NY Times Confused About Its Own RSS Feed; Orders Takedown Of iPad RSS Reader

from the let-me-explain-the-internet-to-you dept

A whole bunch of you are sending in the bizarre news that the NY Times has sent a takedown for a popular iPad RSS reader because (gasp) it offers the NY Times’ own RSS feed. Amusingly, this app was praised by the NY Times itself in a review just last week. It was also praised by Steve Jobs in his keynote at WWDC yesterday. As Wired notes, the details of the takedown request suggest that the NY Times is unfamiliar with the basics of both RSS and the web.

Basically, this app is your standard everyday RSS reader, the same sort of RSS reader that has been available all over the place for years. It’s using the NY Times official RSS feed, because the NY Times put it out there. For the NY Times to then complain about it doing so is bizarre:

The Pulse News Reader app, makes commercial use of the NYTimes.com and Boston.com RSS feeds, in violation of their Terms of Use*. Thus, the use of our content is unlicensed. The app also frames the NYTimes.com and Boston.com websites in violation of their respective Terms of Use.

I’m guessing their concern is with the fact that the RSS reader is a paid app. This likely this goes back to an issue I raised more than five years ago, about companies who were putting “non-commercial” licenses on their RSS feed. How do you determine what’s “non-commercial” in RSS? If I use that RSS feed as a part of my job, is that commercial? If I use it in a fee-based app, is that commercial? Either way, it’s hard to see how this is really commercial use in any way. Yes, the RSS app is a fee-based app, but it’s not “selling” the NY Times’ content. It’s just letting anyone access the free content that the NY Times put out for just this purpose. It’s selling the software. In the same way Dell or HP or whoever sells a computer and lets people “access” the NY Times website.

This is actually pretty surprising. While the NY Times is pursuing a brain-dead paywall strategy, it had seemed like that was mostly upper management’s doing. The Times’ has pretty good tech folks who have done some neat things, and I’ve heard their General Counsel speak about copyright issues, and he has always seemed pretty on top of things (i.e., recognized the value of fair use and worried about excessively locked down copyright).

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Comments on “NY Times Confused About Its Own RSS Feed; Orders Takedown Of iPad RSS Reader”

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55 Comments
Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

basically, they just dont want to be the featured material that sells the rss reader. rss is free, but should be subscribed by individual users. all the nytimes wants is not to be part of a paid app. the only confusion here mike is your own.
No – yours by the sound of it.
They are not “part of” a paid app any more than they would be if someone accessed the RSS feed via a paid wifi service.

The feed is still free. For goodness sake – we all pay for bandwidth to our ISP – by NY times logic this would make all internet access “commercial use”.

What has happened is that the NYtimes has had a hissy fit because they didn’t get in on this deal themselves!

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Lower Case Coward: You once again show your complete inability to grasp the concept. RSS and RSS readers are akin to HTML and internet browsers. It is a way of putting info online, and end-users can use the reader/browser they choose to access it. By your non-logic if there were an internet browser that was not free, then NYT would not allow you to browse their website with that non-free browser.

You can read an RSS feed with any of a hundred different RSS reader apps, but for some reason if it is a paid-for app NYT says that is not acceptable. This makes no sense. If NYT doesn’t want people to access their RSS feed with their reader of choice then they shouldn’t put an RSS feed out there.

And don’t kid yourself. It’s not the NYT content that is selling the RSS reader. The fact that it is a useful RSS reader is what sells it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

doc, i was around long before the first rss feed hit the net. heck, i was around before html hit the net. all the nyt wants is to not be part of a paid app. the seller of the app may be using the presence of these news feeds in the app to sell the app. if the app was free, i am sure they would not care. basically, they dont want to be bookmarked when someone else is getting paid for the bookmark list.

ComputerAddict (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

AC

First of all, Being around since before HTML proves nothing in relation to the internet, in fact, it probably hurts your rep.

Second if your going to respond to someone, at least read what they are saying instead of replying with the same answer as you posted above. Doc was proposing a situation where a browser were a paid piece of software (say Internet Exploder, or Firefox, or Chrome cost $5.00 to buy for your computer), In that situation do you think the times seek to remove the software from your computer that you paid for?

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

So, if my paid for browser contained a link to the NYT website, it would be illegal? Are you nuts?

If the NYT doesn’t want to be linked to, it should stay the hell of my internets.
If it doesn’t want traffic, it has no business on the web.

Just the fact that this RSS-reading app contained a NYT rss (undoubtedly among many others) by default, that’s suddenly illegal, because you had to pay money for that app? So if it was a free app, NYT would be okay with it? What’s the difference?

