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MyGirlFund Threatens Us For Reviewing Their Website

by benic on September 17th, 2011

Quick summary:

We wrote a MyGirlFund Review post before we launched ExtraLunchMoney.com a year ago. At the time ELM was only a blog and not the marketplace it is now. MyGirlFund didn’t like what we wrote and threatened us 2 times with legal action because of the opinions expressed in the post. Rather than ask us to correct the information in the post they demanded we shut down our entire website. We don’t agree.

However, we have updated the original post to include new information about MyGirlFund that their lawyers brought to our attention. You can view the original post unedited as we wrote it a year ago here.

The Longer Version

Back in October of 2010 when we were thinking of building what would become extralunchmoney.com (custom adult video and picture marketplace) we didn’t have a clue about what other sites were out there and what they offered. Since we were new we decided to research the types other adult sites and how they operated. There wasn’t much published 3rd party information about these sites so we decided to share what we found with others by writing our own blog posts.

Some of the posts included:

The point was to write posts from the perspective of someone researching the same questions that we had. We’re not the greatest writers, but we tried to write useful stuff for people. We figured if people liked what we wrote they’d come back and maybe sign up to be notified when our own website launched. We heard MyGirlFund was popular so we decided to see why. So in October of 2010 we wrote and published the MyGirlFund Review post.

A few months later in December of 2010 we received our first cease and desist letter.

MyGirlFund Lawyer Letter 1 December 2010: Take Down Stuff

MyGirlFund Alleged Copyright Infringement Letter 1

The interesting thing about this letter is that it makes no mention of what we specifically copyright infringed. It mentions “infringing images and text”, but doesn’t state what images or what text they found troublesome. So even if I wanted to take stuff down I would have no idea what to take down.

The closing of the letter is also ominous. Specifically they say:

If you fail to remove any and all content misappropriated from the MGF website including, but not limited to, all photos, images, visuals and/or text, from your Website within five (5) calendar days, a complaint will be filed seeking an immediate and permanent injunction against your use of such content, compensatory damages, lost profits, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.  We will prosecute our client’s intellectual property and other rights to the fullest extent of the law and have a zero tolerance policy for any type of infringement of those rights and/or any defamatory statements contained on your website which misrepresent MGF and its business and attempt to steal MGF clients, customers and/or users.  Please guide yourself accordingly.

It’s worth mentioning at this point we hadn’t launched our actual marketplace (we launched in April 2011) yet. Our site at the time was only a blog so I’m not sure how we were stealing their clients and customers.

I wasn’t sure how exactly to respond, but this is what I ended up responding with:

I’m not proud, but being a chicken I decided to sign off with a fake name (I was afraid something bad would happen if they knew my real name). I wasn’t sure how they were going to respond. We expected to hear back, but 5 calendar days passed, then months, then nothing. We took that as a signal that MyGirlFund thought about it, decided they were wrong and would let us continue “on our merry way.”

That was until we received our second letter.

MyGirlFund Lawyer Letter 2 September 2011: Take Down Your Website

MyGirlFund Alleged Violations Lawyer Letter 2

It’s worth noting a few things with this letter:

  • MGF changed law firms. Whereas the first law had 5 attorneys located in 1 office this new law firm, Baker Botts has 800 lawyers in 13 different offices around the world. I can’t imagine they come cheap.
  • Whereas with MyGirlFund Lawyer Letter 1 was just an email addressed to “Sir or Maddam”, Baker Botts’ lawyer Doreen Costa did her homework and found both me and my co-founder’s contact information and names and stage names! They even splurged and Fedex’ed us the letter and emailed us a copy.
  • Since they did their homework MyGirlFund knows both my real name and my co-founder’s real name. Not that we are hiding much considering my picture is all over our website and I host ELM Avenue (adult industry video interview) show. Try finding the name of the founder(s) of MyGirlFund…I couldn’t find it.
  • Why do all lawyers sign “Very truly yours”?

I haven’t responded yet to this lawyer, but I decided to use this blog post as my official response.  I will openly address some of Baker Botts points.

ExtraLunchMoney’s Response to MyGirlFund-Baker Botts Letter

MyGirlFund says we committed wrongdoings

This is further to our client’s letter of December 29, 2010 protesting numerous unlawful activities engaged in by ExtraLunchMoney.com (“ELM”). Despite being place on actual notice of our client’s intellectual property rights and of ELM’s blatant violations, your wrongdoing appears to have continued unabated and to have expanded.

Right off the bat they are charging us with “numerous unlawful activities” from 1 blog post we wrote. Yes, we did receive MGF’s first email. I responded asking for clarification and they never responded. I can’t read minds so I left the post up. Furthermore, I take issue with the accusation that our alleged “wrongdoing” has continued to expand. We only wrote 1 blog post about MyGirlFund in October 2010 and that was it. How are we expanding our supposed wrongdoing?

