Monday, August 9, 2010

Hijacking your brand; Apple continues to approve "unofficial" news apps that take content from media outlets

A series of news apps appeared in iTunes today that claim to be "unofficial companion" apps that take the RSS feeds of media outlets and repackage them, even going so far as the use the name of the publications whole and without changes.
One of the apps, The Commercial Appeal, calls itself the "unofficial Commercial Appeal website/newspapers companion, created by a Memphian, for Memphians." The actual Scripps Media newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, has had its own iPhone app in iTunes since June 29th, but this app is called CommercialAppeal, leaving the door open for the brand name to be hijacked.

Both apps are $0.99 to download.

The app that uses the Scripps Media newspaper name was developed by Neal Kraus, who also has an app for The Memphis Flyer, an alternative weekly newspaper also in Memphis. Clicking on the links in iTunes that are supposed to take you to support pages, both apps lead you to dead web pages. But Neal Kraus does in fact maintain a website, as you can see (all personal photos).

I contacted the head of digital at The Commercial Appeal who said had "moved this to the proper channels". I also contacted someone at The Memphis Flyer but have not heard back as of yet.

As I have written before, I don't understand Apple's policies concerning media apps. While approving these types of news apps, Apple has rejected apps from award-winning editorial cartoonists because of issues surrounding satire.

Although the rules concerning RSS feeds are sometimes murky, one thing would seem clear, commercial use of an RSS feed (paid app) is not the same as quoting a story and then linking back to the original source.

Digging deeper into iTunes, I see that this new app isn't the only app with The Commercial Appeal name on it that isn't coming directly from the newspaper. Another app is called Commercial Appeal Garage Sales. This one is a free app, however, and comes from Resolute Games LLC which has 21 other iPhone apps in iTunes.

The description says "All the listings are vetted by The Commercial Appeal for publication, and include descriptions and a map so you don't have to type and type to find the sales with the stuff you like." Nice of the paper to do that, huh?