Advice Regarding Cease & Desist for Selling Automation App

41 replies
Hello fellow members,

I have recently been in development of an application that will allow users to automate certain tasks on a social networking site. It will allow users to send pre-drafted messages to members they target via the website's search function.

The application is not designed to submit spam, the messages are for networking purposes only, networking is the purpose of the site in general. Everything the application will allow a user to do is the same thing you can do on the website, however the app will allow the user to save time by automating these tasks.

The website does state in their terms of service that applications such as this should not be used and doing so violates their TOS. To me this is absurd since the application will allow the user to save an abundance of time, and in my opinion will make his experience using the sight more enjoyable.

After doing some research I've found articles about myspace, facebook, and twitter sending cease and desist letters to companies who sold automated applications that worked on those sites. I haven't found any information about any of the companies that got a C&D ignoring it and continuing selling the software, I read that most companies that got the letter willingly shut down.

However, from doing google searches, there are still tons of applications selling such software, some that even infringe upon trademarks in their domain.

My main question is, can I sell software like this, being located in the US, to other users. By selling the software I am not violating the TOS of this website, the users of the software would be. I would also state that I am not affiliated with the website, and that users agreeing to buy and use the software do so at their own risk, and that I can not be held liable for consequences.

Would this be enough to cover me, or could the website still sue me on any grounds?

Anyone who has any insight on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
#advice #app #automation #cease #desist #selling
  • Profile picture of the author SuzanneH
    Seriously, get a lawyer. Don't base it on what you think is "absurd" or on what others are doing (or what you perceive them to be doing).

    Suzanne
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  • Profile picture of the author force5
    By selling the software I am not violating the TOS of this website, the users of the software would be.
    But its easier for the site to come after you..

    It is one of those things that if you get too big then they will come after you. There are still programs that abuse Twitter, but they went after the best known ones..

    The choice is yours, I don't think anyone can really tell you the best way, no one knows if you will get a c&D letter or not. You may get one on day one you may never get it..

    Tough choice in these times

    Paul
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    • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
      Originally Posted by force5 View Post

      But its easier for the site to come after you..

      It is one of those things that if you get too big then they will come after you. There are still programs that abuse Twitter, but they went after the best known ones..

      The choice is yours, I don't think anyone can really tell you the best way, no one knows if you will get a c&D letter or not. You may get one on day one you may never get it..

      Tough choice in these times

      Paul
      Thanks Paul,

      I am worried about getting too big since I would be the only person selling an application that would automate things for this site.

      I am worried about all the time and money investment's I'm going to be making and then possibly having to shut down without ROI.

      If what I would be selling couldn't cause civil litigation against me then it would def be worth it.

      Anyone know how the facebook bots are able to operate?
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  • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
    Originally Posted by SuzanneH View Post

    Seriously, get a lawyer. Don't base it on what you think is "absurd" or on what others are doing (or what you perceive them to be doing).

    Suzanne
    I'm not in the financial position to be able to afford advice from a lawyer at the moment. I was hoping for advice from anyone who is knowledgeable on the subject or has had experience with it.
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  • Profile picture of the author Chris Worner
    What part of social networking don't you understand? You don't build relationships with people by spamming them.

    Not to mention, most folk here don't take too kindly to folk like you.

    -Chris
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    • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
      Originally Posted by Chris Worner View Post

      What part of social networking don't you understand? You don't build relationships with people by spamming them.

      Not to mention, most folk here don't take too kindly to folk like you.

      -Chris
      I clearly said it's not spamming, the bot will have limits on how fast messages can be sent, and how many can be sent, the limits will be even lower to what the site has implemented so that it can not be abused.

      It is not even a site that could be spammed for any commercial benefit. The purpose of the application is to save time in communication, that's about all the info I can give away without releasing what the idea and site are.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Alan
    Sure go to the biggest law firm you can find, plunk down a couple of million dollars in retainer fees and have them file for a declaratory judgment saying you can sell your application. In 5- 10 years it will get sorted out. If you win you get to sell your application, but your attorneys also get to keep all your legal fees. … It sounds like I am being a smart ass, but the truth is that is how it really works.


