If you consider the likes of the Krazy Coupon Lady and Hip2Save to be the coupon blogs of choice for the suburban soccer mom trying to trim the weekly grocery bill, then Yes We Coupon is more for the scrappy coupon opportunist who doesn’t mind pushing the envelope to save a buck. It’s the Buzzfeed of coupon blogs, featuring sensational headlines with a lot of exclamation points, highlighting a flood of deals amassed from all over.

That has earned the site plenty of fans who are on the lookout for hot deals, but also detractors who consider many of the site’s deals and its emphasis on “glitches” to be unethical. Now, one detractor has a new descriptor for the site:

Plagiarist.

That’s how the owner of the coupon blog “Save This Way” is describing Yes We Coupon, in a newly-filed federal lawsuit that accuses the site of copyright infringement. The suit demands an end to the practice, and could ultimately impact all couponers who share other people’s content online.

“Defendants have frequently, and on multiple occasions, directly and deliberately copied information from the website (Save This Way) and posted the infringing content on the infringing website (Yes We Coupon) as original content,” the lawsuit states.

“The owner of YWC was warned by me to stop stealing my content,” Save This Way owner Brett Ames told Coupons in the News. “He chose to continue to steal it and to direct his employees to steal it… YWC continued to blatantly steal content right up to the point that they were served with my lawsuit.”

The lawsuit contains several examples of blog posts published on Save This Way, that later reappeared nearly word-for-word on Yes We Coupon. In one example, an October post titled “*MAJOR* Stock Up Deals On Paper Towels & Toilet Paper At Dollar General!” on Save This Way was soon followed by a Yes We Coupon post titled “HUGE Stock Up Deals At Dollar General On Bath Tissue And Paper Towels!” Both posts contain three of the exact same deal scenarios, described in precisely the same way, and both end with the very same words, “Final Price: $21.55 total, or just $2.39 per pack. That’s 20¢ per roll!”

It’s not exactly a standout piece of creative writing. Regardless, Save This Way calls YWC’s post, and others like it, a blatant cut-and-paste job that’s harming its business. “Defendants continue to take content from the plaintiff’s website and publish it immediately after on their infringing website, including, but not limited to, various deal breakdowns, in an effort to unfairly compete with plaintiff by intentionally steering traffic away from plaintiff’s website to its own infringing website,” the lawsuit reads.

Save This Way launched just about six months ago, and features deal alerts written in the same urgent, exclamatory style as Yes We Coupon. It has a relatively modest 9,100 Facebook fans so far, and is ranked by Alexa as the 1,797,366th most popular website. Yes We Coupon has been around since 2010, has an internet ranking of 88,946 and has nearly 1.6 million Facebook fans, making it one of the internet’s most popular coupon blogs. Ames considers YWC’s actions to be aimed at crushing a competitor before it could get off the ground – particularly since some of the competitors were once colleagues.

Several former Yes We Coupon employees have a connection to Save This Way, with at least one of them regularly posting there. Ames believes YWC’s actions are part of an effort to discredit a new site featuring a former coworker “blogging deals with better content”. Shortly after Save This Way launched, YWC owner Todd Hebert registered the business name “Save This Way” in the state of Connecticut, apparently unaware that Ames had already registered the name in Virginia several months earlier. Hebert filed a complaint with Save This Way’s web hosting service, claiming that the site was “illegally using our name”. “Please shut down this site immediately,” he wrote in an email appended as an exhibit to the lawsuit. “Also if it could be turned over to me I will gladly take over the hosting.”

Save This Way’s web host took down the site briefly, until Ames objected, calling Hebert’s complaint a “fraudulent claim”. “He is attempting to hijack my name. My lawyers will deal with him,” he informed the hosting service via email. The site was then reactivated.

“I imagine that Hebert’s original motive may have been spite or revenge,” Ames said. “I believe that the content theft began after I was able to get the site back up.”

Hebert sees things differently, and questions the plaintiffs’ own motives. “Understand that this is a group of disgruntled employees,” he told Coupons in the News. “I think you can draw a conclusion to what this is all about.”

So there’s clearly some bad blood between the blog owners. But the lawsuit raises some larger questions that are applicable to all coupon blogs and message boards that borrow, share and cut-and-paste deals – are deal scenarios even copyrightable? And if so, could any blog or message board participant who posts coupon matchups, coupon insert previews or deal breakdowns that someone else compiled be at risk of getting sued?

U.S. copyright law doesn’t address coupon deals specifically. But it does address recipes, a rough equivalent. “Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. Nor does it protect other mere listings of ingredients such as those found in formulas, compounds, or prescriptions,” the U.S. Copyright Office explains. “Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression — a description, explanation, or illustration, for example — that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook.”

A deal scenario that spells out how to combine various coupons, rebates and sale prices is somewhat more than a “mere listing of ingredients”. But does prose like “Just $2.39 per pack. That’s 20¢ per roll!” count as “literary expression”?

“Deals are deals as you know and there are plenty on their site that we have posted prior,” Hebert said in his defense.

Also in question is whether tacking on a credit at the end of a copied deal absolves the offender of any infringement. YWC “often contained statements following the infringing content expressing gratitude towards plaintiff for contributing to the infringing website,” even though Save This Way “never knowingly or willingly provided content, links, or any other information,” the lawsuit reads. So if a website republishes a deal word-for-word, and ends by thanking or crediting the source (“Thanks, Save This Way!”) is that enough to protect it from any copyright claim?

Save This Way is seeking an injunction preventing Yes We Coupon from reposting any more of its content, plus an unspecified amount of statutory and punitive damages. If Yes We Coupon manages to beat back the court challenge, some will consider it a win for the free flow of information about coupons and deals. If Save This Way prevails – those who come up with those coupon deals will be the ones claiming victory.

2 Comments

  1. So, what does this mean to those who use the services?

    • Nothing really….I had seen several sites that state almost the exact same thing, even the same scenarios. I was also reading up on something totally different. I checked around 10 different sites and they all had almost the same things list. In their paragraphs they would move the two middle ones around. I kept thinking I was going to get more information on what I was researching, instead just more of the same…It is rampant on the internet. I go by the theory that once you post something on the internet, it is public, and will be assimilated by the masses. Reason I never put poems, stories, etc… on any of the sites for that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Privacy Policy
Disclosure Policy