Hide Techdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.

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.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: associated press, down jones, gannett, mcclatchy, scripps, washington post, zite

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Big Media To Innovative App Maker: Stop Innovating Without Our Permission!”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Markus Hopkins (profile) says:

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.

william (profile) says:

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!

John Doe says:

Re: 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.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

John Doe says:

Re: 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?

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: 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.

John Doe says:

Re: Re: Re:3 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.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 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.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 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.

zegota (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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?

John Doe says:

Re: 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.

r (profile) says:

Re: 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.


Markus Hopkins (profile) says:

Re: 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.

383bigblock (profile) says:

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……

Fred (profile) says:

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.


ChronoFish (profile) says:

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.


xs (profile) says:

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.

John Doe says:

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.

xs (profile) says:

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.

John Doe says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

ChronoFish (profile) says:

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?


xs (profile) says:

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.

Paul says:

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.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...