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Big Media To Innovative App Maker: Stop Innovating Without Our Permission!

from the permission-nation dept

There are a bunch of different newsreader type apps out there, and for years there have been all sorts of apps that let you aggregate content into personal collections. A new one, which recently hit the market for iPads, is called Zite and, apparently, it's getting pretty good reviews. Basically, it can look at what you follow on things like Twitter and Google Reader and formats an algorithmically chosen aggregation of that content to look something like a magazine. If you're familiar with Flipboard, it's somewhat similar, but the implementation is a bit different. I remember when Flipboard came out, there were copyright questions concerning how it scraped various websites.

However, for whatever reason, this new service Zite has really set off pretty much everyone in the traditional newspaper business. A list of who's who in the newspaper/magazine world, including the Associated Press, the Washington Post, Dow Jones, Scripps, Gannett, McClatchy, Time and even National Geogrpahic, all teamed up to send a nastygram (embedded below) that effectively says "hey, we're all for innovation, but you can't innovate without first paying us."

Now, to be clear, technically these newspapers may have a point concerning the fact that Zite displays their content. But if you start to go down that path, you suddenly realize that so does a browser. Zite is really just a form of a browser, that tries to make their content more useful. Again, some may point out that Zite strips some ads from publications, but, again, so do many browsers that have ad blocking extensions installed. When viewed that way, how is Zite really anything other than a specialized browser? If they're claiming that's infringing, then is it really that different from claiming that other browsers/aggregating tools are infringing.

And, honestly, if creating an app that makes it easier to read your content is a threat to your business, you're doing business wrong.

I will say I'm a bit surprised to see the NY Times missing from the list of angry publications, since they've gotten upset about similar apps in the past, but really, this just seems like another example of publications thinking that anyone making their content more readable has to first get permission. If someone wants to make Techdirt content more readable, please go right ahead.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Markus Hopkins (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 9:02am

    Browsers do this without extensions

    Not that many use it, but Apple's Safari has a "Reader" button baked right into the browser itself that formats what it detects to be articles, stripping out any advertising in the process. So really, browsers do this already without any help. A browser cutting out the middle man (Ha, clicking on a button is a middle man now!) is suddenly cause for a lawyer letter? I'm really at a loss.

     

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    william (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 9:02am

    Safari has a "reader" function in which it strips out EVERY AD on the page and presents it in a nice and clean, article only view. When it first came out everyone speculated if websites that lives by ads will complain like no tomorrow.

    Never hear a peep.

    Guess all those news/content/media company don't have the guts to go up against Apple, but feel like they can crash small developer/firms into the ground.

    Now that's the American Way!

     

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  3.  
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    scarr (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 9:07am

    Just a thought...

    Is it possible the NYT isn't on the list because the other publications didn't want to be associated with the NYT's more radical craziness on these matters?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 9:11am

    At the end of the day, this "innovative app" without content is nothing but wasted code. So the rights holders are probably doing this right this time. If the app maker wants to go down that road, it should be done with the collaboration of the content providers, not in spite of them.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 9:16am

    Re:

    Why is that? If the article is correct and all of the content is coming from freely available sources anyway, why should the Zite guys have to pay while nobody else does?

     

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  6.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 9:17am

    Re:

    At the end of the day, this "innovative app" without content is nothing but wasted code

    So I guess Google's search algorithm is wasted code too, right?

     

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  7.  
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    WDS (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 9:23am

    10 pages of Lawyers

    We have a 12 page document with a page and a half of "Don't do that", followed by 10 pages of Lawyers signatures. Overkill much????

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 9:37am

    if creating an app that makes it easier to read your content is a threat to your business, you're doing business wrong.


    Mike, you're thinking that these companies are in the publishing business. They aren't - they are in the advertising business.

     

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  9.  
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    John Doe, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 9:47am

    Re:

    You are so looking at this the wrong way. As Mike points out, this app doesn't do anything that many other browsers & plug-ins and RSS readers don't already do. Instead of using a browser with ad blocker plug-ins, you can fire up this app and have it do it all for you. It is just the next logical step in the digital evolution. It has nothing to do with content providers. They do not get to say how I consume their content. I will read it how I want, when I want, where I want. Does Ford get to tell you that you can't use your truck for business unless you license it? Nope? Why do newspapers and magazines get this right just because they are digital?

