AOL Unclear On The Concept: Threatens Startup For Properly Using Creative Commons Content

from the that's-not-how-it-works dept

Oh, AOL. The company wants people to believe that it's a new kind of company, but it apparently can't help acting in a really dumb way. The latest: the company is threatening a company that is properly making use of AOL content that is available under a Creative Commons license. Pro Populi is using content from Crunchbase, the database of startup info that originated as a part of the site TechCrunch, both of which are now owned by AOL. The content is licensed under a Creative Commons CC-BY attribution license, which means it can be used in pretty much any way, even commercially, so long as it's properly attributed. That appears to be the case with Pro Populi, which is using the data in its People+ app.

AOL, however, has sent a cease-and-desist:
“[Y]our company’s People+ product in essence has made wholesale use of CrunchBase content to simply replicate what CrunchBase does,” wrote Grossman in another letter to the startup. The app, Grossman adds, “duplicates what CrunchBase offers in order to compete directly with us.”
Except, of course, that's entirely allowed under the license in question. So AOL is simply wrong here. Amusingly, AOL is trying to get around its blatant wrongness from a different direction, claiming that the scraping of the data abused the terms of their API that makes the use of the data improper:
That’s because Pro Populi downloaded the database through the CrunchBase API, a digital interface that allows anyone access to the data. Buried in the terms-of-service for the CrunchBase API is this caveat: AOL “reserves the right to continually review and evaluate all uses of the API, including those that appear more competitive than complementary in nature.” And AOL “reserves the right in its sole discretion (for any reason or for no reason) and at anytime without notice to You to ... terminate your rights” to use “any CrunchBase content.”
That clause is completely bogus. AOL can decide to forbid someone from using the API if they feel it violates their terms, but they cannot "terminate" the license to use the content. The content is free to use under the license, and there's nothing AOL can legally do about it -- other than lie and be a bully, which appears to be the choice the company has made. Thankfully, EFF is now representing Pro Populi and has sent a detailed letter explaining all of this to AOL. Hopefully, next time, their lawyers will actually understand their own licenses before misrepresenting them in bogus threat letters.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Wally (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 9:08am

    AOL has a history of not getting basic concepts of pretty much everything...they missed the idea of a free and open internet by making their own crappy BBS service...then when people opted out, they kept charging them for an extra 2 years of service.

     

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  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 9:10am

    I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    And in FIFTEEN years, you haven't made ANY suggestions for fixex that I've seen, Masnick, let alone specifically against corporations. (This is partly for those who persist in saying that I'm pro-corporate -- though I bet they're just plain using a lie to try and diminish my awesomeoness.)

    Here's a new tagline to jam in with copyright mentioned:

    If you advocate taking copyright away from Disney (after 80-some years), then FINE! -- But don't at same time empower today's mega-corporations to steal creative works from the poor. Those are not similar cases. Doing away with ALL copyright is even more criminal than the current mess! -- Make a means test for copyright, prohibit it entirely to corporations, and prevent them from raiding the public domain.

    05:09:48[g-82-3]

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 9:17am

    Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    Your suggestion makes no sense and you cannot read.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 9:18am

    so the reply that has been sent is?

     

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  5.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 9:24am

    Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    " diminish my awesomeoness"

    Now you do a very good job of that on your own. Answer for me please: just how big of an ego, how arrogant does one have to be, to post FOR YEARS on a site he regularly says he hates, to be constantly corrected and ridiculed, and still come out believing that he is awesome?

     

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  6.  
    icon
    DeadBolt (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    The Derp is strong with OOTB

     

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  7.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 9:50am

    Re:

    This. AOL has been a sleazy company from the start, and I suspect that's so deeply embedded in the company ethos that it can never change.

     

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  8.  
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    scotts13 (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 10:11am

    Not entirely in the clear

    If you read the EFF letter, there is the admission that the API was improperly used, and such use has been discontinued. I think AOL could be given a little slack for failing to separate use of the API and use of the data; we haven't seen their letters.

