NYTimes, Wired and others are jumping on this story of how Wal-Mart and other retailers have forced websites such as Fatwallet.com from publishing those retailers’ pricing (apparently obtained from up-coming post-Thanksgiving sales circulars). The retailers are arguing that the sales circular represents a protectable compilation of facts. The retailers also utilized the DMCA in order to get speedy compliance. The information has been removed. I would have loved to have seen the original circular and the offending website because this sure is novel.
Harvard B-School Professor Michael Porter, in his article, “Strategy and the Internet,” (HBR, March 2001), notes un-ironically that the problem with the Internet is that it provides consumers with too much information as to products and pricing (the theory being that widely disseminated pricing information leads to commodization and a “race to the bottom” as to pricing). Well, this is part of the reaction.