Backstory: A couple weeks ago, I launched a site called PRManna.com, to help startups and small businesses connect with reporters and other journalists who are looking for experts and sources for stories. The launch was well received, got picked up on ReadWriteWeb, and people have been using the site for the last couple weeks. I was originally inspired by Peter Shankman’s HelpAReporterOut (HARO) service, and I mentioned that on the about page. However, his service was a simple mailing list, nothing more, and I thought the idea could be improved upon substantially, so I did.
Today, I got a cease-and-desist letter from Mr. Shankman’s law firm. It’s basically four pages of legal bullshit, but the gist of what they’re claiming is this:
- I stole his idea (bullshit, his service was a mailing list when I built PRManna, and there are tons of sites for this purpose)
- I used his name without permission (true, as I wanted to give credit to him for the inspiration to create something better than a simple mailing list. Clearly a big mistake on my part.)
- I “blatantly” copied the “look and feel” of the HelpAReporter.com website (this is more of an insult to them if true, as PRManna has lame design / usability)
And as a result of the above, they’re demanding that I:
- Remove any mention of Peter Shankman, HelpAReporterOut, HARO, etc. from all my sites (happily done, except for this blog post)
- Stop using PRManna, PRManna.com, etc.
- Transfer ownership of PRManna.com to Peter Shankman’s company
I’m still debating my options…let me know if you have any suggestions. Let me know if you want to see the actual letter and I’ll post a link. I have to say, I’m pretty disappointed that Peter decided to be such a jackass about this. If he had bothered to write me an email, I would have gladly removed his name and never mentioned this to anyone.
Hey Peter, if you’re reading this, I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of the Streisand Effect, but if not, you might want to see if you can find an expert source who can explain it to you. If you’d like a place to post a request, you can check out http://PRManna.com.
UPDATE 2: I just wanted to say thank you so much to all of you out there who have blogged, tweeted, and left comments with your support. I’ve received tons of emails and tweets from people encouraging me and asking how they can help. I’m so grateful to work in such a supportive industry, and if you want to help, please check out PRManna and let me know what I can do to improve it. I really just want to create something useful that helps people do great things, and I’d love your help.
UPDATE 3: I’ve also seen a few blog posts commenting on how similar the PRManna homepage is to the HARO homepage. I personally don’t think that’s the case, but regardless of my opinion, what I can tell you is that the PRManna homepage was designed more than 10 months before HARO did their relaunch in early 2010. In fact, here’s a screenshot that was posted publicly to Skitch on March 5th, 2009:
I’ve got plenty of other code, screenshots, and other bits of proof that I built this service a year before HARO decided to launch what they’ve got today.