    You see, they want their cake and eat it to. They treat it like a physical good that can be stolen and have you charged with a crime. If it is real property, then I have the right of first sale and can do with it what I want. But wait, then they want it treated like IP with all sorts of protection and license schemes where they get to tell you how you can use it. So which is it? You can't have it both ways.

     

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  10.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 9:57am

    Re:

    Mike, you're thinking that these companies are in the publishing business. They aren't - they are in the advertising business

    Nope. I know they're in the ad business. They're still doing it wrong. In some ways, I'm partly in the ad business too, but I love it when our content is more widely distributed.

     

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  11.  
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    Markus Hopkins (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:00am

    Re:

    Even if that's the case they're doing it wrong. If I'm in the advertising business, and I can't make my advertising coincide with the realities of user behavior, then I'm still doing business wrong. Sponsored posts, content as advertising, and engaging the community enough that they want to visit the site with the ads intact (like I do with techdirt, and just about nothing else) are all ways of making this work.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:02am

    Re:

    At the end of the day, this "content" without an innovative app to view it is nothing but wasted writing. So the app makers are probably doing this right this time. If the content owners want to go down that road it should be done with the collaboration of the app makers, not in spite of them.

    FTFY

     

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  13.  
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    Michael, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re:

    "They do not get to say how I consume their content"

    To some degree, they do. First, copyright is about preventing you from doing something with their content - namely copying it. The question about Zite is not about YOU consuming the content, it is about whether or not that Zite is doing constitutes unlicensed "copying".

    I think what they are doing is a good thing and should be allowed. The point that they are simply a browser that is a bit untraditional seems right-on to me. I guess if they were stopped by copyright, you the news organizations could write their websites optimized for a single browser and tell every other browser maker that they cannot display the website (or license their content to browser makers) but that seems like a bad business model when your business is about getting as many people as possible to read your content so you can sell ads.

    It seems to me that the proper response here (since they all got together) would be to either partner with Zite to put places for the ads into the magazine format (since it is a magazine format, there should be an appropriate place) and provide Zite their expertise in selling these ads, or to band together and make their own product that works as good or better than Zite and out-innovate them. The news organizations being scraped SHOULD have the upper-hand here since they can have access to the content earlier, know about website changes sooner, and can add all kinds of additional value in the way of access to the writers.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re:

    While you may look at it as the "next logical step", what you are in fact doing is making the case for what is called a "paywall" around here, or subscription services.

    You see, you want your cake and eat it too. You don't want to have to pay actual money for content, and when asked to pay with your attention (to advertising on a website) you also want to be able to remove that. You can't have it both ways, something has to pay for the content to get created or there is none.

    This is a perfect example of why the NYT isn't wrong, even if they are a little to early to the game. They have seen the future, and it can't be ad based.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:06am

    Re: Re:

    ...and when the content is distributed without ads, and people stop coming to your site to get the information and instead use a special reader to get only the content and none of the ads, then what do you do?

    Your attempts to put "ads in the flow" is a failure, because it just leads to people dropping your feed or using keyword / section searches to filter out your ads again.

    You don't have to be much of a futurist to see where this goes.

     

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  16.  
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    John Doe, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:07am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "To some degree, they do"

    Only to a very small degree. It is I, Joe Consumer, that gets the final say as I can choose not to consume their content at all.

     

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  17.  
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    John Doe, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:13am

    Re: Re: Re:

    They are free to put up a paywall, but that doesn't end well for them either or they would have done it. What the NYT put up is more like a tip jar.

    I don't pay for content because their content isn't worth paying for. If I am paying for news, it better be as unbiased as possible, well researched and accurate. Since they can't be bothered to provide any of those things, I can't be bothered to pay for it. Why should I have to go to 3 or 4 sources to try to source out the real story when that is what they should be doing?

     

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    383bigblock (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:14am

    A New Era of Ambulance Chasers

    lets get real. The content is out on the web free for any browser. As long as they're not changing the content and publishing it as is (except for reformatting) I don't see the issue. I loathe having to read around ads popping up and bad formatting that the so-called publishers put out on their sites. What we're seeing is a new incarnation of Ambulance Chasers ....instead they're hanging out at the "App Store" (uh oh....I forgot to get Steve Job's permission to say app store....cha ching!!) looking for new companies to sue. I guess the ambulance chasing market has matured too much and their looking for new fertile grounds.

