Saturday, November 22, 2008

Coupon Hacker

Here's a copyright infringement which we don't hear about much: coupons. It just goes to show how many things are out there we don't even think of as holding potential for illegal copyright acts. In late 2007, John Stottlemire posted instructions on the website,, describing the process of hacking the digital coupon system. By doing this, he enabled thousands of viewers to illegally print off more than the intended "one per customer" digital coupon. Suddenly, consumers were able to print off a number of coupons with no limitations. By offering these limitless coupons found on, the company filed a lawsuit against Stottlemire upon their knowledge of Stottlemire's illegal actions. The company claimed that Stottlemire's actions violated the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). However, Stottlemire argued that it wasn't his fault that there were flaws in coupon's software. 
The case went back and forth for nearly a year. Eventually, as of November, 2008, the lawsuit was dropped, the case was going nowhere. A proud Stottlemire claimed, "Without being represented by an attorney, I defended myself in federal court against a company who solicited the services of two separate law firms." Later he also added, and in my opinion, I kicked their ass. By refusing to succumb to their bullying tactics, I continued to assert my innocence and fought the claims Coupons Inc. filed against me."
As an outside opinion, what Stottlemire did was technically wrong. In honesty, it's interesting how he got away so easily disregarding the fact that the case dragged on throughout an entire year. If companies and internet websites really care that much about their products and available resources to the public, they should be well aware of the capabilities of others to hack before they're so upset and amazed when they find out somebody has found the achilles heel. We all know, and in fact it has been brought up before, that it's a fact that there will always be somebody out there to break the codes and hack all there is, but the most importance lies in the ability for companies to keep up with its consumers. Instead of trying to change the hackers, change your software. 


HAYNE said...

I think it's ridiculous how he was able to walk away from this case without any penalty. The RIAA sues individual citizens by the thousands and hundred thousands for downloading an album, so I'm really confused as to how Stottlemire got away with hacking into digital coupons for a hundred different stores and a hundreds of people. What irks me the most is how cocky he was about it; he completely disregards the fact that he broke the law, and goes so far as to say that he was being "bullied". What an outrage. However, I do agree with you in your last sentence. The companies and websites that got cheated by Stottlemire should've taken into account people like him who are able and willing to take advantage of loopholes and shortcomings in the code. I think it was somewhat lazy on their part to not have invested in securing their free products. Thumbs down all around.

Matt Dudek said...

What has our world come to when we are forced to hack coupons? I know people have nothing to do these days, but leave the coupons alone. If your going to hack something then make it more extreme. Coupons just seem childish to hack into.

Patrick T said...

I want to know how the lawsuit wasn't going anywhere. It seems fairly straight forward, the guy made means for people to illegally copy coupons. So he should have been punished appropriately then everyone could have gone on with their lives.

I don't see how there could be any argument over the case.