Attack of the Clones

Fed Up With Lack of TechCrunch Coverage, Italian Startup Just Plain Clones the Site

Metwit has apparently never heard of copyright law.
picture 31 Fed Up With Lack of TechCrunch Coverage, Italian Startup Just Plain Clones the Site

(Photo: TechCrunchCover.me)

Whatever your opinions on its ethics policy, it’s hard to argue against the fact that getting a write-up in TechCrunch is basically the holy grail for startups. So when an Italian weather startup called Metwit found it impossible to usher their company into the TC fold, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

Metwit created Techcrunchcover.me, a website that ganked TC’s logo, font and layout to make it look like your startup has actually been covered by TechCrunch. And you, too, can create your own fake TechCrunch coverage! The company also offers a git codebase of the TC layout. Enterprising startups hungry for press can make a branch in git that adds a TechCrunch-like story, then send up a pull request to have them merge it into the main codebase. Voila! You–ostensibly–have a TechCrunch writeup.

Metwit seems unconcerned by the obvious copyright issues Techcrunchcover.me raises, perhaps hoping that it can all be erased by a coy emoticon. “Dear Techcrunch, don’t sue or kill us for this page!” reads the site’s footer. “We are a really poor and humble Italian startup! We just want to help you and maybe be covered. ;-)”

Another note on the about page reads, “PS If you are a TC Lawyer please understand that we mean no harm to TechCrunch (we do love TC, maybe even too much! ;).”

For their part, TechCrunch seems unfazed by the decoy. TechCrunch co-editor Eric Eldon hadn’t heard about the site until Betabeat asked him about it, though he said some of the writers had seen it in June.

“There may be some sort of trademark violation here or something — I don’t know because I’m not a lawyer. But it’s flattering for TechCrunch, and I don’t plan to tell AOL’s legal department at this point,” Mr. Eldon said. “We work our asses off already trying to cover startups, and I wish we could do more for ambitious folks like this.”

Hey, imitation is the best form of flattery, right?

Betabeat reached out to Metwit for comment but did not immediately hear back. We’ll update if and when we do.

Additional reporting by Megan McCarthy.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com