MyGirlFund says we copied images from them

“First, you have blatantly copied, posted, and distributed screen shots from the website in violation of MGF’s terms and conditions for use”

I took screenshots for the purpose of illustrating what types of ads people created on MyGirlFund. This was done for educational purposes. Furthermore, I never took a screenshot of the entire website just examples of what users had uploaded to the site.  Perhaps I violated their terms and conditions, but according to the court’s ruling in Facebook v. Power Ventures, violating a terms of use is not illegal.  It’s also debatable whether they can claim copyright infringement on the images their users uploaded (we’ll get into this more later).

MyGirlFund says we made false, misleading, derogatory statements

“Second, you have made false, misleading, derogatory and defamatory statements about MGF and its website and have disseminated inaccurate and deceptive comparisons between your respective businesses…”

In this section they throw a lot of unpleasant words at us. From the sounds of it you would think I wrote one long post bashing MyGirlFund. If you read the original review post at one point I write:

“The site seemed like a good deal to me. Girls offer what they are willing to do and guys pay for it. Win-win for everyone. But digging a little deeper it seems like that’s not exactly the case.

There were a couple of things to be aware of when you join MyGirlFund…”

I basically write how it’s not that bad, but before joining you should be aware of  some points before joining. In addition we published comments which were both positive and negative of MGF. If we truly were trying to defame MGF we probably would have only published negative comments. But we wanted people to make up their own minds.

As for “deceptive comparisons between” our respective businesses one has to remember at the time this post was published our website, ExtraLunchMoney.com, did not exist as it does today. It was only a blog. The purpose of the post was to discuss and share what we had learn in the course of our research.

In the letter they further mention specific issues they found fault with.

“Representation that communication on MyGirlFund.com is not private, when, in fact, both companies have the same policies as established by the Solicitation and User Contact section of your terms and conditions”

This argument doesn’t make sense. I didn’t misrepresent the fact that MyGirlFund messages are not private…because the truth is they aren’t private. And yes our messages on ExtraLunchMoney.com are not private as well.

“All of your content Belongs to Them (MGF)” when, in fact, MGF has only a conditional license to display the content for the model and does not own or claim any copyright rights in the content”

I admit I got this one wrong. I didn’t realize how copyrights and licenses work, but Doreen is right in that MGF only has a license to use the content. They don’t own it. The funny thing is the images I took screenshots of were images uploaded by MGF users–the same users who still own the rights and granted a license to MGF. These are the same images that MyGirlFund claims we violated their intellectual property rights. But they just told me they don’t own the content.

With the rest of the points in this section of the letter it boils down to one main issue. When we wrote the post almost a year ago we had no website of our own to compare to MGF. However after we launched we never updated this post. In hindsight it’s outdated as we now have a site, MGF has changed their policies, etc…

Just so there’s no confusion, let me set the record straight as to what MGF offers (according to their lawyers) as well as ExtraLunchMoney (as of September 2011).

  • MGF does not limit models or participants to the US or Canada;  ELM also does not limit
  • MGF allows models to set their own prices for products/services; ELM allows some flexibility for price setting (we have have upper and lower limits)
  • MGF charges a 35% service fee but also has a dynamic model where fees vary from 35% to 10% / ELM charges a 35% flat fee
  • Both MGF and ELM do not allow the exchange of personal contact information in their terms of service

MyGirlFund says we manipulate and control Google Rankings

“Third, you are manipulating the Google rankings on searches for “mygirlfund” to cause your company name to appear near the top of the search results for the purpose of disseminating false and misleading information about MGF and diverting MGF members to your website”

If writing a blog post and then showing up for it on Google is manipulating rankings then I am guilty. Google decides how they want to rank results. I would love to control it, but then so would everyone else.  If MGF has an issue with rankings they should take it up with Google. One reason we might rank for “MyGirlFund” is because not many people have written about MyGirlFund so when you write a post it will show up. If MGF is concerned about search engine rankings their money might be better spent on SEO than 800 lawyer law firms.

If it makes them feel any better we have other sites that rank for our term “extralunchmoney” on Google. And some that actually don’t make us look that good.

Here this blogger wrote about us being “creepy.” Do I like our website being called “extra creepy”? No, but am I going to send 800 lawyers after them telling them to take down their post or website? No. I commented on their blog and wrote  a response post. At the end of the day it’s the author’s opinion and they have the right to share it.

MyGirlFund’s List of Demands

Like all cease and desist letters there are always demands. Here’s what they demanded:

1) Shut down your website at www.ExtraLunchMoney.com

Really? Shut down our entire website because of one blog post? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to ask us to take down the blog post we did? I’m afraid we won’t be shutting down our website.

2) Cease and desist from copying, distributing and creating derivative works from Materials appearing on MGF’s website

If it’s about the images, I’ve already replaced them. Even though technically I don’t know if they can consider this content theirs. But I removed them anyway.

3) Cease and desist from publishing any statement that is false, misleading, derogatory, or defamatory, or that tarnishes or denigrates MGF

I’ve changed and corrected errors in our orignal blog post that were brought to my attention via Baker Botts letter. Though a simple email to us and we would have done the same (and it might have been a tad cheaper for them as well).

4) Cease and desist from intentionally manipulating Google Search results

We never intentionally did this. We write a post Google decides to rank us there. It’s like asking a tall person to cease and desist from being tall. Sorry we can’t comply.

