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Pulse Removed from the App Store, NYT and Boston.com Lawyers Rejoice

Pulse is a promising news reading app for the iPad which we’ve reviewed a few weeks ago. It’s developed by two college students, and it’s become a major hit in the App Store selling more than 35.000 copies. And when Steve Jobs mentions you in a WWDC keynote, you know you must have done something good with your app.

Now hear this: Pulse has been removed because the New York Times and Boston’s lawyers emailed Apple and told them Pulse was infringing on their rights. Richard Samson, lawyer of The New York Times company, emailed the folks down in Cupertino claiming that, while Pulse collects publicly available RSS feeds, the $4 price tag is interpreted as “commercial use”, and thus is not ok.

Take a look at email below:

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

They’re not joking. The apps makes commercial use of feeds and “frames” the websites. Since when “framing” websites (also known as web view) is considered an infringement? Since when does Apple allow the removal of an app for such a dumb excuse? Should I list all the apps that could fall under this category? In my opinion, this is intolerable.

Moreover, the NYT itself was one of the first websites to cover Pulse in their technology column, praising it as a great news reading app developed by two college students. The article is still available here. Then they sent the email above.

As Kara Swisher reports for All Things Digital:

“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.”

Honestly, I hope this whole thing is a well organized marketing strategy. Otherwise, shame on the NYT and Apple for removing such a good app for such a stupid reason.

Update: someone at Apple or NYT regained senses and the app is now back into the Store. The fuss worked, it seems.

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