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Thanks for the Surprise Integration with My Website, Apple (asaph.org)
389 points by asaph on Sept 21, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 210 comments

> I'm genuinely thrilled that someone at Apple deemed my chord calculator technology worthy of inclusion in the iOS shortcuts gallery. If anyone from Apple is reading this, please reach out using JGuitar.com's contact form. We can work together to make this experience even better. I can provide high quality SVG images of all chord diagrams, support alternate tunings, instruments and more.

Is everyone missing the fact that the author seems quite happy about the exposure and reaches out to Apple at the bottom of the post offering collaboration? I'm sure they can handle themselves. It feels borderline patronizing to read all the comments about involving lawyers because Apple is being so abusive. When you publish something on the internet, people can link to it. That's how the internet works.

The reason everyone is reacting the way they are is because this news really isn't about this particular website. It's about the fact that the largest corporation on earth has decided it can freeboot everyone else's content. It's part of a trend too. Google a topic and on the right hand side of the page you'll see the first paragraph from Wikipedia. How exactly do you expect wikipedia to survive if no one ever has to actually go there to get the information it publishes? Not only is it an unethical way of presenting content - providing information without referencing the source, but it's actively damaging the source of the information by intercepting users who would otherwise use the service.

The fact that "Oh well, it was fine this time" isn't a valid justification for why they decided to do it in the first place.

The web was literally built do be usable this way. I know people have started to believe that the only allowable way to view "content" is in the way the website builders decided, but your browser is allowed to display the content it downloaded in any way it wants to you.

You're right and I'm totally on board with that. But that doesn't seem to be how Apple works, if they freely share everything they put on line then, for sure, have at it.

If they expect people to pay to access their IPR then they should, without prompting, pay others when they want access to their's.

You're right, the big companies are the biggest offenders against this intended use of the web. And that's bad.

And they aren't accessing others intellectual property with this. They are building custom tools to display other's intellectual property. Very different.

Whats the legal precident for cases like this? A C&D is not the law and just because big-corp has lawyers doesn't mean bullying people who don't access their public resources in exactly the way they want is legal...

So Google, Microsoft and Apple who fund and build the web browser you are currently using are against the intended use of the web.

I wish more companies would "offend" then.

browser have very explicit rules against this very action by apple.

in your browser, apple.com cannot access the content from jguitar.com

That is not true in several ways. Iframes and cdns work. There are security measures that prevent https connections from embedding http and other content restrictions, but those are for security reasons. People hotlink images, it's a wild web out there

For everything you described there is a tag or http header i can set on my own content to prevent a browser on another domain from 'hotlinking'. If you are the 'browser' as this IOS feature is, there is none. I hope it at least respect the robots.txt rules.

I'm confused. Does Apple prevent you from linking to their website ?

Because that's the point here. That the web was built to allow anyone to link to anyone without asking permission.

They're framing (as we used to call it back in the good old geocities days!). If I wrap Apple's stuff in my livery, leeching their content, I guarantee there will be legal action (C&D).

Also, see up thread where they disclaim right to do the same to them.

From the article: "In a nutshell, the shortcut uses the user's input (a chord symbol) to construct a url to a chord search result page on JGuitar.com and then looks for 200x200px chord diagram images on that page and shows them to the user. The rest of the web page isn't shown."

This is different from linking. With links you see the whole web page. I haven't used the shortcuts app and don't know how obvious the source of the info is. It seems the article author had to dig into the shortcut configuration to find a reference to his site.

I understand the point but: a link is a link is a link.

Wikipedia should be allowed to ask for donations inside of the little Google snippets. Doesn't that sound fair?

Wikipedia is released under creative commons. That is literally the worst example you could have picked.

It isn't, though. The Creative Commons license says "you can use this content", it doesn't say "you are forbidden from assisting the creator of this content in any way".

Creative Commons is great because it allows everyone to use it. But a company the size and stature of Google should consider it a bare minimum, not a target.

Well, what you can do and what's fair and friendly are not always the same thing. For example, although I have to pay taxes to the government but not to charities, I may use a charity as an example of somewhere to give money to.

If you search for questions like "how long should I bake a frozen chicken thigh?" you'll get chunks of text from Web pages which are not CC-licensed.

This might not be a great example, either.

Most cooking web sites tag their HTML with things like itemprop="recipeIngredient", and itemprop="recipeInstructions", hoping to get featured by Google in this way.

