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Is Flipboard Legal?

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Is Flipboard Legal?
Social news app Flipboard was yesterday's hot new app, despite—or perhaps because of—technical problems that prevented some features from working. But there might be a bigger snag: Is Flipboard scraping content it doesn't have the rights to? Flipboard, the new iPad app that renders links from your Twitter feed and favorite sites in a beautiful, magazine-style layout, has a problem: it scrapes websites directly rather than using public RSS feeds, opening it to claims of copyright infringement.

BY JOEL JOHNSON
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JUL 22, 2010 7:01 PM 116,468 108

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Unlike some similar news apps like Pulse, Flipboard appears to eschew the older syndication standby RSS to instead grab URLs from Twitter and Facebook feeds. While news sources that maintain their own automatic Twitter feeds tend to link the same stories as they do in their RSS feeds, there's one critical difference: RSS also allows content to be included in the feed, whereas Twitter provides only the URLs that link back to the full website. (Unless, of course, the site only writes 140 character news stories.) Back in the ancient days of the mid-aughts, there was a healthy debate online about whether or not news outlets should provide full content feeds or simply headlines and excerpts. Rather than rehash that debate—one that's still ongoing—just remember this: whether a company chose to publish "full feeds" or excerpts, the choice remained theirs. A new class of "feed readers" have ditched RSS and built their own content scrapers. The ever-popular Instapaper—the adblocker it's okay to like!—is a scraper: a reader views a story in their web browser (along with ads and other web chrome); clicks "Read Later"; Instapaper uses some sorting magic to figure out what part of the already-downloaded HTML is content and which is cruft. From a licensing and copyright perspective it's a little bit iffy, but since content providers get at least one pageview every time someone uses Instapaper there has been a sort of truce. (One made more steady by the fact that many of those working in the media who might get frustrated by scrapers are also fans of long-form content—exactly the sort of reader to which Instapaper caters.) It appears that Flipboard uses a very similar technique to scrape content from the sites that are indexed within the app. A story from CNN.com about Kosovo appeared in my copy of Flipboard under the "FlipNews" section with a headline, picture, and about three-and-a-half paragraphs of content, despite that CNN's feed gives only a headline and a dek (a summary sentence).

How Flipboard Works
I posed these very questions to Flipboard's co-founder Evan Doll: • Is Flipboard using a custom scraper for content that is pulling content from content websites? Doll: Flipboard is using a parser that is very similar technically to Readability by Arc90 and Safari 5's Reader feature. • Does Flipboard use RSS? Or is it all Twitter and Facebook feeds?

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I'm a fan. If the user wants to read the full article.even though we aren't using RSS directly. though.08. however. In the past 48 hours. It's content paid for by the Boston Globe.com's The Big Picture. Content creators do not have to specifically ask that their copyright not be violated. licensed from the photo wires with strict limits on how it can be presented and distributed.2011 17:46 .607 TOUCHPAD Doll: Flipboard shows short content previews. and who want to work with us on doing a better job displaying their content. on the right side of copyright. resized into a grid. CRAIGSLIST 112. • Is the scraper universal/generic. we've received an incredibly positive response from content creators who are happy about being featured in Flipboard. Flipboard and its ilk are taking ideas that have been percolating for years and turning them into software tools that are very useful for readers. but it's still a possible violation of copyright. scraped—or "parsed". We already try to do this with some sites that publish extremely Apocalypse) abbreviated RSS feeds. we can limit the amount of content displayed on a site-specific basis. or are there customer scrapers for certain 46. It simply wouldn't be possible to run Swarms of Drones Will Kill Us All! (One Day) on the client for reasons of speed and complexity. but what is Flipboard's policy? 110.123 HEALTH display parity with their feed.801 This Is What Google Really Meant By "Don’t Be Evil" GOOGLE 19. Unfortunately. and then distributed to every single Flipboard app.824 Why the Hell Are People Buying Touchpads for $300 on eBay? WEBOS 2. Music Video Re-Creates All of Their Famous Music • Is the content passingMuppets Flipboard's servers before being sent to users' Videos…with through WATCH THIS iPads? AIRPLANES 13.108 Why the Internet scraping content? I presume you guys are claiming a • What is the rationale forShould Die in a Fire reasonable system under fair use. or to hide their site's content altogether. The Big Picture's RSS feed presents a single image and a description for each collection.Is Flipboard Legal? http://gizmodo. Take Boston. Hopefully we can do more on this front soon. we attempt to achieve 7. and you'll find all of the images available. As such. As mentioned before. those tools may not be. Moreover. We do not offer a "full article" view in Flipboard for articles of arbitrary length. 2 von 4 23. we are happy to limit or hide content as requested. we believe that we're providing value to content creators by helping to drive new readers in their direction. Skiing on Poo Snow Is Perhaps We're happy Even Grosser thanthe requests of any content publisher who want to choose to accommodate You Think how much content to show in Flipboard. they tap "Read on Web" and are taken to the full site in an embedded browser. but it's hard for me to suss a scenario where scraping all of the images from a picture blog and redisplaying them without ads or context would be considered fair use. particularly recommendations from your friends of sources that you may not already subscribe to. View The Big Picture from within Flipboard.445 OK Go’s Muppet Theme Song Doll: Flipboard does not currently use RSS. strictly speaking. However. Revenue Plans Personally. Flipboard is saying they're willing to shut off or rein in how much content they are slurping up if content providers simply ask. Fair use is a murky thing. That's good.342 Doll: The content parser runs on Flipboard's servers.439 GOLD Here’s How to Rip Apart a sites? Computer and Melt the Circuit Survive the Next Financial Boards for Gold (So You Can Doll: It is mostly universal/generic. decided on a case-by-case basis. to use Flipboard's phrasing—to Flipboard's own servers. for instance: Each of those large images come from wire services.com/5594176 LOGIN LATEST POPULAR SEARCH 19. We see Flipboard a great way to discover content.

