EToys Bullies an Art Site

Late breaking word is that EToys has just backed down and dismissed the case described in the following.

December 29, 1999

More information:,,

As of Dec. 29, eToys, the giant online toy company, is still suing etoy, the most important Internet art group, to prevent etoy from using, a URL that the artists were using long before the toy company came into being.

eToys has, however, agreed to temporarily "move away" from the lawsuit (without dropping it), according to Wired (see,1283,33330,00.html).

"It's good that eToys is now being shamed into lying to the press that its 'intent was never to silence free artistic expression,'" said RTMark spokesperson Ernest Lucha. "But 'moving away' from the suit now that their shopping season is over, without anything even resembling an apology, let alone compensation to etoy for their financial and emotional nightmare, is just pathetic and will not fly with a lot of people." (Full RTMark comments can be found at; press reports about the eToys move can be found at

Activists' anti-eToys efforts will continue at least until there is substance to eToys' withdrawal, according to Lucha. On Monday RTMark announced two new elements to its etoy Fund, an "online game" whose aim is to lower the eToys stock price to $0.00. The newest elements of the "game" are two letter-writing campaigns, one calling on eToys employees to quit the company (, and another aimed at the principal eToys shareholders, urging them to call for eToys C.E.O. Toby Lenk's dismissal (

Several articles, including one in Yahoo! Finance, have credited some of the "game's" earlier components--the Virtual Sit-in, for example ( having helped to drive the dramatic eToys stock fall. The success of either or both of the new campaigns would further help to establish this case as "a precedent e-commerce companies will never forget," according to Lucha.


eToys stock has plummeted to a third of its Nov. 29 value--that was the day that the e-commerce toy giant was granted a court injunction against the European online art collective etoy (no "s"), forcing the artists to stop using their much older domain name, and also the day that protests began and were first reported. Before that day, eToys stock had been rising.

eToys CEO Toby Lenk had been hoping to keep suspended and quiet until the December 27 court hearing, but activists from around the internet had different plans.

Many organizations saw eToys' abuse of the legal system as a threat to independent publishers and small business on the Web. On December 15, these organizations, which included the Electronic Disturbance Theatre and RTMark (, came together to expand the anti-eToys protests into a full-fledged "information war" against eToys, with the aim of establishing a precedent in e-commerce similar to that of the Brent Spar in petroleum production (

The organizations' WWW "sit-in" had little effect on the first day, but massively overloaded eToys' server on Thursday, December 16 by filling its customer database with false information. Observers in both the US and Europe were unable to reach at times, and online ordering was paralyzed. (See for example the CNN transcript at

Although eToys officials had pooh-poohed the attack the day before, they now panicked. eToys filed a restraining order against the Electronic Disturbance Theatre, cutting it off the Web and, meanwhile, changed their site to resist the attack. (eToys also used other means to make its voice heard. In a threatening letter sent from a Hotmail account, an eToys employee told one activist to "get the hell out of dodge"; see

Having lost a peak day's worth of orders, eToys found itself with extra inventory on hand and had to extend its deadline for Christmas delivery until Saturday, the second slowest day on the web. Although has claimed that it has added 900,000 new customers this season, any such figures are questionable because of false information entered by activists.

RTMark, which is in no way associated with etoy, aims to publicize the widespread corporate abuse of democratic institutions like courts and elections. To this end it solicits and distributes funding for "sabotage projects"; the groups of such projects are called "mutual funds" in order to call attention to one way in which large numbers of people come to identify corporate needs as their own. RTMark projects do not normally target specific companies; the etoy Fund projects are an exception.

RTMark is no stranger to the hot topic of domain-name control. The World Trade Organization's press release about, accusing RTMark of "illegal practices" in publishing information critical of the WTO at that site, merely brought the WTO ridicule from the press (; George W. Bush's and Microsoft's legal attacks on ( and ( failed to affect the domains. See also for more on this issue.