    You can't win against a big well funded corporation like that.
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  • Profile picture of the author Taniwha
    Just don't do it. Scrap the whole idea.
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    • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
      Originally Posted by Taniwha View Post

      Just don't do it. Scrap the whole idea.
      Do you have any basis for this statement?
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    • Profile picture of the author tj
      Originally Posted by Taniwha View Post

      Just don't do it. Scrap the whole idea.
      There is an scraping app for that

      Timo
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    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
      I clearly said it's not spamming
      Spamfighters' Rule #1: Spammers lie.

      Spamfighters' Rule #2: When in doubt, see rule #1.

      Spammer lie #1: "Spamming is [something other than what I do]."

      I am not a lawyer. If I were, I'd consider the fact that you're selling a tool designed specifically to help people violate a contract, and which will reduce the value of the service involved for both the owners and the members of that service. Then I would ask myself...

      Wuddyatink dey'll didabouddit?

      (That's Lawyer-speak for "Duh!")

      Let's pretend for a moment that we live in an alternate universe, where the above rules don't apply. In that fictional realm, you've created an interesting dilemma for yourself. If your software actually has the limitations you've stated, people using it will be able to do less than they otherwise could, but faster. In return, they run the risk of being banned for using the tool.

      Ain't gonna sell a bunch with that copy.

      So, if you want to make any worthwhile cash, you're going to have to raise those limits. That raises your profile, and eliminates the psychological band-aid you've sloppily placed over your self-esteem. You would no longer be able to even pretend you weren't selling spamware.

      And either way, you run the very real risk of legal action against you for selling the tool.

      Good choices, eh?


      Paul
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  • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
    The website doesn't' allow html in the text, nor domains, it's actually designed around the basis of finding other members in the US and messaging them.

    However it's a tedious task to-do and this application would automate it. If I found out someone was abusing it in away I'd put restrictions on that abuse. I know there is demand for a service like this based on the keyword research i've done and questionnaires to members of the site.
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  • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
    Originally Posted by BusinessPartner View Post

    The website does state in their terms of service that applications such as this should not be used and doing so violates their TOS. To me this is absurd since the application will allow the user to save an abundance of time, and in my opinion will make his experience using the sight more enjoyable.
    So you thinking this absurd is relevant? I'm not a lawyer but I'd guess that if you went into this knowing you're exposing people who use your app to liability (regardless of your ridiculous disclaimer) then you're exposing yourself to even more liability.

    When people start getting banned along with other possible consequences, they're going to come back to you. And when they do your disclaimer is going to be worth spit because it will be pretty simple do prove, in my opinion, that you have demonstrated massive bad faith right from the start. Good luck, you're going to need it.
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  • You just got advice from Paul Myers. /thread
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  • Profile picture of the author cjreynolds
    Originally Posted by BusinessPartner View Post

    The website does state in their terms of service that applications such as this should not be used and doing so violates their TOS. To me this is absurd since the application will allow the user to save an abundance of time, and in my opinion will make his experience using the sight more enjoyable.
    You may think this absurd, and your app will make the user experience of their site better in your opinion (your words),but that's not in question here.

    You might take one look inside my apartment and think that my decorating, furniture, room flow are all absurd, and you might think you know a much better way to lay out my apartment so that my visitors will have what you consider to be a better 'visitor experience' when they visit. Tuff S**t! It's my apartment, and regardless of your opinion of it, I will not allow you to come into my apartment and re-arrange it, no matter how absurd you think my resistance to your ideas is - it's my apartment!!!

    Facebook, Twitter, et al, are not public property!! I don't know why people don't understand that! They are somebody's else's sites, just like our sites belong to us! If there was something that you didn't want people to do on your site, would you say "I gotta let them do this, because they think it's absurd not to."?

