After their success in bringing down the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive, the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) has managed to become one of the best examples of a powerful and influential civil society organisation that has managed to educate and inform the public with regards to a complex legal technical issue like software patents. But now FFII is under attack… from German spammers.
FFII had some examples of bad software patents on their site about the German company Nutzwerk. This company has been set as an example of a software company that profits from software patents. But Nutzwerk is also a well known web advertiser that profits from typo domains (see for example www.yaho.co.uk), and other practices such as Google spamming with link farms. Their complaint against FFII? That FFII has been damaging their reputation because of the high visibility of FFII’s pages in Google. Nutzwerk has then been threatening people who are linking to FFII’s information.
Now Nutzwerk has succeeded in threatening FFII’s ISP in Germany to the point that they have taken down the site that they hosted. All of the pages on the domain ffii.org have gone, including swpat.fii.org, which had become the starting point for research in this area. The site is still available through FFII’s own machine, which can be located at 188.8.131.52.
This case is worrying for many reasons. Foremost is the use of the law to bring down a critic. I find it appalling that a company will go to these lengths to shut down a potential critic. The potential negative publicity that they could get from this should be enough to discourage some companies from taking such tactics, but I guess that link farmers are a different breed altogether.