A Google Glass app that serves up a database of who’s who in technology so the users can quickly learn more about people they meet at a conference or in a meeting sounds like a wonderful idea right? Pro Populi the people behind Google Glass app People+ thought that as well. Internet giant AOL didn’t seem to agree.
That Google Glass App would be a great resource for anyone who wants to inconspicuously look up someone, especially if it had a great data set, and it did. The problem was the team at Pro Populi has scraped the entire CrunchBase data set, a property of AOL.
CrunchBase became property of AOL when they purchased technology journal TechCrunch from Mike Arrington back in the fall of 2010. While many websites incorporate Crunchbase data, either in small increments or in partnership agreements with AOL, this company decided to offer the entire data set without consulting AOL first.
While CrunchBase is used and was created by TechCrunch as a backbone database for companies that they cover and other emerging high growth companies, it’s also had the help of 53,000 people who have contributed to Crunchbase in 2013 alone.
Business Insider reprots that CrunchBase President Matt Kaufman says “The dispute centers on whether People+ has the right to use the entire CrunchBase dataset to build a new product directly competitive with CrunchBase,” AOL”s lawyers have served Pro Populi with a Cease and Desist.
While you may initially think that Pro Populi should just take down the Crunchbase data and make it’s own database, the story gets more interesting because the CrunchBase data is freely available under the Creative Commons CC-BY attribution license. Wired’s David Kravets, who originally broke the story explains that this specific license allows any use of the database, commercial or non-commercial, provided the owner is credited.
Kravets asks “can you release content under free Creative Commons License, then change your mind a take it back?”
Kaufman had met with Pro Populi last week before AOL’s Assistant General Counsel Jeff Grossman gave them notice via email saying: “On the chance that you may have misinterpreted Matt’s willingness to discuss the matter with you last week, and our reference to this as a ‘request,’ let me make clear, in more formal language, that we demand that People+ immediately cease and desist from its current violation and infringement of AOL’s/TechCrunch’s proprietary rights and other rights to CrunchBase, by removing the CrunchBase content from your People+ product and by ceasing any other use of CrunchBase-provided content,”
Pro Populi’s CEO Peter Berger insists they aren’t doing anything wrong “They are playing a double game,” he told Wired. ”They don’t like that we are presenting their data better than them. We are a mobile app. They are still a web app.”
“reserves the right to continually review and evaluate all uses of the API, including those that appear more competitive than complementary in nature.” And AOL “reserves the right in its sole discretion (for any reason or for no reason) and at anytime without notice to You to … terminate your rights” to use “any CrunchBase content.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing Pro Populi in this AOL matter and has sent a letter back to AOL saying that the company has the right to continue using the material that they have collected to date.