Conclusion

To be honest I never looked at ELM and MGF as direct competitors. ELM is a marketplace for people to sell custom jobs and pre-made content. MyGirlFund seems to be more a social network in my opinion (just in case the lawyers are reading). I’m not trying to steal anyone’s models, content, or customers. At the end of the day I believe people are smart enough to decide what works for them and what doesn’t. If they don’t like ELM so be it. If they like MGF better I can live with that. To me the goal is to make the site good enough so people will want to join on their own. However, by MGF sending not 1 but 2 different law firms after our 1 blog post I find it difficult to believe MyGirlFund feels the same way.

Appendix

Original MyGirlFund Review Post

Just so people don’t accuse us of changing the MGF Review post after we heard from the lawyers to make ourselves look better, I’ve included the Google cached version below as it was before we updated the post
Original MyGirlFund Post on ExtraLunchMoney on October 2010

10 Comments
  1. mygilrfund.comSUCKS permalink

    MYGirlfund.com sucks! you go benic. show them you got big balls and dont mind playing with them against a bully haha

  2. M.J. permalink

    “manipulating the Google rankings on searches for ‘mygirlfund’”? are they serious?

    MY BRAIN IS FULL OF FUCK.

  3. Ray Gordon permalink

    Wow, another idiot basically says “BRING IT ON!” to a wealthy corporation THEY chose to mess with by posting. Some woman said that to the RIAA, they brought it, and she lost $225,000 in court, as if she expected a standing ovation from the jury or something. Naive.

    Of course, you post to STRIPPER WEB, and don’t seem to have a problem with what some of their members did to ME there, so forgive me if I’m rooting for MGF to sue you into perpetual bankruptcy. If you ever get a lawyer, you might want to ask if judgments for defamation (libel) can be bankrupted. Not sure what the copyright claim would be, but ask an attorney about the DMCA and the proper way to send a takedown notice, but my money’s on them to file a Lanham Act claim for disparaging a competitor, if they do anything. Will they WIN that claim? Do they have to? You got $1 million+ for a lawyer to take you to trial? LOL

    Even small inaccuracies can lead to BIG legal problems, and, frankly, any friend of StripperWeb is someone I will definitely crack open a can of my favorite beer — Schadenfreude! — upon learning that they lost any type of lawsuit with which you’ve been threatened.

    See it’s a funny thing: people who actually existed long ago came up with the amazing idea of saying nasty things about business competitors. The idea is not new. Why would you review a site that is essnetially a competitor anyway? Does Coke review Pepsi?

    Anyway, if you think bankruptcy is a failsafe at the end of the lawsuit rainbow, do some SERIOUS asking of a bankruptcy attorney to make sure that is still the case.

    • I fail to see the direct comparison between the RIAA case and our issue here. In her case she was downloading music which was copyrighted. In our issue we wrote a review of a competitor who at the time wasn’t even a competitor who didn’t like what we wrote when what we wrote was true. Plus, I’m not saying “Bring it on” just for the sake of taking on a wealthy corporation. What they are doing is trying to bury anything written about them which they don’t like. That’s censorship.

      I’m not familiar with what happened to you and and stripper web so I can’t comment on that. But if you read my original post I didn’t disparage them, I allowed all comments (both positive and negative to mygirlfund) to be published. And you are right in saying their claim doesn’t even have to be valid as long as they have deeper pockets than us since they can financially squeeze us. That’s what I take issue with…the fact that they are wrong, but think they can get their way just cause they have money.

      And yes Coke does review pepsi (have you seen the taste test commercials the used to do?). Have you seen ther verizon vs. att commercials? How about car commercials? It’s common for competitors to talk about each other. Politics is even worse.

      This is coming from yours truly,

      “Another idiot”

  4. Alexis permalink

    There is no way I’m letting them shut you down. They are pissed that you are taking all their models. Pretty much all mgf girls are here. They are trying to shut you down like supportmywish. It isnt fair to the models.

    • Thanks for the support. We’ll see what happens. We definitely don’t want to be shut down either!

  5. anonymous permalink

    lol all bark and no bite (MGF) you arent the only one they try to bully with these lawyer letters. They are mad they wont be able to take advantage of the girls anymore, cause they will simply leave and make ELM their new home, clearly a lot have done so already!

  6. Censorship permalink

    The amount of censorship the MGF admin have been doing lately is ridiculous. They have been stalking their own MGF models OFF of mgf, and reading through cam review sites, forums, tumblr, and twitter. They have been sending out DMCA’s to several MGF models trying to censor them from criticising MGF. Several models have been threatened with “a permanent ban” if they do not stop posting usernames of male customers on MGF that have been scamming, stalking, or harassing women repeatedly. They are doing everything in their power to stop models from voicing any criticism OFF-SITE. Instead of supporting and protecting the girls, they just stalk everything a model might be saying somewhere else on the internet. They don’t care about the women on their site, it is just about MONEY.

  7. If anything on there was copyrighted and you can back your statement that it was for “educational purposes” then frankly, they don’t have a chance. Educational Purposes as well as Review are both covered in Fair Use.

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