A technology journalist helped bring a speedy end to a new web service last week. Milo Yiannopolous published an account at TechCrunch of killing web service personalpaper.me within four hours of its launch last Thursday. The site has remained down ever since.
The concept of personalpaper was a way to transform unread web based articles, presumably ones you hoped to read over the weekend, into an actual printed newspaper which would be delivered in the mail, all for $2. The problem with this plan, of course, was copyright law.
As Yiannopolous put it, “personalpaper.me represents copyright infringement, unauthorisedrepublication and illicit distribution on an industrial scale. In otherwords, its entire business model is predicated on theft” (original emphasis).
The company that created personalpaper.me was apparently caught by surprise by this fairly obvious objection. Last week its Twitter feed put out the following message:
Overwhelmed from the response so far! To everyone with concern’s about copyright issues, we are preparing a post about it.
— Personal Paper (@personalpaperme) April 24, 2014
That was followed by another message which read: “Obviously something we have carefully considered, just didn’t think it will come up *this* early : )”
Even as the creators were expressing public surprise to the concerns about copyright, they were privately distancing themselves from the project. When Yiannopolous “went a bit ballistic” in an email to the company, the creator took the entire site down.
A message posted on the app’s web page since then says the company is currentlyrunning the concept past its lawyers to make sure they are “clear.” “If we are OK, we’ll be back in business as soon as we can. If we are not OK, we’ll raise our hand and apologise.”
Yiannopolous, who is writing a book titled The Sociopaths of Silicon Valley, isn’t surprised at the company’s behavior.
He writes: “If I were feeling charitable, I might concede that personalpaper.meprobably meant well. Perhaps the designers at ustwo genuinely didn’teven think about the people whose livelihoods their startup was chippingaway at, and just wanted to create a pretty product. But innocence andnaivety are really no excuse for robbing other people of their paycheck.”