Companies That Just Don’t Get It

by Jonathan Longnecker

Viral Growth is Evil!Recently I had an encounter with a company that had a website, but didn’t understand the web. I promised them in an oh so nice email that I would write a blog post on the whole thing, so enjoy smile.

So my wife has a site that talks about the benefits of cloth diapers over disposable. She became a member of the Real Diaper Association (no I’m not going to dignify them with a link) who provides members with some very nice researched information to back up the above claims. Things like the chemicals used cause cancer, they take 200-500 years to decompose, scary stuff like that.

To make a long story short, we used their reasons, clearly citing them as the authors and giving them a prominent link back to their site. And then we got this email:

Dear Ashley Longnecker,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Real Diaper Association. It has come to our attention that you have quoted an entire page from the Real Diaper Association website on your site at While. you have written, “Information provided by the Real Diaper Association,” I would like to make it clear that you do not have permission to reproduce text copied from the Real Diaper Association website. The text reproduced by you is copyrighted, and all rights are reserved. We request that you remove our copyrighted tex immediately.

We do, however, encourage you to link to the Real Diaper Association website page, Real Diaper Facts, as you give your customers and website visitors your own reasons to use cloth diapers.

As a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit organization, Real Diaper Association supports volunteers working to advocate cloth diapers. We welcome you as a member. Please join us as you promote cloth diapers.

Now, it would have been one thing if they said, “Hey do you mind taking that down? Thanks.” But no, and so begins my rant. This is a classic example of a company that doesn’t understand the power of the web. It’s a GOOD thing that other people are using their well researched work and crediting them for it. But for some unknown reason, they feel the need to harbor everything on their site. Probably the funniest parts are where after she gives a cease and desist she says we should join the RDA and link back to them. What are they smoking? Oh! and even better this letter came from the “webmaster.” Anyway, here was my response; I think it covers most of my observations from this whole debacle:

Hi RDA person (name changed to protect the innocent…wait they’re not inncent…hmmm),

First of all, I find it most disheartening that you would treat your members and supporters this way. I would understand if we were claiming this information as our own, but we very prominently linked to and made it clear that you had provided the information. Being a webmaster by trade, I think that you of anyone there would understand the benefits of having a link from a very relevant site proclaiming that your content is useful and worthy of checking out. Hello Google search rank?

I also find it rather troubling that you have made an effort to gather all this great information, but intend to keep it in your “walled garden,” so to speak. Of course, your copyright claim would hold up in court. I’m not arguing that. But by default, the very nature of the web is to be open, share our studies, our findings and make them easily accessible to as many people as possible. Especially research. So long as you are referenced for you work, there should be no problems with this at all. In fact, it should only solidify the fact that you are an authority on cloth diapers and increase traffic to your site. But probably the worst thing about all this is that we’re supposed to be on the same side, promoting the reasons we should use cloth diapers. You are apparently only interested in your company. You should be sharing this info with as many advocates as possible. Ever heard of viral growth? A supporting community? You’re stifling and suffocating it with stunts like this. You’re totally ignoring the power and potential of the web in fear that someone put up the same researched facts that you have. It lacks of common sense.

I can tell you this: Sure, we’ll take it down. It’s done already. No we will not link to you. I’m sure there are other organizations looking to further the cause of cloth diapering without keeping it all to themselves. No we will not renew any memberships with you. And yes, there will probably be several blog entries on the ridiculousness of all this in the near future.

It’s sad that they can’t see what a great grassroots campaign they could have with the power of the internet, but I guess they’ll never know. Too bad, really. So am I off my rocker here or not? Let me know in the comments.

April 23, 2008



  1. Having been in publishing for several years I see their point.BUUUTTTT, this is silly. They should be stoked that someone noticed their organization and tried to pass along useful information. I guess in the future, short paragraph with link to original article. I guess it still comes down to control. Well, they just lost a supporter(oh, oops, I don’t have any kids), but I have friends that keep the population going. I’ll pass along your wife’s website to them. No diapers were harmed in the making of this opinion.

  2. It’s kind of funny, and kind of sad actually too.
    So I googled the site, and looked it over just a wee-wee bit [punster].
    It seems maybe there is a bit of a competition thing going on here, as they do sell cafepress merchandise. With the cost of outsourcing merchandising, I imagine it’s hard to even make a buck that stuff.

    Also on their homepage, there is a title I’m sort of curious about:
    “As a Real Diaper Circle Leader…” to the contrary, that’s a circle I might like to stay far-far away from.
    Can you imagine having that puppy on your resume, lol. Diaper Circle Leader for the past three years, currently in Training Pants Circles.
    Both sites address real concerns, just having some fun with it, and wishing all the best.
    jeez they shoulda known not to mess with professionals here.
    nice rant-up.

  3. @ Randy, yeah like I said, if they’d just asked nicely I would have thought it was stupid, but no harm, no foul. But a cease and desist? I mean, c’mon.

    @Ty, the funny thing is, they’re a non-profit so there’s not any competition going on there. Hahaha, I don’t know what’s up with the Circle Leader stuff. Oh well, I do feel better having ranted, thank you.

  4. I have dealt with similar situations in the past with non-profit organisations, I won’t mention any names though. Just like your experience they didn’t want us to reproduce the information on our own community, not for profit site, but they did want us to link to the article buried deep in their website.  They seemed overly protective of their own site, as if me reproducing some part of it (with full credit to them) would in some way affect their website in a negative way.

    I imagine that this kind of thing goes on all the time, and yes, I too wish that some people would “get it”

  5. Sounds like they might have a severly limited view of the world and their respective place in it.  It’s sad that they can’t see the bigger picture, and how, if we all work together we can build off everyone’s ideas and go much further much faster.  And yes, I too, think that ‘s the whole point of the web, and having open communication.  In the end, tho, they’ll be the loosers for it.  Karma lives.  We don’t have to believe in it to make it so!
    I don’t know about their work, but what I’ve seen thus far of yours is awesome.  Perhaps they felt intimidated??!

  6. A similar thing happened to us at FamilyHack. A niche magazine got nutty over an article we posted on our site. We thought they deserved a little publicity and gave them a nice intro with a link to their site. They said we “stole” the article. Nuff said…It’s off our site and their fledging pub has one less promoter.


    P.S. Cloth Diapers Rule!

  7. hmm, that image does look pretty evil.

  8. that is reall funny. companies having a website not understanding the web. they should have hired someone fmiliar with the web to do the job

  9. Good job and in total agreement. Have they ever heard of fair use?

  10. I salute you. You said it very well in your letter reply and there’s no better way to say it professionally.  Sad to say that company didn’t display any kind of professionalism.

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