    I'm sure I wrote something here that warrants a nastygram from some blood sucking, low life, scum of the earth lawyer......

     

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  19.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re: Re:

    How do you feel if I go to a site with ads, read the content, but not click any ads?

    I still have the cognitive ability to decide which ads I click and in my lifetime I can happily say that I've never once purposely clicked an ad.

    So, since I don't click ads anyway, is it okay if I use this app?

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:17am

    Re:

    At the end of the day, this "innovative app" without content is nothing but wasted code.


    1997 called - they want their absurdist argument back.

    Seriously - by that logic Mozilla, Opera, Google and Microsoft should have to pay every web designer of every website ever made. It's just fucking bullshit.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Your problem here is assuming that Mike gets 100% of his revenue from selling ads. He does not.

     

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  22.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "You don't want to have to pay actual money for content"

    The cost of content for the consumer is going to zero. I keep saying this.

    Until the late 70's, early 80's TV was free to the consumer. Networks made money off advertising. Cable gave people better clarity of image, and more channels which is the added value that people were paying for. With the internet the lines dedicated to cable are no longer needed. Charging people for content that contains advertising isn't going to fly. Now the networks can get away with this because it is bundled in the cable bill.

    If you look at the trends for actual newspapers. The ones that go from paid to free increase their sales substantially. There is a russian in the UK doing this and he is making money hand over fist.

    "something has to pay for the content to get created or there is none."

    Two words "Huffington Post". They found a non traditional way to generate content.

     

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  23.  
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    ChronoFish (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:49am

    Re: 10 pages of Lawyers

    Yes.. But did you notice how few lawyers signed?

    -CF

     

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  24.  
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    Fred (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:52am

    Social Games as News Aggregator

    I really think that they are missing a huge opportunity.

    Sharing content is making folks feel important, expert even. Social games thrive on this peer based "leaderboard" status.

    Gamify the way people experience the news. We can combine sharing the news, in any format, with proven games dynamics and incentives.

    There are many ways to do this and make it so content is digital goods that players must have or sponsors provide for free. Make the sponsorship part of the experience and not just an extraneous banner.

    Global Innovation Game (GiG) is enabling players to share content in the context of worldwide news events. It's the stock market for the global ideas economy. Check out GiG's market and see what your solutions are worth.

    http://apps.facebook.com/globalinnovationgame

     

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  25.  
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    Coasty (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:57am

    It seems to me that the appropriate reply from Zite to the letters signatories should be:

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    Kiss my ass. Have a good day.

    Sincerely,

    Unfortunately, in the real world, the response from Zite will probably waste 3 pages of legalese speak to say exactly the same thing.

     

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  26.  
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    ChronoFish (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:02am

    Use of logos to promote app

    Using the logos is probably the biggest issue here. You can't claim or imply that Time Mag consents, much less contributes to, your app when in fact they do not.

    But as long as the App is not reaching behind a paywall (even a "free" paywall) then I would have to agree that this is really just a browser. There is no law that I know of that requires a browser to respect HTML markup. So if the content provider puts their content on the web for free-global consumption, then the content will be consumed by all.

    If you don't get that, then you don't get the Internet. That simple.

    -CF

     

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  27.  
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    bob, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:06am

    It takes a bit

    It took Apple a bit of time to go after the manufacturers that were bundling legit copies of Mac OS X with commodity hardware. They caught on.

     

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    xs (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:12am

    Sorry Mike, you are wrong on this one

    ZITE provides a service where it copy everything from original article and removes all design elements. Clearly not something covered under fair use law. Not as simple as "accessing your content easier", it's more like "presenting someone else's content as ZITE's own".

    ZITE just needs to adhere to fair use law, and provids only an excerp of the original, and this would go away.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:13am

    Re: Re:

    Seriously - by that logic Mozilla, Opera, Google and Microsoft should have to pay every web designer of every website ever made. It's just fucking bullshit

    No it isn't. The companies that publish web pages do so with the understanding of how the browsers work. HTML mark up is fairly standard these days, cross browser compatibility for the most part is pretty good.