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

doc, i was around long before the first rss feed hit the net. heck, i was around before html hit the net.

Okay. So you are old. What difference does that make?

all the nyt wants is to not be part of a paid app. the seller of the app may be using the presence of these news feeds in the app to sell the app.

Except that in actuality there are not advertising the ability to read the NYT to sell their app. They are advertising their ability to read RSS feeds to sell the app. Even if they were saying things like “use our RSS reader to view the NYT RSS feed” it shouldn’t matter. It would be like a TV maker saying “Use our TV’s to watch NBC”.

if the app was free, i am sure they would not care.

What difference does that make? Free apps still make money one way or another. If there was a paid internet browser, would it be forbidden from the NYT website?

basically, they dont want to be bookmarked when someone else is getting paid for the bookmark list.

They aren’t getting paid for a bookmark list. They are being paid for an RSS reader. Any user can add any RSS feed they want to the their list of feeds.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“Okay. So you are old. What difference does that make?” – when someone talks down to me like a child who just showed up on the internetwebthingie last week, i have to point out the obvious. doc suggests i dont understand what an rss feed is, far from it.

“They aren’t getting paid for a bookmark list. They are being paid for an RSS reader. Any user can add any RSS feed they want to the their list of feeds.” – that is exactly the point. they should sell it without the pre-made lists, because the selling point appears to be a ‘get the hot news’ rather than ‘get our great rss reader’.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: RSS

> basically, they just dont want to be the
> featured material that sells the rss reader

Too bad. They don’t have the legal right to bar such things.

If the NY Times operated a radio station and Sony decided to manufacture a radio, which they then advertised by saying, “Buy our radio– it can receive radio programming from a variety of stations, including FM 98.9 – NY Times Radio!” there wouldn’t be thing the Times could do to stop them. If they don’t want people listening to their radio station on radios sold for profit, then their only alternative is to stop broadcasting.

An RSS feed is the internet equivalent of a radio broadcast and the reader is the equivalent of a radio.

interval (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“…the only confusion here mike is your own.”

Ok, then isn’t this a little like telling a guy who just want to to buy a 1/3 gal. of gas for his lawnmower that he has to have a car to buy the gas? Or to put it in another frame of ref; its like telling a guy who wants to eat his ice cream in particular (his “favorite”) bowl that if he buys his ice cream from you he has to eat it in a bowl of your choice. Its a ridiculous stance and I think that’s all Mike is trying to point out.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, what you’re saying, is that there cannot be a paid web browser (I dunno, Opera before it was free), since it might infringe on websites non-commercial licenses? I mean, the page is there, and you’re making money from a browser!

How about those little reading lamps that you can use at night to read books. Even free books. Someone is profiting from free! Reading lamps are paid for, and so they’re freeloading from the writers’ work!

Christopher Weigel (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Not really. See: Books that are in the public domain still being bound and sold in bookstores. So long as there’s a noticeable improvement in quality between the two situations… Well, it’s up to the consumer to decide if the tangible difference in content presentation is worth the extra cost.

See also e-books (cheaper than their bound siblings, usually), “Best of” CD’s, video games (cheaper on PC, typically) concerts, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The focus here is usually about how you are supposed to use economics to make your own version of Scrooge McDuck’s money bin. So yes, the money that the app companies are getting may have been intended by the consumers to go to the NYTimes. Whatever that amount is marks inefficiency in the market that the app companies are taking advantage of. If they are taking advantage of this by withholding information from the consumers, we have a problem, now don’t we?

Christopher Gizzi (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Wait, what?? That statement makes no sense whatsoever.

The app isn’t “padding up their content offerings” at all; they aren’t in the content business – they’re in the RSS reader app business. It’s offering other people’s free content – for free. While the app developer might be charging for the convenient and well designed RSS reader, it isn’t charging for someone else’s content.

The whole story should be this:

The NYTimes is competing with itself by offering RSS feeds for free. If they want to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future, I recommend the try this:

1. Beg the world to move away from RSS and other HTML/XML publish/subscribe technologies.
2. Take down their RSS feeds so they don’t exist on their site.
3. Get their head in the game and create a digital business model that accounts for competing free options (including their own free offerings).

JC says:

RSS readers vs. TAM: Case # 23-4524, 9th Circut

Microsoft Outlook is a very expensive app which has an RSS reader (a pretty good one actually). Will NY Times be sending them a take down notice (impossible since people can configure the RSS feeds themselves.)

