Toyota, one of the biggest car companies in the world, is often a name synonymous with quality. There is even a philosophy of doing business, called “The Toyota Way”, which emphasizes that the right result will come from the right process, and that solving the root problems brings the organization the greatest benefit.
This ‘Way’ is probably not communicated to its lawyers in great detail, which is why Desktopnexus, a site that provides desktop backgrounds, has been contacted by them. In perhaps one of the most wildly arrogant demands in DMCA history, Toyota’s lawyers are demanding the withdrawal of all wallpapers that feature a Toyota, Scion, or Lexus. The site’s owner, Harry Maugans contacted Toyota to clarify. He was told that all images featuring Toyota vehicles should be removed, even images with copyright belonging to others.
Speaking to TorrentFreak, Maugans said: “Their lawyer, Garrett Biggs, told us that if we wanted them to specifically identify their images, we would have to pay for them to do so”. Maugans also said he was afraid it would come to a lawsuit, fearing the attrition effect that is so common now in copyright disputes. Toyota, with cash assets of over $23Billion can surely afford to spin out the legal costs in an attempt to bankrupt the site – the same strategy that is often used to ‘encourage‘ a settlement in RIAA cases.
Yet, Toyota has also been cagey. These demands have not been sent in the form of a DMCA notice. While sending such a notice would require the takedown, it also requires that the person sending the notice legally certify that they are legal representatives for the copyright holders at issue. Making a false statement is ‘punishable under penalty of perjury‘, which is not taken lightly in US courts.
That copyright holders should be properly identified is also not lost on Mr. Maugans. “What if Toyota comes back and says “yes, we own the copyright to all of those [Toyota images on site]”. How can we know if they’re lying to get us to take them all down? How can we prove they do in fact own the copyrights on those wallpapers? Some are very hard to believe, such as this which looks more like Fan Art than a professionally designed marketing photo. Or this one which they’re claiming they own, but it has a “Created by:” line at the bottom by someone who doesn’t seem to have any connection to the actual Toyota company.”
The ‘huh what?’ value of Toyota’s position has been noticed by others as well. On the FreeCulture News site, one comment questions the action saying “What are they trying to accomplish by attacking free advertising?” Indeed, this is what it comes down to. Instead of embracing free advertising and word of mouth, Toyota seems desperate to control and micromanage every aspect of it’s publicity.
At the end of the day, the best question is that asked by Mr Maugans, “Has DMCA abuse really gotten this bad?”
At the time of press, Toyota Inc. did not respond to requests for comment.