    Companies choose to put information on their websites and allow the public to access them without fee. That doesn't grant the browser companies rights to the content.

    The choice is made by the content provider, not the conduit for it's delivery.

    If the companies choose not to be part of this other format for presentation, they should be allowed to opt out of it. It isn't presenting pages in the original html format, so why should they be allowed to transform the content in this manner?

     

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  30.  
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    crade (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:14am

    Re:

    a hammer without something to pound is just wasted.. I really don't see what you are getting at. Tools work things. Should I have to get permission from everyone who makes nails if I want to make a new hammer? This tool works web content. So what? Why should they need permission to make the tool? I don't get it.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Two words "Huffington Post". They found a non traditional way to generate content

    yeah, but building a business on the back of free writers and then selling out for hundreds of millions. Another business model that depends on suckers to work.

     

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  32.  
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    John Doe, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:16am

    Re: Sorry Mike, you are wrong on this one

    Exactly how do they copy? If they just parse the HTML like any other browser does, than all browsers are copying. If they copy the content to their own servers, then you might have a point. But my guess is, they re-interpret the HTML the way they want to which is no different than any browser. Just because there is an HTML standard doesn't mean a browser has to follow it. Just ask Microsoft.

     

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  33.  
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    John Doe, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You just don't get it do you. The people who write for the HP knew the deal going in. To complain after the fact is ludicrous. Besides, they were writing to build their own brand and/or ego and HP was giving them a wide viewership to do so. Yet the HP didn't charge the writer either. Seems like a symbiotic relationship there. Not something most content providers want to see. They prefer to be the top dog.

     

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  34.  
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    John Doe, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "That doesn't grant the browser companies rights to the content. "

    "The choice is made by the content provider, not the conduit for it's delivery."

    It is not the browser companies accessing the content, it is the operator of the browser. If he chooses a non-standards compliant browser, then that is his choice. He is choosing how he wants to view the content. You can put content out on the net for free and then complain about how the people view it.

    Why do you or any content producer get to tell me how I render the content from web page? You optimize it how you want and I will view it how I want.

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: Re:

    So, if I view it in Lynx I'm doing something wrong?

    Using Firefox 4, I can tweak some design elements of how pages are viewed on MY computer. Is that wrong?

    I think you've lost touch with reality, my touched, touchless friend.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:57am

    Re: Sorry Mike, you are wrong on this one

    Which is exactly what my browser does with NoScript, AdBlock Plus and other plug-ins - removes elements I don't care about to get to the content I do care about.
    Unfortunately, the content the provider wants me to see and the content I care about are two different things.
    I can guarantee you if I cannot get content the way I want, I will either not bother with their services or find a way to make it what I want.

     

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  37.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:57am

    Re: Re: Re:

    ...and when the content is distributed without ads, and people stop coming to your site to get the information and instead use a special reader to get only the content and none of the ads, then what do you do?

    You use smarter business models. Like we do.

    Your attempts to put "ads in the flow" is a failure, because it just leads to people dropping your feed or using keyword / section searches to filter out your ads again.

    Uh huh.

    You don't have to be much of a futurist to see where this goes.


    Do tell me, where does it go? I'm so interested.

     

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  38.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "You just don't get it do you. The people who write for the HP knew the deal going in."

    I think he gets it. I think he just does not like it. Everything he throws out is misdirection and designed to confuse the issue.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 11:59am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "You don't have to be much of a futurist to see where this goes."

    Who cares where it goes? Do you honestly believe that without copyright protection that no content would ever be produced?

     

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  40.  
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    John Doe, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You are right. I have noticed when he finally paints himself into a corner he goes away. He doesn't admit defeat, but he goes away. I hate to respond to him, but anyone coming here and reading his strawman arguments may think he has a point if nobody rebuts them.

     

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  41.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Another business model that depends on suckers to work."

    Following your logic anytime a company is sold the employees should be paid a percentage of the profits. Profiting on the backs of workers is the way capitalism works. You can take your left leaning, entitled, socialist attitude some place else.

     

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  42.  
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    zegota (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Following your logic anytime a company is sold the employees should be paid a percentage of the profits."

