Corporate Unreasonability

I came across an interesting article today about a 16yr old Australian who developed a Chopper Read soundboard application for the iOS (iPhone & iPad) platform.

The application concept is pretty simple – provide a screen that allows you to play various (in)famous soundclips from a comedian’s popular sketch. It’s not particularly imaginative, but it appealed to a good number of fans of the act and ended up with 10,000+ paid downloads of the application, becoming one of the top selling AU apps. (and hey, at least it’s not a fart app for once!)

When the owners of the content, Jigsaw Entertainment discovered this, they proceeded to launch legal action against Apple, which has recently resulted in out-of-court settlement between Apple and Jigsaw where Jigsaw clawed back the profit from the application.

Whilst the application probably crosses the line between fair use and copyright infringement, particularly in light of the fact it was a paid application, I personally think Jigsaw were totally unreasonable about this affair:

  1. At 16, most geeks are focusing on “let’s make cool stuff!” rather than “how can I steal and profit from this other company’s idea?”, it’s unlikely there was any malicious intent, nor would it have been commercially damaging to Jigsaw in any way.
  2. The success of the application just shows how much of a popular following the character has and probably contributed further to Jigsaw’s fanbase. Why didn’t they leverage this success in a smart way?
  3. Rather than simply asking the developer to remove it, it sounds like Jigsaw went directly to litigation with the express purpose of extracting money from the sales of this application. To me, it looks like greed and that they took the case with the express goal of extracting the money made from this application from a 16yr old who probably just wanted to make a fun app.
  4. The father of the boy was horrified that his son made a mashup of content he liked into a nifty application that over 10,000 people enjoyed enough to spend $1.20 AUD on? I’d be pretty damn proud if my kid did something like that. And then putting their rent up. ;-)

Surely it would have made more sense to have a friendly chat with the developer and come to some arrangement, a revenue share agreement to use the image & sound under license would have cost them next to nothing (just admin/legal contract prep time) and would be still making them a bit of easy profit, whilst giving something to the developer and fan base as well.

Not to mention that if they thought more about it, this sort of indie-style application is just the tip of the iceberg for providing additional profiting of content beyond the simple airing of the show, consider how the concepts could be applied to other shows by Jigsaw or expanded to further sell and promote content to users.

Fighting to claw back a bit of small change (compared to the cost of lawyers and corporate expenses) is just petty greed and shows ignorance about monetizing how people consume and enjoy content in the 21st century.

Whilst the law is on Jigsaw’s side in this case, I think their approach was ethically dubious and actually just outright ignorant and poor decision making business wise.

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