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Zite draws the ire of publishers

Mel Martin

I liked Zite when I reported on it earlier this month. In fact, I use it every day as a great news and information discovery app on my iPad. The app is free, and for now, still in the App Store with very strong user ratings.

There's no love, however, from publishers that claim Zite infringes copyright. A group including Time Inc, Dow Jones, The Washington Post, The Associated Press and others have sent Zite a cease and desist letter claiming that intellectual property is being misappropriated, and the publishers have asked Zite to "immediately stop doing so." The letters goes on to say that Zite, "by systematically reformatting, republishing and redistributing our original content on a mass commercial scale without our permission in your iPad application, Zite directly and adversely impacts our businesses."

The publishers, of course, have a valid point. Zite articles aren't direct linked, but it is an option within each story. Publishers can request direct links, and some have. The Zite developers may have to change the app to always supply direct links to articles, rather than reformat them inside the app.

I asked Zite CEO Ali Davar for some comments and he sent these along:

"Zite's content comes from a web crawl, the same way content is aggregated in the indexes of search engines like Google and Bing. Zite displays articles in reading mode, which changes how the page is rendered. We made this design decision in order to give users a better reading experience. Reading mode is already common, e.g. Safari's Reader.

"We respect the decision of publishers who either use the noarchive metatag or explicitly tell us they want their content displayed in web mode - in either case, we render articles without reformatting.

"We don't look at this as an adversarial situation. Zite is eager to work with publishers in a way that benefits everyone - most importantly end users."

I'm hoping all sides can be accommodated in this dispute, because Zite is getting a lot of users. Both Flipboard and Pulse went through some early issues with publishers, and I'm hoping this can be worked out quickly and happily.

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