Flipboard case study
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Updated with additional comments from Flipboard’s Mike McCue. Flipboard is an iPad app that republishes articles your friends link to on Twitter and Facebook in pretty, magazine-like templates. It does this by violating publishers’ copyrights and hoping they’ll forgive it, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue tacitly admitted today. “We want to build a business with publishers, not on the backs of publishers,” McCue said in response to a question I asked about whether Flipboard had the legal right to republish content in its app. McCue was on stage at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference in San Francisco.
Rob Beschizza at BoingBoing and others this week have introduced the red herring of copyright infringement in reviewing the new IPad application Flipboard . (Flipping the bird at Fair Use is how Rob wrote about it.) It seems very late in the Fair Use game for anybody to be seriously complaining about the aggregation of content. Hundreds of millions, if not billions, times a day content is scraped, republished, pasted, aggregated, mashed and digested by millions of individual and business users. As a copyright attorney, I would find it laughable, were Flipboard to retain me as its attorney, to suggest that their particular aggregation model was somehow the tainted one that could not withstand legal challenge. Flipboard does not need any one content provider in its streams.
A few days ago Scoble posted a tweet saying that he had seen the Excel or Pagemaker for the iPad platform. It turns out that product is Flipboard , from Mike McCue, who I know from Netscape days. Mike went on to found Tellme which sold to Microsoft. I haven't been able to use Flipboard yet, their servers are too busy, but from Scoble's video and their website, I think I understand what the product is. Prior art: Pointcast, Netscape's initial RSS aggregator, Daylife (a NY company I have invested in).
Flipboard, a new content-browsing app for the iPad, emerged on the scene this week to much acclaim — so much that the service was hobbled by the demand . But uptime issues are just one of the thorns that Flipboard has to worry about as it tries to build a company around its application. That’s because the iPad app also raises some fairly sticky issues related to copyright, as Joel Johnson has pointed out in a post at Gizmodo .