    We'll see what AOLs next letters, if any, contains.

     

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  9.  
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    teka, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 10:20am

    Re: Not entirely in the clear

    It does not (and imo should not) seem to be an admission that the API was wrongly used, only an acknowledgement that they had stopped using the API due to being told to stop, complying with the lawyer-fluff terms.

     

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  10.  
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    AC Unknown (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    It doesn't take ego. It takes idiocy and a driving obsession with someone. I'd say that OOTB is almost a stalker.

     

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  11.  
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    Andrew Norton (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 11:08am

    Re: Not entirely in the clear

    We'll see what AOLs next letters, if any, contains.

    Odds on it being CD's/floppies for free service...

     

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  12.  
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    Namel3ss (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 12:00pm

    For me ...

    AOL's been pretty useless ever since they stopped sending me free coasters in the mail.

    After all a man needs something to put under his beer so it doesn't leave a ring on the table, and AOL's coasters were SO good at that!

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 12:27pm

    Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    "I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!"

    Well in that case their will be no case against Megaupload then being as they will be prohibited from having copyright and they will not be able to sue Megaupload because they will not be the copyright owner.

    Yes, corporations including the MPAA should be prohibited from owning copyright.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 2:08pm

    API

    We don't API from Melting Pot.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 2:49pm

    I had no idea AOL still did stuff and owned things.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Nov 11th, 2013 @ 5:05pm

    Re:

    I didn't know they still existed.

     

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

  17.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 5:45pm

    Re: Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    No ego needed, just a desperate need for attention, and if they don't care whether it's good vs. bad attention, praise and congratulations, or criticism and ridicule, then either are acceptable, though the second is far easier to get.

     

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  18.  
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    Alana (profile), Nov 11th, 2013 @ 8:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    Except he never reads anything and ignores facts left right and centre and only exists to pitifully attempt to derail conversations and sling personal attacks.

     

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  19.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 12:09am

    Re: Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    "ego"

    I think the word you're looking for is "delusion", or maybe simply "pathetic". Either his grasp on reality is so poor he actually believes the stuff he writes, or he knows how full of crap he is and just does it for attention. Pretty poor show either way.

     

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

  20.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 12:17am

    Re: Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    The "screw the corporations" mantra is his new default for when he hasn't got an easy way to lie about the posters here, personally attack Mike or shoehorn in a Google conspiracy theory. You can rest assured that he'll be defending corporate profits for MPAA members as soon as he can do one of those things or whine that some successful independent business model can't make $100 million movies.

     

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

  21.  
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    Bergman (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 2:06am

    Re:

    Apparently AOL has not gotten over that 'me too' thing yet.

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 3:45am

    Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    What the...?

    Okay, point by point takedown. Again.

    And in FIFTEEN years, you haven't made ANY suggestions for fixex that I've seen, Masnick, let alone specifically against corporations.


    What's a fixex? Incoherent troll is incoherent.

    (This is partly for those who persist in saying that I'm pro-corporate -- though I bet they're just plain using a lie to try and diminish my awesomeoness.)


    Uh, corporations such as the big studios and the major labels are the ones you keep defending in the name of the people they don't pay the copyright royalties to. So yeah, you're pro-corporate, as long as they're enslaving us to extended copyright terms and renting us content at inflated rates.

    You are not in the least bit "awesomeo." You're a frothing maniac with a hard-on for Mike and delusions of grandeur that belie your humble status as the Crazy Copyright/Cat Lady of Techdirt.

    Here's a new tagline to jam in with copyright mentioned:
    If you advocate taking copyright away from Disney (after 80-some years), then FINE! -- But don't at same time empower today's mega-corporations to steal creative works from the poor.


