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Black Friday Ads Get Advance Look Online

By David Utter

Several websites have cropped up over time, featuring scans of advertisements big retailers like Wal-Mart and Target plan to put out for the day-after Thanksgiving. Those retailers, and one in particular, are not especially thrilled with this.

Why wait until Thanksgiving Day for the morning paper with all of the advertisements for crazy deals on Black Friday, when you can visit a selection of websites to see them in advance?

Plenty of people have done so already. Hitwise research director LeeAnn Prescott said, "Consumers have clearly caught on to the idea of planning their Black Friday shopping by using the Black Friday websites to find the best deals for holiday gifts."

As evidence, Hitwise noted visits to the top five Black Friday ad websites jumped 167 percent for the week ended November 11th, when compared to the same period in 2005. Visits to those sites led to plenty of downstream traffic to retailers whose ads were posted online:
Rank Name Domain Market Share Percent of Downstream Traffic to Shopping & Classifieds Websites
1 Black Friday Advertisements bfads.net 37.65% 50.88%
2 Black Friday @ GottaDeal blackfriday. gottadeal .com 27.90% 65.61%
3 BlackFriday blackfriday.info 17.74% 78.94%
4 BlackFridayAds blackfridayads .com 9.75% 64.07%
5 Black Friday Ads theblackfriday .com 6.96% 54.31%
Note: Data based on market share of visits for the week ending 11/11/06 from a sample of Internet users
Source: Hitwise

Big box electronic retailer Best Buy does not appreciate having its ads placed on display ahead of time. Boing Boing blogger Cory Doctorow posted the news that the company sent a DMCA takedown notice to BlackFriday.info for placing its advertising on the site.

That's an inappropriate use of the DMCA, said Doctorow:

BestBuy has been sued for abusing the DMCA this way in the past. If BlackFriday wants a mirror for its BestBuy prices, I'd be glad to host it here on Boing Boing. If we got a bogus takedown from BestBuy over this, we'd just post it here and make fun of it. Sue and be damned.

He followed that by helpfully posting a cached version of the Best Buy sales on Boing Boing. Doctorow also linked the story from Ars Technica, which reported on the Best Buy action:

Low Rate eCommerce & Retail Plans

Best Buy and other retailers that churn out takedown notices are misusing the DMCA, but the larger problem is the law itself. The powers granted by the DMCA are broad enough that it is tempting for companies to wield the law as a bludgeon against whomever is displeasing them. Until the law is changed, companies will continue giving into the temptation to misapply it.

That abuse comes from the "safe harbor" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. If an Internet service provider promptly takes down content challenged under DMCA, it receives safe harbor protection under the law.

Abusers of this provision can use it to suppress expressions of free speech they find distasteful. As Doctorow wrote, a list of prices isn't copyrightable because it isn't an original creative work.

Meanwhile, people will continue to enjoy these leaked postings, until the retailers get wise to the advertising potential behind this consumer interest and take advantage of it themselves.

About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering ebusiness and technology.

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