I recall that dark day in late 2003, when mp3.com was bought by c|net and all the music and artist data went into the digital oblivion, all of 1.7 million songs from 250,000 artists. That day, c|net refused an offer from the Archive.org operators to provide them with free archiving space.
Archive.org operates in a manner similar to that of an ant: it crawls through each digital hole and every web gap of the Internet, takes snapshots of its contents and stores the data in a series of archiving web servers. The downside is slow retrieval speed; the upside, you can take a glimpse at how a particular web site looked in the past. Archive.org seems to be the authority of the matter, having stored millions of pages with its omnivorous crawlers that do seem, however, to observe the robots.txt declarations.
There have been several cases where Archive.org was used as a tool for litigation purposes, utilizing the web site’s authority and sheer amount of stored pages. Quoting from Wikipedia:
In 2003, Healthcare Advocates, Inc. were defendants in a trademark violation lawsuit wherein the prosecution attempted to use archived web material accessed via the Internet Archive. When they lost that suit, the company turned around and attempted to sue the Internet Archive for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. They claimed that since they had installed a robots.txt file on their website, it should have been avoided by the Internet Archive’s web crawlers but was not. The initial lawsuit was filed on June 26, 2003, and they added the robots.txt file on July 8, 2003, so pages should have been removed retroactively. The lawsuit with Healthcare Advocates was settled out of court.
In the suit filed last week in Brooklyn federal court, Citigroup alleges that in using the same Citi abbreviation and red arc as its banking subsidiary, Citibank, All Citi Pawn has infringed on their trademark. Citigroup is seeking all of the business’ profits since it adopted the All Citi name.
In the lawsuit, Citigroup is after damages equal to the revenue generated by the pawnshop during its entire use of the logo. The WHOIS information shows that AllCitiPawn.com was registered in 2005; unfortunately for the Citigroup vultures there is no such old entry in Archive.org. However, the stored pages from January 2007 tell a different story.
After taking the logo down, the store manager, Bob Kay, denies any such infringement and states:
“What can I tell you? Its crazy. They’re going wild for a little art that I put up. Theirs is a moon shape, mine is a V-shape, but I’ve already taken it down,” pawn shop manager Bob Kay told CNN.
It’s crystal clear that compared to the Citigroup logo the similarities are not coincidental: the typeface used appears to be intentionally similar, with the pair of dotless “i” letters forming an enclosure finished by the red cover on top: an arrow for All City Pawn or an arch for Citigroup, it’s all irrelevant; what matters is the overall impact of the logo and the potential for confusion that it delivers. As unfortunate as it is for the pawn shop owner, Citigroup appears to have a case with their monetary demands for damages.
So there you have it, Archive.org can be your friend in discovering useful parts of the past – or your enemy, forever storing parts of the past you’d rather hide. And that’s the culture of the Internet era that we live in.