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