    RIGHT!!!!
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    • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
      Originally Posted by cjreynolds View Post

      You may think this absurd, and your app will make the user experience of their site better in your opinion (your words),but that's not in question here.

      You might take one look inside my apartment and think that my decorating, furniture, room flow are all absurd, and you might think you know a much better way to lay out my apartment so that my visitors will have what you consider to be a better 'visitor experience' when they visit. Tuff S**t! It's my apartment, and regardless of your opinion of it, I will not allow you to come into my apartment and re-arrange it, no matter how absurd you think my resistance to your ideas is - it's my apartment!!!

      Facebook, Twitter, et al, are not public property!! I don't know why people don't understand that! They are somebody's else's sites, just like our sites belong to us! If there was something that you didn't want people to do on your site, would you say "I gotta let them do this, because they think it's absurd not to."?

      RIGHT!!!!
      We can drop the absurd thing already, I didn't know that word would have such an emotional impact on people lol. What I meant by it being absurd is the fact that this website doesn't allow someone to develop an automated application to make their users experience easier, less time consuming, and thus better. If I owned a website I would not limit 3rd parties selling applications or services that improved my website.

      And like I said, i've had questionnaire of users of the sight, and 95% of about 500 members that of the site have said on my blog that they would love an application that provided what mine would offer. The other % said they are indifferent, no one person said it would hurt their experience.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kay King
        It does have an impact in your post because....

        The website does state in their terms of service that applications such as this should not be used and doing so violates their TOS. To me this is absurd
        ...it says the site does not permit such applications and indicates you think it's ok to ignore the rules of the site owners because YOU don't agree.

        However, the real sticking point in your case is this

        I'm not in the financial position to be able to afford advice from a lawyer at the moment. I was hoping for advice from anyone who is knowledgeable on the subject or has had experience with it.
        If you can't afford a couple hours of a lawyer's time to check on the legal status of what you plan to do....you won't be able to afford the consequences you could face. That alone makes this a bad business plan.

        You've had advice in this thread from some extremely knowledgeable people.

        kay
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      • Profile picture of the author cjreynolds
        Originally Posted by BusinessPartner View Post

        We can drop the absurd thing already, I didn't know that word would have such an emotional impact on people lol. What I meant by it being absurd is the fact that this website doesn't allow someone to develop an automated application to make their users experience easier, less time consuming, and thus better. If I owned a website I would not limit 3rd parties selling applications or services that improved my website.

        And like I said, i've had questionnaire of users of the sight, and 95% of about 500 members that of the site have said on my blog that they would love an application that provided what mine would offer. The other % said they are indifferent, no one person said it would hurt their experience.
        I'm sorry - I don't care if you love it, if 100% of the 500 people on your blog love it, I don't even care if the Pope loves it! The people who own the site in question don't love it!!! THAT'S ALL THAT COUNTS!!!!! THEY OWN THE SITE!!!!

        Doesn't that matter at all to you???!!!!
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        I just added this sig so I can refer to it in my posts...

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        • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
          Originally Posted by cjreynolds View Post

          I'm sorry - I don't care if you love it, if 100% of the 500 people on your blog love it, I don't even care if the Pope loves it! The people who own the site in question don't love it!!! THAT'S ALL THAT COUNTS!!!!! THEY OWN THE SITE!!!!

          Doesn't that matter at all to you???!!!!
          Thanks for your contributions to the thread bro, but the bold, caps, and the explanation points are not necessary. I will understand what you're saying without their use.
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  • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
    Thanks Davezan,

    From those links and further research i've done, it turns out that a company will sue you for selling software that violates its terms of service.

    It's interesting to see where it will go when a developer refuses to get bullied and fights back, if you read this article

    (edit: great, can't post link, just google for the article)

    Skottle's argument is similar to mine, the application is designed with spam prevention in mind, and it's features will be there just to help legitimate users save time.



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  • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
    Skootle, the company that sells tweetadder is actually getting some good victories in court against twitter. They apparently have enough/are making enough money to continue the litigation, I guess the outcome of their case will really solve my question.
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    • Profile picture of the author TheEye
      If you don't have enough money to afford a lawyer. You don't have enough money to fight a court case.

