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Facebook and Seppukoo get lawyered up

December 29, 2009 |  2:18 pm

Face

Credit: Russel A. Daniels/Associated Press

The battle between social networking giant Facebook and Seppukoo.com may spill into the courtroom over privacy violations, according to a letter written by a Facebook lawyer.

The letter contended that Seppukoo violated Facebook’s statement of rights and responsibilities, which governs the website’s relationship with its users, and that it must “cease and desist” from breaching the terms.

If Seppukoo continues with business as usual, Facebook said it would take "whatever measures it believes are necessary to enforce its rights, maintain the quality of its site, and protect its users’ privacy and information.”

As the Tech blog reported earlier this month, Seppukoo is a website that offers "virtual suicide" of Facebook profiles for those who are dissatisfied with their accounts and want to have a little fun. Seppukoo is named after ancient Japanese samurai act of "seppuku,” in which disgraced samurai commit suicide rather than fall by the hands of their enemies.

Facebook users willing to commit "seppukoo" simply type in the same information they would to log onto their Facebook accounts, including e-mail address and password. Seppukoo says it does not save the information. Then users would choose one of six templates for a memorial page and compose a “last words” statement. After that: It's curtains. The profile is deactivated. (If you want back on Facebook, just log in, and your account is reactivated.)

The site also features a RIP memorial page on its site and sends the page to former Facebook friends.

As Tech also reported here, Facebook began to block the site early this month. On Dec. 16,  Leota L. Bates of the law firm Perkins Coie wrote a letter on behalf of Facebook, saying that Seppukoo is violating five of its rights and responsibilities:

  • Soliciting users' Facebook login information.
  • Accessing a Facebook account that belongs to someone else.
  • Collecting users’ content or information using automated means.
  • Sending commercial communications.
  • Using Facebook’s intellectual property.

In a Dec. 22 reply, a Seppukoo legal representative denied the accusations and said that the website is solely for artistic purposes. It’s one of the many net-art projects created by the Italian art group Les Liens Invisibles (translated from French: The Invisible Links) and is a nonprofit website.

Seppukoo’s lawyer points out that there are no commercial advertisements or banners on the site and that users are not requested to pay any money.

Members of Les Liens Invisibles, Clemente Pestelli and Gionatan Quintini, also created a Google maps parody and a Flickr parody. This is their latest spoof.

When asked whether Seppukoo had any intention on tearing down the site, Guy McMusker, art director of the group, replied in an e-mail: “Absolutely not.”

Stay tuned.

--W.J. Hennigan

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