How about IE, Firefox, or Chrome – all three have some level of built in RSS reader feature.

I love the TAM comment above – “…the only confusion here mike is your own.” He clearly doesn’t know thing one about RSS, readers, or technology in general and usually just comes off like an arrogant (and stupid) jerk.

Pangolin (profile) says:

No one can use the content.

A strict reading of the TOS (below) shows that Firefox, IE, any browser, ANY RSS reader is in violation of their TOS! NO ONE can use the content or even paint their website in a brower! (Emphasis added)

* NYTimes.com Terms of Service, paragraph 2.2: “The Service and its Contents are protected by copyright pursuant to U.S. and international copyright laws. You may not modify, publish, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, reproduce (except as provided in Section 2.3 of these Terms of Service), create new works from, distribute, perform, display, or in any way exploit, any of the Content or the Service (including software) in whole or in part.”

* Boston.com Terms of Service, paragraph 2.2: “The Service and its Contents are protected by copyright pursuant to U.S.and international copyright laws. You may not modify, publish, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, reproduce (except as provided in Section 2.3 of this Agreement), create new works from, distribute, perform, display, or in any way exploit, any of the Content or the Service (including software) in whole or in part.”

Anonymous Coward says:

@Christopher Weigel

and as soon as canada’s new copyright lw comes
the only way you’ll get those public domain books will be ona DRM’d cdr/dvdr..why?
CAUSE the TPM ( Technological Protection Measure ) Sectin of the law will forbid anyone form breaking the TPM.

THUS a hard bound cover book could be scanned and you can do anything yuo want, its public domain. THE TPM’d DVD/CDR its a 20000$ fine to do so. AND IF YOUR selling it cracked up to a million dollar fine and or 5 years in prison.

YUP well thought out law now eradicates ALL PUBLIC DOMAIN in canada.

FUCK AUTHORS
FUCK MUSICIANS
FUCK ACTORS
FUCK LABELS
FUCK PUBLISHERS

YOUR ALL FUCKING SCUMBAGS.
Nice that the poor in canada get bent right over.

Christopher Weigel (profile) says:

Re: @Christopher Weigel

Uh… What the hell are you babbling about?

Ignoring the completely off-topic rant here…

They’re still public domain. The specific version provided may have anti-circumvention tech, but we’re talking books. So
a) who buys e-books on a cd?
b) The publisher would have no legal recourse against other (public domain) versions of the book online.

In other words, chill out, stop ranting, and try to make comments at least somewhat relevant to the topic at hand. Not to mention avoiding the “paranoid drug addict” tone.

vastrightwing (profile) says:

Total Disconnect

Am I the only one who sees a huge disconnect here?

The argument seems to be that if an application is paid for, you can’t use the RSS feed. Is this what I’m hearing? If so, then what about using IE? You paid for that app. Why isn’t the New York Times screaming to Microsoft and demanding that Microsoft pay? how about other RSS readers? I’m sure there are plenty of people using commercial RSS readers which they had to buy. Or at least the capability is bundled with other software, which was paid for. I can’t reconcile how the New York Times cares what application downloads their feed. This is sounding an aweful lot like HULU and how they want to limit the specific kinds of devices which downloads their content. This is insane people! Insane! Next up, only Fords and GM cars can use roads. All other (so called) cars are not allowed.

MeMeMe says:

Not JUST an RSS Reader

People, plz read the news reports in detail.

I’m in no way defending the NYT, but the app in question is not just an RSS reader, it follows the links in RSS articles and displays the full web pages the articles link to. This is the part NYT objects to as “The app also frames the NYTimes.com and Boston.com websites in violation of their respective Terms of Use.”

Personally I WANT my RSS reader to display the full article, with graphics, video, etc. IDK how you appease an organization such as the NYT and still give the user a better experience…

Anonymous Coward says:

The bigger issue here is that Apple’s walled garden is getting more and more walled as time goes on. Who was impacted by this issue? PAYING CUSTOMERS OF IPADS Who wasn’t affected by this issue? EVERYONE ELSE.

Google isn’t immune to this either, they’ve removed apps randomly this past week.

Microsoft (well on the desktop/laptop front) and Linux are actually starting to look good by comparison!

Domingo says:

Bloggers and commercial use of feeds

Bloggers would be happy if someone find a real way of making money of their feeds and share (some of) the money with them.

In a negative way: as a blogger, I would not be happy if someone find a continous source of really big income (let’s say by ads) because of my feeds and not share part of the income with me.

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