    I like the way you think.

    "You can take your left leaning, entitled, socialist attitude some place else."

    I, for one, will keep my left-leaning (let's not beat around the push, it's not leaning, it fell over a long time ago), socialist attitude right here, thanks.

     

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  43.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I do have to say while I hate feeding the trolls and shills, he is fun because you have to think his arguments through to respond.

    Also if you noticed he didn't respond to facts, TV was once free to consumers, and free (real) newspapers have better circulation and make more money. He totally avoided the value added piece on why people paid for cable.

    In the end his target was the "poor unpaid workers" and how unfair it is.

     

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  44.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Go listen to NPR you left leaning, long haired, dole eatting, entitlement seeking, socialist and stop bothering me ... ;)

     

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  45.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You don't have to be much of a futurist to see where this goes.


    Do tell me, where does it go? I'm so interested.

    Oh, oh, oh,oh, pick me!! pick me!! I know!! ;)

     

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  46.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Do you honestly believe that without copyright protection that no content would ever be produced?"

    I am certain no content will ever be produced again if copyright fails. I mean they never wrote a book before 1709.

     

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  47.  
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    ChronoFish (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Sorry Mike, you are wrong on this one

    XS - do you know for fact it's a service vs an app?

    From the user perspective the difference is probably immaterial, but from a technology perspective it's key.

    A service implies that ZITE is collecting, manipulating, and rebroadcasting content. If the App is reading publicly available web content, there is no law that states that the HTML code (markup) must be respected. Are you under a different impression?


    -CF

     

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  48.  
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    xs (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Sorry Mike, you are wrong on this one

    reinterpret HTML by itself is acceptable. But what ZITE is doing is certainly not just an interpretation of the original HTML code. To present the data in ZITE's own form, ZITE is creating new HTML code that do not exist on any one of the original content pages. It may contain whole sections of code from original content pages, or link to original pages, but the presented form can not exist without additional HTML codes wrapped around the original. Thus, it is foundamentally different from a pure browser, which only intepret HTML code, and DO NOT add any of their own onto the page.

     

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  49.  
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    xs (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 2:54pm

    Re: Re: Sorry Mike, you are wrong on this one

    The question is are they republishing the original content.

    Browsers may by design or by error, fail to render an HTML page the way designer intended, but the browser doesn't add anything to the presentation.

    ZITE's service/app or whatever you want to call it, does add to the presentation.

    So the argument that it's simply a different browser, thus not subject to any copy right restriction isn't a valid one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 4:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Sorry Mike, you are wrong on this one

    Are you serious? They are adding more HTML code than is present in the original web page? Stop the presses. Call the troops back from the middle east. We need to send them after the app creator immediately!

    How is that a violation of copyright? By this logic, if two browsers interpret the HTML differently one or both are infringing because the aren't doing it right. Changing the format cannot be in any serious way compared to copyright infringement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    icon
    \r (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 9:44pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "The choice is made by the content provider, not the conduit for it's delivery"

    Their choice was, in fact, the conduit. Once released upon the conduit you can crunch and scrunch any damn way you please. If they publish and allow public access they have granted irrevocable "rights" for any single thing that can sniff the wire, listen, read and paint.

    done. game is over. no more dice. no two out of three. hasta.

    \r

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    icon
    RT Cunningham (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 3:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Sorry Mike, you are wrong on this one

    Are you an idiot?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    icon
    Chris Rhodes (profile), Apr 4th, 2011 @ 3:54pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    o why should they be allowed to transform the content in this manner?

    So you're saying the work is transformative?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    icon
    Chris Rhodes (profile), Apr 4th, 2011 @ 3:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Sorry Mike, you are wrong on this one

    Wait, so the complaint is now that they are NOT copying enough from the original?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    Paul, Apr 4th, 2011 @ 10:53pm

    News is IP??

    The title of this letter marks those who sent it as Rupert Murdoch wanna-bees. (or perhaps it's just Murdoch himself)

    "News" is not Intellectual Property. If I tell my neighbor about some gossip from my other neighbor what law says I OWN the IP on that story, even if I am the first to tell the story?

    When will these old farts get with the program.... everything that CAN be copied WILL be copied. To fight against it is like trying to swim up a water fall.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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