      From what I have read about court cases look at at least $100,000 to defend yourself in court. The company who is suing you will be willing to spend a lot more than this.

      Also, all your time will be tied up in defending yourself.

      If you are passionate enough about this to go into bankruptcy if you lose, then head to the courts to prove you are right.
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      • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
        Originally Posted by TheEye View Post

        If you don't have enough money to afford a lawyer. You don't have enough money to fight a court case.

        From what I have read about court cases look at at least $100,000 to defend yourself in court. The company who is suing you will be willing to spend a lot more than this.

        Also, all your time will be tied up in defending yourself.

        If you are passionate enough about this to go into bankruptcy if you loose, then head to the courts to prove you are right.
        Yeah, you make a very good point, to determine if the person getting sued can actually be held accountable by the courts for selling software that violates TOS is a conclusion that in most cases wouldn't suffice, because the defendant would default first from not having means to mount a defense.
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  • Profile picture of the author Entrecon
    If your app leaves any tell tale sign at all, the site n question may just be able to find a way to block it. Even worse, they might ban/block the people using it and all of a sudden you have a bunch of upset customers.
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  • Profile picture of the author Black Hat Cat
    Banned
    Originally Posted by BusinessPartner View Post


    Would this be enough to cover me, or could the website still sue me on any grounds?

    Thanks!
    Of course they can. Doesn't mean they will win, but they can certainly make the effort. Bogus lawsuits happen every day in this country. Can you afford to defend yourself if one is filed against you?
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  • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
    Thanks for the advice guys. The more research I've done the more I find that companies really don't like anyone selling applications to automate tasks on their websites. MySpace, Facebook, Google/Youtube have all sent C&Ds and sued automation apps.

    Craigslist has sued a few companies, and recently a service called padmapper that really helped improved the experience of craiglsit for users.

    As far as I know skootle is the only company to hold its ground and fight the lawsuit, that's why i'm saying this will be very interesting to see how it concludes.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rob Whisonant
    So according to YOUR line of thinking.... It would be OK for me to sell a tool that is designed to break into houses. But... This specific tool is only designed to break into YOUR house.

    Sound OK to you? I just made the tool and sell it. I don't actually use the tool. The buyers do.
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    • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
      Originally Posted by Rob Whisonant View Post

      So according to YOUR line of thinking.... It would be OK for me to sell a tool that is designed to break into houses. But... This specific tool is only designed to break into YOUR house.

      Sound OK to you? I just made the tool and sell it. I don't actually use the tool. The buyers do.
      I'm not going to be baited with this type of argument. Associating a criminal act with an online application for a website are too separate to be compared.

      Good Sir.
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      • Profile picture of the author Rob Whisonant
        Originally Posted by BusinessPartner View Post

        I'm not going to be baited with this type of argument. Associating a criminal act with an online application for a website are too separate to be compared.

        Good Sir.
        Forget it. Not worth my time. You are ignoring everyone and trying your best to make it a ok in your mind to do this.
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        • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
          Originally Posted by Rob Whisonant View Post

          I get you now. In your mind breaking civil law is a ok with you. Your thinking is what gives marketers and software developers a bad name.

          This is clearly not the business for you to be in.
          A huge percentage of websites state in their TOS that use of automation software is against their TOS. An abundance of internet marketers use automation software to decease the amount of time it takes to complete tasks on websites. Almost all IM software does this, SENuke is just one example. Is it breaking TOS, yes, is it spamming, NO, is it making one service easier for a user, yes. Can you say you've never used an automation tool?

          I like the way you come to conclusions about things, an thanks for blaming me for giving marketers and software developers a bad name.
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          • Profile picture of the author Rob Whisonant
            Originally Posted by BusinessPartner View Post

            A huge percentage of websites state in their TOS that use of automation software is against their TOS. An abundance of internet marketers use automation software to decease the amount of time it takes to complete tasks on websites. Almost all IM software does this, SENuke is just one example. Is it breaking TOS, yes, is it spamming, NO, is it making one service easier for a user, yes. Can you say you've never used an automation tool?

