OccupyTheBookstore, a Chrome browser add-on from Texts.com, has become the subject of legal threats from Follett Higher Education Group, one of the largest college textbook retailers in the U.S. Textbook price comparison tools are not new, with websites like Chegg and SlugBooks, compiling textbook prices from retailers, university bookstores, and online retailers on their own websites. What makes OccupyTheBookstore unique is that it is provided directly to the user as a downloadable plug-in and works immediately on top of a user’s browser to show cheaper options for print and digital rentals while the user browses a bookstore’s website.

The fact that the user is given the option to employ an immediate filter on top of Follett-affiliated websites rankled the company and prompted it to threaten Texts.com with legal action. According to an email from Follett to Texts.com’s founders obtained by the Wall Street Journal, the add-on “effectively chang[es] the presentation of the information on the screen.” Texts.com has not backed down. In an interview with Red and Black, University of Georgia’s student newspaper, Texts.com says that it “determined that we are totally within our rights to manipulate information in the client’s browser. As it’s opt-in and doesn’t touch the bookstore servers at all….”

In a wide-ranging Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA), Texts.com founders Peter Frank and Ben Halpern discussed Follett’s legal claims, as well as the thinking behind their add-on, including a GIF demonstration of the offending technology in action. Frank and Halpern see Follett’s potential legal claims falling into two possible camps: Copyright infringement or a violation of Follett’s Terms of Service (TOS), which prohibits the use of bots or data extraction tools. Copyright protects works that are fixed in a tangible form, so a copyright claim could be based on whether the add-on constitutes an unauthorized change to Follett’s web page. But while Follett may claim a copyright interest in a particular webpage in its fixed form, Frank and Halpern counter that their add-on works on top of a webpage without modifying its underlying content or inhibiting its functionality. Further, the add-on only works with the end-user’s permission, so there may be an issue as to who is actually committing the copyright violation.

The Reddit AMA also discusses the claim that Texts.com’s add-on provides the tools by which users can violate Follett’s TOS by extracting data from Follett’s website. Commenters on both the AMA and Traklight.com’s blog post on the issue argue that the add-on “doesn’t interact with the bookstore website server, but rather the end-user’s browser.” In response to such a claim, Texts.com further notes that it “merely supplement[s] information provided by the end-user’s local browser. As such, we think that they could theoretically go after the individual student, but they probably would never bother.”

Whether Follett’s legal threats materialize into action remains to be seen, but Texts.com can point to over 31,000 downloads of its add-on as evidence that students know a good deal when they see one.