>The web was literally built do be usable this way.

Sure, the technology was built to be used in certain ways, which might not be ethical or legal, depending on a particular instance of usage.

Because one can do something, obviously doesn't mean one should. I can't chop your furniture just because I have an axe that was literally built for chopping.

>your browser is allowed to display the content it downloaded in any way it wants to you.

Indeed, but that doesn't mean someone is allowed to send arbitrary content to that browser. The fault is not with the browser.

If I put an image on Flickr, you can hotlink to that image in your web article, print it on your printer, and distribute. The technology was literally built to be usable that way.

However, it is neither legal nor ethical to do that.

And the content author doesn't have any copyright say over his content?

Don't confuse redistribution and how you display something.

I thought that if I put up a web page with a copyright notice on it, the only way someone can use a portion of that page is if they provide attribution.

The web wasn’t built for massive corporations to profit off the work of others.

Google does reference the Wikipedia source, in fact the right hand box is the #1 way I end up on Wikipedia, I see a a summary, and click the Wikipedia link to read the full article.

Wikipedia is the worse example you could have picked, because forking their content is encouraged.

Much of the time I don't see a link to Wikipedia.

If I Google "Malta" there is a paragraph on the right and no link to Wikipedia. This also happens in Google Maps, when you click on a city and they have the blurb, much of the time there is no link, so you have to leave the page to Wikipedia the name of the city.

Actually having just tried a few different queries, it seems to be inconsistent. I'm not sure why they'd show the link sometimes and not every time, but definitely Malta doesn't show a link for me.

I don't know for geography, but for other things e.g. movies, the short plot description they put out now is Not from wikipedia. Hence no link. I've wondered what the source is for a while now, but if you go on the wikipedia page, that sentence is not from there

I've assumed since there is no link that the content is something that Google has been adding.

Those Maps blurbs, like for Malta, do not come from Wikipedia.

The text, which starts with "Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast. It's a nation known for historic sites related..."

is on a million web sites. I thought maybe it was from CIA World Fact Book or some other free source, but it's used so often by so many shady sites, it's hard to know where it originated.

In this case, it's a question of who is scraping whom.

But they all used to, which means functionally the only difference is now there isn't a link so I have to make an additional request, in a new tab, directly to Wikipedia for more information (Demographics, Economics, Government, etc).

So, just to be clear:

1. Google Maps used to include a blurb about Malta from Wikipedia, and a link to the Wikipedia page about Malta. 2. They now include a blurb about Malta which is not from Wikipedia, and do not link to the Wikipedia page about Malta. 3. You are upset that they no longer include a link to the Wikipedia page about Malta.

Is this correct? If so, it seems like your frustration is about Google choosing not to include & link to information from Wikipedia, rather than them displaying content from Wikipedia.

Except the top result for "malta" on google is the wikipedia page. I know you're trying to make it sound it's very taxing ("I have to make an additional request, in a new tab...") but it really isn't.

I expect wikipedia to survive just fine. Wikipedia is explicitly made for that.

That said, google does recognize that a healthy web (and therefore google) benefits a lot from wikipedia and other wikimedia projects. They often donate to the wikimedia foundation, and sometimes do collaborations as well.

+ source: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Google#Donations

Again, this is not Apple using his work in their own software. This is Apple providing the downloadable source code (because a workflow inside Shortcuts is exactly that) to a program that accesses an image URL from his site. Most people complaining about those "evil large corps" probably don't want this to be illegal (neither for Apple nor for anyone else)!

But the "downloadable source code" is written by Apple, so that workflow _is_ software by Apple that takes an image from his website and displays it without attribution.

Well, not really:

> When I clicked "show actions" it revealed the "actions" that make up the shortcut and I could finally see the JGuitar.com link in the URL section.

I mean, that's not exactly a proper attribution notice, I'll give you that... but it's not just straight hot-linking without any visible attribution at all.

(edit2: I mean, they are sending thousands of visitors to the OP's image service, it is hot-linking, which is legal but very improper without notice; you'd think these were some teenage hackers that never heard of "netiquette" before – it would have been pretty stand-up of them to give him a heads-up so he could be sure he had some proper CDNs set up in front of them, rather than sending his bandwidth bills through the ceiling with no notice... that's not really cool, and it puts them at risk too.

