Two Companies That Should Know Better Shut Down Helpful 3rd Party Apps

from the bad-news dept

Having just pointed out how multiple train operators are using intellectual property laws to shut down helpful third party apps, we're seeing a number of stories about other companies doing something similar. First up is Last.fm, which has apparently started blocked a bunch of third party apps that had been using undocumented calls to stream content from Last.fm. Last.fm (now owned by CBS) was in a bit of a quandary, because its licenses with the major record labels (there they go again, blocking innovation) forbid streaming except in specific circumstances -- so these third party apps "broke" the agreement. But... that's not quite true, because the agreements are between Last.fm and the labels, not the third parties. Last.fm has now specific requirement to block others from creating apps. So, yes, Last.fm has every right to do this, and I'm sure the labels were demanding it do this, but it still doesn't make it a very smart move. Those third party apps were making Last.fm more valuable. Blocking them hurts the overall value and pushes people to go in search of other services that are more consumer friendly.

This move also comes right after Last.fm's recent decision to charge for streaming outside of the US, Germany or the UK. This also has folks up in arms -- and is driving away users in droves to other solutions. Last.fm has plenty of competitors out there, and working hard to make its own service less usable and less reasonable isn't going to help keep users around.

Meanwhile, a bunch of folks have sent in the story of how DVD rental kiosk operator Redbox has pressured a third party to takedown its Redbox iPhone app. The app was apparently pretty cool, making use of the phone's GPS to tell you where the nearest kiosk is, and letting you reserve the movie you want. There is some speculation that Redbox is upset that the app also pulls a list of promotional codes, allowing some people to rent movies for free -- but that's a misguided concern. If that's the real issue, then they should just change how their promotional codes work because (of course) the codes are still available for anyone to search and use online. Shutting down the iPhone app doesn't fix that at all.

Still, it seems that both companies should know better. Having third parties build apps that make your services more useful is a sign of success, and should be encouraged, not threatened and shut down. We live in an age where too many people focus on using intellectual property as a club to block any use -- even when those uses are helpful in making your core product even more valuable.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Weird Harold's former #5 fan, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 5:04pm

    10 bucks says we'll soon be hearing an announcement about the "official" Redbox app for the iPhone...

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Afonso Martins, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 6:33pm

    I'm pretty sure everyone at last.fm agrees with you.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Weird Harold, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    lastfm is pretty much bound by their new direction - any tools that circumvent their system could put them in trouble. I don't think they have many options at this point.

    Redbox is a different deal, but in the end, it may be more about business. Here's the logic for me: Someone using an app to find the nearest redbox was likely going to be a customer already. Giving them additional access to discounts or freebies they wouldn't have got otherwise is really going against the business. It isn't like a new transaction is being made, rather a likely existing transaction was corrupted and discounted or made free.

    I would say they have plenty of reason to be upset.

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      Easily Amused, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 10:00am

      Re:

      /facepalm

      Really, WH? Because someone was already likely to be a customer, making it easy for them to find your nearest location and reserve a title is a bad thing? WTF? If the coupon system was open ended enough to be abused, it sounds like their marketing guys need to implement a better promotion. It's like when Subway used to do the little stamps you collected for free subs,they didn't have ID#'s on them, and people figured out that they could laser copy them and get free stuff all the time.

       

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

      •  
        identicon
        Weird Harold, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 11:11am

        Re: Re:

        You aren't paying attention.

        They are already searching for Redbox - likely to be a client. Information could be had through 411 or similar. The tool is okay, if it stopped at that point. In fact, I would suspect if that is all it did, Redbox would likely help distribute it.

        But by adding in coupon harvesting, it is no longer in Redbox's interest to have this thing running. I cannot think of a reason why a company would want to have an app out there that teaches their clients to pay them less or get free stuff. It defeats the purpose of the marketing (to get new customers) and instead moves that expense toward just maintaining existing customers. It guts their marketing programs, because it makes it much more expensive for the company to use this type of marketing in the future.

        There is something seriously wrong with society when people like you are proud of ripping companies off, without understanding the implications.

        Forget facepal, you deserve something more like a b-slap.

         

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

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 11:20am

          Re: Re: Re:

          One of the things constantly harped about on this site is that companies taking issue with programs such as these are essentially cutting their own throats out of ignorance.

          How nice it would be if for once pause was taken before leveling criticism that such companies may actually have taken the time to explore all issues and obligations before embarking on litigation. In my experience decisions to pursue litigation are not decisions that are lightly made and without consideration of the consequences.

          Then again, I guess I should not expect more from sites such as this that demand rights be foresaken so that "innovation" can "flourish".

           

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

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 12:28pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So, because there is 'some speculation' that the app let you access the coupon codes (remember, it's speculation, not fact, never proven), the app /must/ rip people off, and anyone who supports it is causing there to be something wrong with society. Once more, you show that you can jump on a teeny little tidbit and without understanding the context show yourself to be a total tool.

           

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

        •  
          identicon
          ToySouljah, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 5:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Again you make a good point. I do not see the problem with the app except that it had the coupon function which is really puts RedBox at fault for not setting a limit to the coupon (like one per account...try to use it again and it would just reject it). It is a good promo....download the app and get a free rental (ONE free rental...lol). It adds value to both the app and the company (win-win). Like a previous poster mentioned though...I really wouldn't be surprised to see an "official" release from RedBox soon on various app stores since the market is ripe for apps like these.

           

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 11:57am

    "actually have taken the time to explore all issues and obligations before embarking on litigation."

    Yeah - right ...
    LOL
    that's a good one

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 12:51pm

      Re:

      Obviously you are not entirely familiar with how such decisions are typically made. Perhaps someday you will be in the position of having to make such decisions and will understand what is involved.

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2009 @ 2:29pm

    "Obviously you are not entirely familiar with how such decisions are typically made. Perhaps someday you will be in the position of having to make such decisions and will understand what is involved."

    Should we sue that laser printer?
    Yeah, damn pirate!

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Danny, Mar 30th, 2009 @ 7:51am

    If Redbox is so concerned about coupon harvesting why not just put up some sort limitation on coupons.

    Like first comment said I bet Redbox is working on their own app and plan to release it soon.

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This