Wal-Mart warns Web sites that leak Black Friday ads

Retailer says early ad postings violate copyright, trade secret laws

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has threatened legal action against Web sites that leak its Black Friday ads, according to one Web site that received a warning letter from the retail company's lawyers.

The day after Thanksgiving -- this year it's Nov. 23 -- is known as "Black Friday" and is considered the first day of the Christmas shopping season, when stores offer deep discounts on a number of items. The Web site, Black Friday Ads, posts ads related to those sales.

A posting on the Black Friday Web site said it received a letter from Wal-Mart yesterday regarding its policy on leaking information related to its Black Friday sales. The Web site also posted the letter.

The letter said that Wal-Mart decided to let Web sites know that if they post those ads before Nov. 19, the Monday before Black Friday, they could be subject to legal action.

A Wal-Mart spokesman acknowledged the company's efforts to prevent the information from appearing online but downplayed the letter's legal threats.

"In the past, certain Web sites have posted seasonal promotion advertising from Wal-Mart -- and many other retailers -- without authorization," said Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley in an e-mail. "Because these Web sites have violated laws covering trade secrets and copyright protection, we have merely reminded them of their obligations under the law and asked them to observe those laws."

The Black Friday Ads site said it had no choice but to comply with the letter.

"Let's be real here. Wal-Mart is a corporate conglomerate that crushes small towns on its way to world dominance," the Web site says. "We're a site on the Internet that posts Black Friday Ads. Even if we were in the right in posting Wal-Mart's advertisements, we in no way have the means or time to bother with a potential litigation. We have no course of action here and unless Wal-Mart rescinds their threat, don't expect the Wal-Mart advertisement to appear on any Black Friday site until November 19th."

A representative from Black Friday Ads could not be reached for comment.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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