Instapaper’s Copyright Infringement

Marco Arment talks about his app and the iOS App economy on NPR’s Planet Money.

I have mixed feelings on Instapaper. On one hand I love it. Instapaper provides a genuinely useful service and lets me read articles on my iPhone, in my web browser, on my iPad, and my Kindle. It enables me to read articles I probably wouldn’t bother to read if Instapaper didn’t exist.

But I also think the entire app is built upon copyright infringement. Instapaper removes articles from their original context, including the scummy Adwords blocks that may surround articles. When you view them on you get an ad via The Deck. To use it on your iPhone and iPad you need to buy a $5 application. Instapaper has also introduced an optional subscription for extra features at about $1 a month.

In most cases this is taking someone else’s property and using it for a commercial purpose.1 I assume the only reason why almost nobody in the tech press talks about this is because Instapaper is so beloved.

  1. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to Instapaper, but everything in the Read Later category of applications. Instapaper allows publishers to opt-out. I’m not sure you can say the same for Safari’s Reading List feature.