Intuit Sues H&R Block for Copying TV Ads; Experts Explore Legal Protection for Online Content

Intuit Inc. sued H&R Block for copyright infringement, on Monday, in San Jose, Calif., charging that the tax preparation company has aired television commercials that copy commercials for Intuit’s TurboTax software. “When our competitors inappropriately copy our ads, violating our intellectual property, we will fight to protect it,” said Brad Henske, an Intuit vice president, according to the Associated Press.


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The suit is round two of a fight between the two companies that began with H&R Block suing Intuit, in January, for an ad that said TurboTax prepared more returns last year than all the H&R Block stores combined. Intuit modified its ads, the AP reports, but later complained in a filing that H&R Block had published conflicting statements about the number of returns it had processed. Block’s current ad highlights the value of Block’s tax professionals who will personally address taxpayer’s questions.

Comparative advertising, which is common online, does not violate copyright law as long as it is truthful and does not mislead consumers, a report from the Search Engine Strategies Conference says. The Conference, held in New York, March 27 through April 2, focused on issues unique to online content and notes in its report the general agreement among experts in copyright law that “technology runs faster than the law. . . [We] are currently retrofitting offline copyright law to online media, and only when a case reaches critical mass will there be an opportunity to evolve the law.”

The Conference report raises the following online copyright protection issues:

  • While it is legal to republish facts from a press release, how far may the press go in copying the release for reproduction on their own sites?
  • Will hyperlinks be considered copyrightable in the future?
  • How will the courts deal with wholesale pirating of a web site?

Canadian lawmakers are currently amending the Copyright Act to protect “Internet content and content reproducible on future technologies,” canadaone.com reports. Cable and satellite will be able to continue to rebroadcast radio and television signals by paying royalties established by the Copyright Board. The new law also provides for a regulations body to monitor redistribution rights in new media.

Copyright law protects “original works of authorship that [are] fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” news8Austin says. “Literary works, musical works, dramatic works, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, motion pictures(and other audiovisual works), sound recording and architectural works” are all considered intellectual property and are protected by copyright law. Copyright covers both published and unpublished work.

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