Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Pulse iPad App Gets Steve Jobs's Praise in Morning…Then Booted From App Store Hours Later After NYT Complains

Yesterday morning, the pair of Stanford University graduate students who made the hot news-reading iPad app, Pulse News Reader, were ecstatic to be mentioned first–for being among the most promising developers for the new tablet device–by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in his keynote speech at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

But by the afternoon, that flush of entrepreneurial success had turned sour, after Apple (AAPL) informed the two that Pulse was being pulled from the App Store after it received a written notice from the New York Times Company (NYT) declaring that “The New York Times Company believes your application named ‘Pulse News Reader’ infringes The New York Times Company’s rights.”

In an unusual coincidence, the Times Web site was on prominent display on a huge screenshot of the iPad during Jobs’s speech.

Ironically, the Times wrote a big wet kiss about Pulse last week in a blog post titled “The iPad Pulse Reader Scales the Charts,” by tech writer Brad Stone.

“Pulse is a stylish and easy-to-use news aggregator,” wrote Stone. “News organizations still puzzling over their iPad strategies can perhaps derive some hope from Pulse’s success–or at least its price tag.”

No longer. Pulse was down completely by 6:30 pm PT last night.

Reads a notice on iTunes now: “Your request could not be completed. The item you’ve requested is not currently available in the U.S. store.”

“I don’t blame Apple, because they have to respond when contacted by lawyers from the Times,” said Akshay Kothari, a 23-year-old student of well-known Silicon Valley investor Michael Dearing’s Launch Pad class at Stanford, of the letter the media giant sent to Apple (which is below, along with the take-down notice).

“But it was definitely a roller coaster of a day.”

In fact, it has been all up for the past four weeks, since Kothari and 22-year-old Ankit Gupta released the Pulse iPad app, creating it for the class, which requires students to develop and put out a product.

Both are at Stanford’s Institute of Design and created a company called Alphonso Labs.

The app was quickly approved after about four weeks of development. Since then, it has taken off strongly, downloaded 35,000 times at a $4 price tag, even rising to No. 1 in paid apps several times, as noted prominently in the lead of the Times story.

Kothari said that the pair plan to contact Apple in the morning and take steps to remove Times material from the feeds.

It is not immediately clear why they need to, since Pulse draws from publicly available Times RSS feeds, as do many other apps, and does no scraping.

In fact, Pulse is little more than a really well-designed RSS reader, which is what the Times said it was in its write-up. You add feeds to it and it visualizes them in a way that’s easy to get through.

The Times story did have one ominous-in-retrospect note about Pulse: “It also lets people easily share articles through Twitter and Facebook–bypassing the individual sharing tools presented by each news site.”

But Pulse is pretty basic and is similar to many others readers.

In the New York Times case, as with others, one view is plain text and only shows whatever the Times puts in its RSS feed, which isn’t much. And its Web view seems to be just an in-app browser that takes you straight to the page that is in the link with the RSS feed.

You can see both here below:

The Times lawyer, Richard Samson, sees it differently, apparently, since it is a paid app rather than a free one, noting in the Times June 3 notice to Apple, which came two days after the newspaper’s article about Pulse:

“The Pulse News Reader app, makes commercial use of the NYTimes.com and Boston.com RSS feeds, in violation of their Terms of Use*. Thus, the use of our content is unlicensed. The app also frames the NYTimes.com and Boston.com websites in violation of their respective Terms of Use.”

Samson also complained about how Pulse was marketed in the App Store, a screenshot of which you can see below:

BoomTown sent an email to Samson, as well as to Apple, for comment.

Until I hear back, here is the email from the App store to Pulse, including the letter from the Times lawyer–I removed personal email addresses and phone numbers, along with the number of the Pulse case Apple gave it–as well as a lovely video of Pulse in action:

From: App Store Notices
Date: Mon, Jun 7, 2010 at 3:09 PM
Subject: Apple Inc. (our ref# APPXXXX)
To: Akshay Kothari

Dear Sir or Madam,

**Please include APPXXXX in the subject line of any future correspondence on this matter.**

We received a written notice from The New York Times Company that The New York Times Company believes your application named “Pulse News Reader” infringes The New York Times Company’s rights. A copy of the notice is attached.

Accordingly, we have pulled your application from the App Store. Please contact The New York Times Company directly regarding any questions or concerns you may have.

For any technical questions, please contact iTunes Connect: www.apple.com/itunes/go/itunesconnect/contactus.

Thank you for your immediate attention.

Sincerely,

? iTunes Music Marketing & IP Legal | Apple | 1 Infinite Loop | Cupertino | CA | 95014 | AppStoreNotices@apple.com

Begin forwarded message:

From: “Samson, Richard S”
Date: June 3, 2010 10:51:23 AM PDT
To:”‘appstorenotices@apple.com’”
Cc: “Samuels, Robert”, “Manning, Michael”
Subject: infringing “Pulse News Reader” iPad app

Hello-

I am writing again, on behalf of The Boston Globe, Boston.com and The New York Times Company, about the infringing iPad app, “Pulse News Reader” produced by Alphonso Labs Inc. (please see pertinent details, link and screenshots below).

The infringing app is available on the iTunes store here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pulse-news-reader/id371088673?mt=8

The Pulse News Reader app, makes commercial use of the NYTimes.com and Boston.com RSS feeds, in violation of their Terms of Use*. Thus, the use of our content is unlicensed. The app also frames the NYTimes.com and Boston.com websites in violation of their respective Terms of Use.

I note that the app is delivered with the NYTimes.com RSS feed preloaded, which is prominently featured in the screen shots used to sell the app on iTunes.

I hereby declare, under penalty of perjury, that the information contained in this notification is accurate to the best of our knowledge and that I am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyrights and trademarks of The Boston Globe, Boston.com and The New York Times Company. We hereby demand that you immediately and permanently remove this app from the iTunes site.

Please let me know if you need any further information or have any questions. I can be reached directly at this Email or at the phone number below.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Richard Samson

Richard Samson
Senior Counsel
The New York Times Company
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, New York 10018

* NYTimes.com Terms of Service, paragraph 2.2: “The Service and its Contents are protected by copyright pursuant to U.S. and international copyright laws. You may not modify, publish, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, reproduce (except as provided in Section 2.3 of these Terms of Service), create new works from, distribute, perform, display, or in any way exploit, any of the Content or the Service (including software) in whole or in part.”

* Boston.com Terms of Service, paragraph 2.2: “The Service and its Contents are protected by copyright pursuant to U.S.and international copyright laws. You may not modify, publish, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, reproduce (except as provided in Section 2.3 of this Agreement), create new works from, distribute, perform, display, or in any way exploit, any of the Content or the Service (including software) in whole or in part.”

[All Things Digital intern Drake Martinet contributed to this report.]


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work