    That's what shortening copyright terms - which Mike has advocated over and over again, would achieve. As would extending and properly codifying fair use - as Mike has often suggested. The current copyright regime, which you demand be enforced to the max, and to hell with due process, is PRECISELY the mechanism by which today's mega-corporations steal creative works from the poor. They just lift them from creatives like Osamu Tezuka and claim coincidental similarities. Try doing that with their charaters and stories and see what happens. But Tezuka is "only" Japanese so it doesn't count, right? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimba_the_White_Lion#The_Lion_King_controversy

    http://www.straightdope.c om/columns/read/1378/did-disneys-em-the-lion-king-em-rip-off-an-old-japanese-tv-series

    By your "logic," Disney should have paid massive royalties to Tezuka, but they didn't. And they're not going to. The bigger the company, the more they get away with. And you wanted Richard O'Dwyer to be extradited for sharing LINKS to movies hosted online by these bloodsuckers? All they had to do was make a deal to share the profits, but no, it's all about control with them. You tell me who the pirate is.

    Those are not similar cases. Doing away with ALL copyright is even more criminal than the current mess! -- Make a means test for copyright, prohibit it entirely to corporations, and prevent them from raiding the public domain.

    None of that makes any sense. Means testing? What about the hundred million dollar movies you're always raving on about? You're out of your mind. We need enough copyright to make sure creatives are credited with their works for all eternity, and to get them paid for ten years or so, up to a maximum of 35 for shares in distribution profits via licensing fees.

    The public domain is there to be used for profit (or not). That's why it's there. Everything is derivative. There's enough room for the corporations, small creators, AND pirates. The trick is to remind them of that and enable payment of creatives so we all get what we want.

     

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  23.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Nov 12th, 2013 @ 5:02am

    Re: Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    "What's a fixex? Incoherent troll is incoherent."

    He means fixes. As in, say, the hundreds of different licencing schemes, business models and alternatives that have been discussed regularly in the articles and comments he's trolled over the years. But, of course, he pretends they haven't been discussed. Possibly because he's deliberately ignoring inconvenient facts, Possibly because he literally doesn't understand any alternative that doesn't consist of Mike saying "this is the one true business model" (which isn't going to happen because reality doesn't work that way).

    Don't stoop to just making fun of typos, the idiocy runs far deeper.

    "What about the hundred million dollar movies you're always raving on about?"

    You expected logical consistency? This is the thread where he hates corporations and wants to defend poor starving artists. You have to wait for the threads where those artists manage to make a living in innovative new ways, then he'll whine that corporations can't make bloated, often unprofitable blockbusters under those business models.

    "The public domain is there to be used for profit (or not)"

    ...for anybody without restriction. That's one thing these muppets can't get through their heads. Making something public domain doesn't remove the rights from anyone to make money if they wish. It just means that the artificial monopoly is removed, in accordance with the deal in place when works were created. You can continue to make money, remix, rework, remake a public domain work, you just don't get to tell everyone else what to do with it at the same time.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 5:33am

    Re: Re: Re: I've suggested: prohibit ALL copyright to corporations!

    I know, PaulIT. I guess I was just bashing the almighty hypocrite for everything.

    What these people and their associates love to whine about is the public domain "robbing" artists, etc., by making it possible for you or I to make money from the works of others. But that doesn't matter.

    Is it really wise to take an "If I can't make all the possible profit from this item, neither can anyone else!" attitude to cultural artifacts, none of which is truly original? But that is what Blue wants: to lock down content to people who CLAIM an item is theirs, and give them full control of distribution, etc. It's the wrong approach.

    In any case, it contradicts Blue's earlier assertions that "I made it, I own it." If that is true, we owe the Greeks the fulness of their national debt, since most dramatic plots and character types originated there and the descendants would be hard to trace if you attempted it.

    If someone else makes money from an item I make available for the public to use, good luck to 'em.

    No, buddy, I don't expect logical consistency from Blue, just stupidity. The debunkage is for those casual readers who might be tempted to agree with her. It appeared that some of the angles hadn't been covered at the time I read her post, so I jumped in.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2013 @ 11:22am

    It's always weird when things get to APIs are "abusing" connectivity.

    If you didn't want the data out there... WHY DID YOU LET US AT IT AND ADVERTISE IT'S EXISTENCE?!

     

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


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