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Start-up Bird backs down in electric scooter legal row

A scooter firm has apologised after issuing a journalist with legal threats over a blogpost about its scooters.

Start-up Bird offers electric scooters in around 40 US cities, which are hired via an app.

Bird accused Cory Doctorow of copyright infringement for linking to a forum about a device which enables abandoned scooters, bought at auction, to be fitted with a new motherboard.

This means they can then be used without the Bird app.

Mr Doctorow’s blogpost, published on the website Boing Boing, was about the number of Bird scooters that are being abandoned or badly parked, then removed by local authorities and legitimately sold.

It described a $30 (£23) motherboard which replaces the scooters’ existing hardware but does not alter either the hardware or software installed by Bird.

A spokesperson told the BBC Bird’s legal team had “overstretched” in issuing a takedown request.

The firm’s legal letter accused Mr Doctorow and Boing Boing of “promoting the sale/use of an illegal product that it solely designed to circumvent the copyright protections of Bird’s proprietary technology” and of “promoting illegal activity in general by encouraging the vandalism and misappropriation of Bird property”.

Mr Doctorow described the threat as “absurd” and published the letter in full on the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) website.

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The EFF described the legal threat as “baseless”.

“Bird may not be pleased that the technology exists to modify the scooters that it deploys but it should not make baseless legal threats to silence reporting on that technology,” it said in response.

Bird has now apologised.

“Bird celebrates freedom in many ways – freedom from traffic, congestion as well as freedom of speech,” said a spokesperson.

“In the quest for curbing illegal activities related to our vehicles, our legal team overstretched and sent a takedown request related to the issue to a member of the media. This was our mistake and we apologise to Cory Doctorow.”

Source: BBC