Apple Informs Bloggers It Will Be Using Their Content In Its 'News' App Via An Opt-Out Only 'Agreement'
from the just-thought-we-should-tell-you-about-all-the-things-we-said-you'd-do dept
UK’s The Register has noticed an Apple job posting for a rather unusual position: in-house journalist. Better surround that word with scare quotes, because it’s entirely unclear how both writing for a company and being an ethical journalist are supposed to work together.
The role requires a bachelor’s degree in journalism or “a related field”, more than five years of newsroom experience and “a deep knowledge of multiple content categories”.
“They will have great instincts for breaking news, but be equally able to recognise original, compelling stories unlikely to be identified by algorithms,” it said.
It added: “Successful editors will be ambitious, detail-oriented journalists with an obsession for great content and mobile news delivery.”
Not surprisingly, the ad fails to mention anything about independent journalism. So when news breaks about its nemesis Google’s Android, or factory conditions in China, we can be sure Apple News will be scrupulous in its complete lack of coverage.
While this foray into company-sponsored “journalism” looks to be about as credible as Verizon’s short-lived exploration of the medium (in which topics like net neutrality and government surveillance — the things EVERYONE was/is writing about — were verboten), the more interesting part of the The Register’s article is the second half.
Apple has introduced its own “News” app, and now it’s looking to fill it with content. Other people’s content. Presumably handpicked from thousands of Apple-friendly bloggers and journalists. Mike Ash received an emailed “invitation”/”agreement” from Apple informing him that his RSS feed was headed towards Apple’s News app, with or without his permission and that if he had any problem with the terms of the agreement he never had a chance to agree to, he should opt out.
When your RSS content is included in News, here are the terms that will apply:
- You agree to let us use, display, store, and reproduce the content in your RSS feeds including placing advertising next to or near your content without compensation to you. Don’t worry, we will not put advertising inside your content without your permission.
- You confirm that you have all necessary rights to publish your RSS content, and allow Apple to use it for News as we set forth here. You will be responsible for any payments that might be due to any contributors or other third parties for the creation and use of your RSS content.
- If we receive a legal claim about your RSS content, we will tell you so that you can resolve the issue, including indemnifying Apple if Apple is included in the claim.
- You can remove your RSS feed whenever you want by opting out or changing your settings in News Publisher.
Some of those receiving similar emails may have tuned out during the fine print recitation and missed the last line.
If you do not want Apple to include your RSS feeds in News, reply NO to this email and we will remove your RSS feeds.
Apple obviously doesn’t understand the word “agree.” When you make something opt-out only, there’s no agreement being made. A certain percentage of those targeted by these emails will never read them. Others may never receive the email at all. And yet, Apple claims they’ve “agreed” to these terms. Others that fail to see the opt-out wording will also be considered “agreeable.”
As Ash puts its, this isn’t an “agreement” in any sense of the word. While providing an RSS feed cedes a certain amount of control over content distribution (in all honesty, Apple never needed to half-assedly ask for permission to add the feed to its News app), it doesn’t automatically entitle Apple to pile on additional stipulations that can only be disagreed with by the recipient taking additional steps — rather than taking affirmative actions that would indicate a willingness to comply with the “agreement’s” terms.
I want everybody to know about the ridiculous stunt Apple is trying to pull here. I’d have been perfectly happy if they had just sent me an e-mail saying they were going to include my feed, and if I didn’t like it I could e-mail to opt out. I’d even be happy if they didn’t even give the option to opt out! After all, having an RSS feed in the first place is an implicit opt-in to that sort of thing. But trying to dictate terms on top of that while telling me that I automatically agree to them unless I opt out is unacceptable, even if the terms themselves are relatively benign.
This is no way to run a service… or a business. It’s very likely Apple carpet-bombed the internet with similar emails, opting-in plenty of strings-attached content without the creators’ permission or actual agreement. This is nothing but laziness, tinged with a hint of entitlement. To be “selected” by Apple for its News app is apparently supposed to be an honor. Making it opt-out saves it the hassle and expense of staffing a response team to handle opt-in emails. But that would mean sending actual invitations, rather that presuppositions that let Apple do what it wants without the explicit permission of those whose content it’s using.