Flipboard is another great example of the power of the Apocalypse) internet to transform the way we consume media.108 a Fire DISCUSSION TOUCHPAD THREADS 110.com/5594176 And without unfettered access to every single site that could be linked by your friends. (It's the same argument used by many—myself LATEST POPULAR walls for included—against pay SEARCHnews sites. So if they're notSong Music Video Re-Creates All of problem? Their Famous Music The problem is that Flipboard doesn't plan to have zero revenue forever. Comes and goes. So if a magazine gets one pageview for it. promoted by Joel Johnson wætherman @Pope John Peeps II @Pope John Peeps II: I'm sorry. wætherman @Pope John Peeps II @Pope John Peeps II: oh. RSS isn't a license. She explained that Flipboard never provides a full version of content.2011 17:46 . Boards for Gold (So terribly Here’s How to Rip Apart a Survive the Next Financial Good luck to them. That's proves it isn'teBay? foolproof. but as The Big Picture example RSS rules. WATCH THIS WEBOS This Is What Google Really 19. long-form journalism.439 GOLD Considering that media companies have each been creating their own magazine apps for iPad to have complete control over layout (and revenue and everything else that comes with selling Computer and Melt the Circuit your own app). It's not terribly important. there it is back again. that seems like a You Canambitious plan. It just may not be. with very specific limitations on how it can be used.) The company hopes that content companies like Condé Nast will be so pleased at the way 13. while it's a good guideline. While a magazine can recoup costs by presenting a story on multi-pages and with full advertising on every page.) 19. Correct me if I'm wrong here. Terrible Idea 112. all the same. Star or no. legal. And more importantly. you know. McCue reiterated Doll's claim that Flipboard tries to use RSS as a guideline. Pay walls make it difficult for news to go viral. "We Why the Hell Are People try to map to Buying Touchpads for $300 on a good notion.08.445 OK Go’s Muppet Theme making money off of others' content.801 GOOGLE I also spoke to Flipboard's Marci McCue briefly on the phone about the issue.342 AIRPLANES Swarms of Drones Will Kill Us Flipboard presents their content that they'll work with the company—subscriptions and revenue sharing were mentioned specifically—instead of suing the pants off of them.123 Poo Snow Is Perhaps Even Grosser than You Think Missouri Teachers Sue Over Absurd Facebook Law CRAIGSLIST What? Why a Publisher's Tablet Is Should Die in Why the Internet a Terrible. anyways. You lost me at "a magazine can recoup blah blah blah" What happened to your star. It is licensed. a reader simply scrapes it all into one giant mess. I'll always heartclick you :) Hide 3 replies About Help Forums Jobs Legal Privacy Permissions Advertising Subscribe Send a tip 3 von 4 23. what's the But Flipboard is free.) I'm fairly sure that long-form content is actually screwed by most readers.607 FEATURED ALL START A NEW THREAD Pope John Peeps II 22 Jul 2010 9:00 PM (One made more steady by the fact that many of those working in the media who might get frustrated by scrapers are also fans of long-form content—exactly the sort of reader to which Instapaper caters." said McCue. as a rule. there's absolutely no incentive to continue to produce expensive. (Of course.824 2. but instead caches the content's web Meant By "Don’t Be Evil" page behind the scenes where it can be read at the touch of a button—ads and all. LOGIN Flipboard becomes less and less useful. HEALTH RELATED STORIES on Skiing 7. Videos…with Muppets All! (One Day) 46. peeps? Pope John Peeps II @wætherman @wætherman: Eh. In addition.Is Flipboard Legal? http://gizmodo.

342 Swarms of Drones Will Kill Us All! (One Day) AIRPLANES 46.123 Skiing on Poo Snow Is Perhaps Even Grosser than You Think HEALTH 112.2011 17:46 .439 Here’s How to Rip Apart a Computer and Melt the Circuit Boards for Gold (So You Can Survive the Next Financial Apocalypse) GOLD 7.com/5594176 LOGIN LATEST POPULAR SEARCH 19.607 4 von 4 23.Is Flipboard Legal? http://gizmodo.445 OK Go’s Muppet Theme Song Music Video Re-Creates All of Their Famous Music Videos…with Muppets WATCH THIS 13.824 Why the Hell Are People Buying Touchpads for $300 on eBay? WEBOS 2.801 This Is What Google Really Meant By "Don’t Be Evil" GOOGLE 19.08.108 Why the Internet Should Die in a Fire CRAIGSLIST TOUCHPAD 110.