But he also said he was unaware of any time when Wal-Mart had taken a Web site to court for divulging Black Friday sale prices prematurely. I was curious to learn what criminal statutes Wal-Mart referred to when it alerted BFAds' principals in its letter about the possibility that they may have engaged in "criminal activity." Simley declined to be specific, other than to say that "there are laws to protect advertisers."
Baker Hostetler didn't respond to my requests for a similar tutorial.
If early disclosure was indeed a grave concern of everyone in retailing, why has Best Buy come around to the idea that Black Friday sales sites, above all else, offer an opportunity for free advertising, whetting appetites with a sneak preview of what will be officially announced?
At present, Best Buy's only concern is that inaccurate information may circulate on the sites, so it encourages customers to verify prices on its own site before going to the store.
Brian Lucas, a Best Buy spokesman, said: "We don't want people to wait in a line all night for a deal that doesn't exist."
Best Buy's stance has changed considerably since 2002, when, like other retailers, it sent threatening letters to Web publishers.
In 2003, it did the same -- and one site, FatWallet.com, struck back with a lawsuit asking a judge to declare that sale prices cannot be copyrighted.
The case was dismissed on a technicality, but Fat Wallet is now happy to dare retailers to give it a chance to go to court again.
Tim Storm, FatWallet's founder and chief executive, said his company tells any retailer who makes threats.
"Are you guys sure you really want to do this?" he said.
To date, he says, no company has answered yes.