This was supposed to be a great week for extreme camera manufacturer GoPro but instead it has stumbled into a PR nightmare.
On Wednesday the Winter X Games kicked off in the French skiing haven of Tignes and with GoPro involved the company was expecting lots of favorable views of its products. Now thanks to the actions of some of its staff the company is facing a massive user backlash and acres of bad press.
It all started when photography forum and online store DigitalRev published a comparative review of a GoPro camera against a similar Sony AS15 shooter. Shortly after the review went up it was pulled by the website's hosting company Softlayer after it received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice from a GoPro brand manager claiming trademark infringement.
"They say 'you learn something new everyday', and this is clearly an eye-opener for us here. It appears that we'll need their authorisation to review their products," DigitalRev said in a blog post.
"Those who are familiar with DMCA might know that more than 50% of DMCA notices are filed with an abusive nature to suppress freedom of expression or to prevent fair competitions. We hope GoPro is not suggesting, with this DMCA notice, that camera reviews should be done only when they are authorised by the manufacturers."
The news spread fast, with the usual suspects in social media declaring that they would never buy GoPro because of this, how the company had become just another corporate bully, and using the case as yet another example of how the DMCA is being abused.
But GoPro's director of PR Rick Loughery told El Reg that this was not the case. "We have no issue with editorial reviews or articles on GoPro," he said. He's been burning the midnight oil rather than supping on the delicious local eau de vie and has published an explanation on Reddit to try and head off user outrage at the pass.
"This letter was sent because DigitalRev is not an authorized reseller of GoPro products and they were using images and had incorrect branding and representation of our product in their online commerce store," he said.
"As part of our program – we ask merchants who are selling our product to use authorized images. That is why DigitalRev was contacted. But – our letter did not clearly communicate this and that is something we will correct."
This may have helped, but it also raises serious questions. Why use the DMCA in a trademark case for a start, and why was the URL targeted in GoPro's legal letter just the one carrying the review when the offending section of the website was its store? Also, if pictures of GoPro hardware can only be used by authorized resellers then does that mean everyone else can expect a DMCA takedown letter?
GoPro is a company that's benefited more than most from building a strong user community (and its hardware is on El Reg's own Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) spacecraft) and this fracas has the potential to really hurt all the goodwill the company has built up.
By choosing to go the DMCA route, rather than just picking up a telephone and asking DigitalRev nicely, the company may have shot itself in the foot, rather than shooting the latest skydive or skiing tricks. ®