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November 16th, 2008

Just As Well I Didn’t Go For The Lexus…

Something needs to be done to fix this system…

Toyota Claims Ownership of Fan Wallpapers

Toyota, one of the biggest car companies in the world, is often a name synonymous with quality. There is even a philosophy of doing business, called “The Toyota Way”, which emphasizes that the right result will come from the right process, and that solving the root problems brings the organization the greatest benefit.

This ‘Way’ is probably not communicated to its lawyers in great detail, which is why Desktopnexus, a site that provides desktop backgrounds, has been contacted by them. In perhaps one of the most wildly arrogant demands in DMCA history, Toyota’s lawyers are demanding the withdrawal of all wallpapers that feature a Toyota, Scion, or Lexus. The site’s owner, Harry Maugans contacted Toyota to clarify. He was told that all images featuring Toyota vehicles should be removed, even images with copyright belonging to others.

Speaking to TorrentFreak, Maugans said: “Their lawyer, Garrett Biggs, told us that if we wanted them to specifically identify their images, we would have to pay for them to do so”. Maugans also said he was afraid it would come to a lawsuit, fearing the attrition effect that is so common now in copyright disputes. Toyota, with cash assets of over $23 Billion can surely afford to spin out the legal costs in an attempt to bankrupt the site – the same strategy that is often used to ‘encourage‘ a settlement in RIAA cases.

Yet, Toyota has also been cagey. These demands have not been sent in the form of a DMCA notice. While sending such a notice would require the takedown, it also requires that the person sending the notice legally certify that they are legal representatives for the copyright holders at issue. Making a false statement is ‘punishable under penalty of perjury‘, which is not taken lightly in US courts.

This is a multi-billion dollar corporation, basically using the legal system to grind a small website owner into dirt.  A good faith legal challenge would contain specifics about what which images were infringing and which ones weren’t.  This is about corporate arrogance, less then greed, because there is no way Toyota is suffering financial loss from a fan website that is putting up wall papers for the use of other fans.  It’s not even like the RIAA sending out takedown notices.  At least what’s being illegally copied in that case is the actual product.  A web site that allows people to freely upload and download their own photographs of automobiles isn’t stealing anything from Toyota.  A Toyota copyrighted image, yes.  But Toyota is telling them to take everything down, or be either billed or sued into oblivion.

I have a suggestion.  How about people upload their images of broken down or wreaked Toyotas instead?  Maybe Toyota would like it if all anyone ever saw of their products on the Internet were images of broken down, rusted, junked abandoned or wreaked ones instead.

And just to get my digs in…I looked at a Lexus back when I was thinking about trading in the Accord.  I looked at two different Acura models, the new Accord, the Lexus ES, and the (then) new Mercedes C300.  I’d have bought any of the Acura’s before I’d have bought the Lexus.  Yes, the Lexus was the more sumptuous of the lot, but that cushy comfort came at the expense of everything else an autombile is supposed to be, including road feel, performance and handling.  It Looked nice.  And it felt nice too.  Until you sat in the Mercedes and right away you noticed how much more solid the German car was.  The Mercedes, the Accord and both the Acura’s ran rings around it on the highway, and I have never experienced anything like the Mercedes at high speeds, or on twisty backroads.  And mine’s only a ‘C’ class.  A Lexus sedan is worth the money, only if you care more about the upholstery then the way it drives.

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