App Maker vs Publishers

Say you’re a startup that created a social magazine app that takes RSS feeds from prominent news sources, User behavior and social graphs, and then remixes it all in a way that makes it a joy to read.

Then lets say your free app has been downloaded over 100,000 times in the first few weeks of its existence.

You might think you’re onto something.

Until, lets say, you receive a cease and desist letter from lawyers representing Advance Publications, Inc., The Associated Press, Dow Jones & Company, Gannet, Getty Images, The McClatchy Company, National Geographic Sociaty, EW Scripps Company, Time Inc., The Slate Group and The Washington Post.

Such is the situation that Zite found itself in Wednesday when the letter in question began:

Our clients are some of the many publishers and providers of news and other original content whose material is aggregated and displayed in your Zite iPad application. Zite — without our permission — publishes reformatted copies of our articles, photographs and illustrations to users. We write to explain how Zite damages our businesses.”

How to respond?

Zite says it will switch the app to display articles in “web view mode” rather than “reading mode” so that readers hit the publishers’ web sites for full articles.

In a response on its blog, Ali Daver, the company’s CEO, writes:

We don’t look at this as an adversarial situation. If the formal cease and desist we received from the big publishing companies yesterday was a one line email from the world’s smallest blogger, we would treat it exactly the same: we would switch the content from reading mode to web view mode. That’s it. This is not our legal position, it’s just our policy. Zite is eager to work with publishers in a way that benefits everyone – most importantly end users.

Will be interesting to see if this plays out similarly with other magaziney apps such as the very well received — and funded — Flipboard.

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