If it can be said that Apple’s iPad has set the technology world abuzz about the capabilities of tablet computer technology, then a new app for the iPad has set the applications capability of that platform completely on fire. The app – Flipboard – is a new take on a personal, social network news feed aggregator with interesting repercussions for more than just the news publishing industry. Major kudos to Joel Johnson’s post at Gizmodo and Mathew Ingram’s thoughts at the GigaOM Network for prompting further discussion.
For the uninitiated, Flipboard basically turns your iPad into a personalized digital magazine, whereby selected content based upon your Twitter and Facebook updates is fed to the app for your consumption via a beautifully designed, magazine-styled content interface. Wired’s review of the app gives a nice overview of its capabilities, but sometimes seeing is believing:
The main issue that is causing concern refers to content “scraping” – a technique for extracting essentially unstructured content off the web and repurposing that data into a different format or presentation model. An example may be online price comparison engines on the Web – taking different prices for a widget from each retailer and placing these prices into a tabular format for comparison. With respect to Flipboard, the original developer of the RSS standard and recognized “father of modern-day content distribution” on the web, David Winer, talks about scraping by the Flipboard in far greater detail than I could ever hope to do. I neither affirm nor deny, and otherwise reserve comment on, the general propriety of the use of this technique online (c’mon…I’m a lawyer…;). Instead, my focus here is on the problems created under copyright law that are posed by it – problems which are not new to online content publishers ad providers.
Part of the answer may turn on certain limitations on these exclusive rights (known as the “fair use” doctrine under copyright law), its application under these circumstances, and the practicalities of online content distribution.
More to come in Part II…so stay tuned!
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