            I like the way you come to conclusions about things, an thanks for blaming me for giving marketers and software developers a bad name.
            You are welcome.

            And I can happily say I don't use any automation tools that violate a sites TOS. I actually respect other peoples business. I don't try to justify doing things they don't want done to their sites to make a buck.
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            • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
              Originally Posted by Rob Whisonant View Post

              You are welcome.

              And I can happily say I don't use any automation tools that violate a sites TOS. I actually respect other peoples business. I don't try to justify doing things they don't want done to their sites to make a buck.
              You are one outstanding citizen. I commend you
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        • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
          Originally Posted by Rob Whisonant View Post

          Forget it. Not worth my time. You are ignoring everyone and trying your best to make it a ok in your mind to do this.

          I have not ignored anyone, I've actually taken the advice that it would not be a good idea to continue with this business model based on that fact that if I were to get sued, it wouldn't matter if I won the court battle, I can't afford the court battle and would lose that way.

          You should def read through entire threads before you make statements like that.
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  • Profile picture of the author peteJ
    Keep one thing in mind. No matter how likely you are to win the case, they have a lot more money and more lawyers. Even if your clearly in the right that type of power against you can easily turn the tables.
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    • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
      Originally Posted by peteJ View Post

      Keep one thing in mind. No matter how likely you are to win the case, they have a lot more money and more lawyers. Even if your clearly in the right that type of power against you can easily turn the tables.
      Thanks,

      That is actually the exact conclusion I have come up with as well.
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  • Profile picture of the author shane_k
    Advice for all you warriors responding to this guy, don't waste your time

    He obviously has already made his decision and was hoping to come on here and have everyone back him up and say he is in the right.

    He asks for advice but for every person who has offered advice he didn't say yea maybe you are right, he just continues to argue his point.

    Let him move forward with this and get hit with a lawsuit.

    Even then that probably won't wake him up
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    • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
      Originally Posted by shane_k View Post

      Advice for all you warriors responding to this guy, don't waste your time

      He obviously has already made his decision and was hoping to come on here and have everyone back him up and say he is in the right.

      He asks for advice but for every person who has offered advice he didn't say yea maybe you are right, he just continues to argue his point.

      Let him move forward with this and get hit with a lawsuit.

      Even then that probably won't wake him up
      That's actually the opposite of what I did, I actually have deiced it's not a good idea and have mentioned that more than once.

      I hope anyone else doing a search for similar advice can find this thread and become informed as well.
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  • Profile picture of the author shane_k
    ok I take my post back it looks like 2 minutes before I posted you changed your mind.

    If that is true, then good for you.

    You seem to have software development skills, so my recommendation is for you to think of a different type of software to develop where you can make a lot of money but dont' have this worry.

    How about you setup a poll asking people on this forum what kind of software would they like, what would make their businesses easier.

    This will give you an idea of a software that you can develop where you could possibly make a lot of money
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    • Profile picture of the author BusinessPartner
      Originally Posted by shane_k View Post

      ok I take my post back it looks like 2 minutes before I posted you changed your mind.

      If that is true, then good for you.

      You seem to have software development skills, so my recommendation is for you to think of a different type of software to develop where you can make a lot of money but dont' have this worry.

      How about you setup a poll asking people on this forum what kind of software would they like, what would make their businesses easier.

      This will give you an idea of a software that you can develop where you could possibly make a lot of money
      Nooo problem, thanks for the advice. The only problem with asking people what type of software they want, and depending on the hype one piece of potential software generates, leaves room for competitors to swoop in and take the idea.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rob Whisonant
    Yes you did say you are going to not follow up on your project. But you did so for the wrong reason.

    You decided you don't have the money to fight a lawsuit.

    What you should have decided is it's just not right to deliberately violate a sites TOS you do not own.

    That's the problem. Big difference.
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