed to have worked for Eroll E-commerce, D3R Media in Chichester. For us he claimed to have worked for Screen Pages.
If you do speak to him and confront him then he will pretend that the reason I have posted this blog is that we fell out. This is not true – we never had a chance to fall out as he disappeared with my cash before we even got started.
Anyway please do add your comments below if you have had a similar experience or know how I can get hold of him.
Subsequent to this post and the subsequent uncovering of further businesses who have been similarly affected Matthew Fox/Draper/Terry was arrested in April 2012. He initially pleaded not guilty to the 16 charges of fraud against him.
The day before trial he pleaded guilty to the offences.
On November 22nd he was given a prison sentence of 18 months for all crimes to run concurrently (so 18 months in all). Below you can see the posts that started this process off.
Personally it gives me no pleasure to see Matthew in prison but hopefully some good will come out of this. I believe all victims are still waiting for their money to be paid back which I presume is unlikely.
Thank you to all those who found my post and commented
Did you mean…/search instead for…?
YES, of course I meant that! – And If I left a vowel or a connective out because unlike you I am not a robot & I like to use computer-speak, then so be it. The bottom line is you knew what I meant – so did you have to be as condescending as that and point out the mistake I made?
Really Google? Finishing the search before I have written it? I mean c’mon – it’s one thing that you’re arrogant enough that you feel you need to tell me the speed in which you gathered my results, now you’re finishing my sentences for me like we’re in a marriage?
I’m at work, I’m signed into Google. I search a keyword phrase I’m using in Google Adwords & bingo – I’m ranking number 3 on the 1st page! That’s weird, yesterday I was on the 5th page, I haven’t upped the bids in-fact – I haven’t made any changes, but I’m not complaining at all, instead I sit & wait for the money to roll in. I get home from work and quickly carry out a query and sit back waiting to see my site turn up on the first page for that particular keyword and… hold on, it’s not there? I click to the next page and nothing. I carry on until get to page 5 and there my ad is. I find and ask an SEO expert why this has happened & I’m told that when I’m signed into Google, the results differ from when I am signed out. I feel as though I’ve been living in the Matrix. *sigh*
Google seasonal/holiday/anniversary/event themes
I know its Christmas when the streets are paved with sleet and debris and every shop I go into leaves me that little less well off than I was before I walked in. I know its May-Day when I get that extra day off of work, I know its election day when people lie to me about which policy I ought to be interested in because the amount of tax I pay will go down. Nevertheless, Google wants in on the reminders too. I guess its okay, but sometimes I just don’t want to care. I’m sorry.
Google Chrome’s Sloth
Look. I want a *extremely mild expletive* homepage button on the interface without having to go into the settings and put one there! Is that too much to ask? – Surely not if Firefox and IE understood it.
Sorry, we own YouTube so you can’t sign in without us knowing
Now, they may say a change is as good as a rest but I beg to differ. I’ve been signing in with the same username & password since I opened a YouTube account but Google wants more of a direct approach. Now you cannot access your settings unless you sign in via your Gmail account, which is reasonable enough – but what if you have multiple Gmail accounts? I don’t really have a problem with this one, but imagine if Google started buying up everything on the internet enforcing this same sign in rule or else no access. While it may not be that bad, it’s the principle…
…Oh well, as Google grows stronger by the query, I’m sure there will be more to add to this list soon!
February 28th, 2011.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing a lot more keyword research recently, but I’ve been seeing a few amusing captcha images lately:
Turns out I’m not the only one- here are a collection of amusing (and somewhat embarrassing on Google’s part) captcha images I’ve come across:
‘no dick’ captcha via ImpactLab
‘retard’ captcha via Techeblog
‘hymen’ captcha via yogomozilla
‘hymens much’ captcha via @ilmv
We’ve all been there, needing to show a friend or colleague something we’re seeing on our monitor but don’t want them to see the entire screen, so we reluctantly fire up photoshop (or paint!), then crop the image, save the image (thinking up some temporary filename and cluttering up yet another folder) and finally email the resulting image – wasting precious time and losing focus on other tasks at hand.
Using the tool that sits next to your clock you can very quickly highlight a portion of your screen and either copy to clipboard, save to your computer, or upload to dowce.com – where you’ll be given back a unique short URL to send out to people. You can even add a caption and password protect your capture. It literally takes a few seconds and lets you get on with your other jobs.
Pre-launch, members of the team here at Datadial installed it on their office computers and found it to be really useful when composing emails to clients which needed to contain screenshots of statistics and website layouts. Friends have also started using it to show each other winning (and losing) hands of online poker! It’s one of those tools that once you pick up, you use more than you would expect.
To give you an idea of what’s on offer, here’s a screenshot of the options you get after you’ve made your selection:
If you choose to Save to dowce.com you’ll receive a unique link to your capture…
It’s as simple as that! For a full demonstration of how it all works and to download dowce for free, visit www.dowce.com