If I was the author and I wasn't happy about this, my next step would be to update my website and then replace all of the hot-linked image URLs with something like a big FU to Apple, and it would take Apple some time to react to that and get the egg off their faces after their customers started calling to ask why the Shortcuts app is giving them the middle-finger. It would also ensure that they don't do this again, at least not with JGuitar.com – and I don't think the author wants that.)

That's the thing, it seems likely that this content could change it they could get some hostile website owner that changes some pictures to porn or whatever. Kind of risky for an Apple app.

To be clear, I don't think Apple is wrong, just a bit risky.

Wikipedia's content license allows that and probably saves them a bunch of bandwidth costs to boot.

> How exactly do you expect wikipedia to survive if no one ever has to actually go there

Did they start running ads or something?

They've been requesting for donations on their website, the main source of their income.

That doesn't mean you can't use Wikipedia's content in other ways, nor does it make it immoral to do so.

I found this page which gives an overview of what's ok to do with their content. Mirroring is literally the first example they give.


It doesn't mean that everyone that visits Wikipedia is going to donate.

It means that they save a TON of bandwidth from people that would access Wikipedia for a specific information and bounce, it doesn't alienate the important part of Wikipedia's maintenance: editors and collaborators.

So all-in-all the lost revenue from donations is more than covered by the savings in bandwidth.

If we extrapolate what you're saying, no one visiting their website would mean all the bandwidth saving, but no income at all. So it doesn't hold good.

Yes, they essentially run ads asking for donations. Sometimes entire above-the-fold ads. They can get pretty hardcore like those personal appeals from Jimmy Wales.

Pretty much what it takes to get people to donate money to one of the most important and popular websites online.

isn't this the impetus for the UK's "link tax" proposal?

Google scrapes a lot more content than that. They're practically doing the Cpedia thing, except coherent.

How is this freebooting? Apple isn't rehosting the data from the website.

It's not freebooting, it's more akin to hotlinking. Which is arguably worse - they're using the author's IP and hosting infrastructure without offering sufficient credit or so much as a heads-up.

This could quickly make a side project unsustainable, if the owner of a (hypothetical, not this specific) project has limited $ for hosting costs. The author of the project can't make use of the obvious strategy of dropping in an ad or two to defray hosting costs because the images are being hotlinked. This kind of behavior would be a violation of the ToS on almost any site that has one; it would certainly be a violation of Apple's own ToS. But beyond that, it's just thoughtless and rude.

Hotlink sounds a lot like hyperlink. Really it just sounds like people need to protect their content with licenses and "website experiences" with terms if they want to enforce restrictions on how things they host publicly are used. I agree it seems rude that they didnt give the owner any warning, but meh.

Seems like you're just ignoring all his points because you don't care about the consequences. Plenty of us do happen to care.

The internet is about freebooting until you hit a paywall.

Wikipedia is a very bad example, they literally put a free to copy license on their content.

> The internet is about freebooting until you hit a paywall.

Just because something doesn't have a paywall doesn't mean the content creator intends for you to take his/her work with zero attribution. That's why those "Buy me a coffee"/"Donate to my Patreon" buttons exist. It's a way for the user to consume the information for free up front but have the option to support the creator.

> When you publish something on the internet, people can link to it. That's how the internet works.

I think one issue is that Apple themselves prohibit it. From their App Store Review Guidelines, section 5.2.2 [1]:

"5.2.2 Third Party Sites/Services: If your app uses, accesses, monetizes access to, or displays content from a third party service, ensure that you are specifically permitted to do so under the service’s terms of use. Authorization must be provided upon request."

And Apple also prohibit you from doing so on parts of their website, from 4.5.1:

"4.5.1 Apps may use approved Apple RSS feeds such as the iTunes Store RSS feed, but may not scrape any information from Apple sites (e.g. apple.com, the iTunes Store, App Store, App Store Connect, developer portal, etc.) or create rankings using this information."

[1] https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#int...

Being a little disingenuous there. Scraping != Linking.

Scraping involves stealing and reusing content from another party. Linking does not.

This shortcut could be seen as scraping the website, since it's just pulling out one image

Scraping = save a local copy of the image Linking = point to source image

If they are referring to jguitar.com each time then this is linking.

I had an app in the AppStore for years that scraped Vonage’s web site and neither them nor Apple seemed to care. There is nothing innately immoral about downloading a web page and parsing it in ways the web site operator did not consider.

Again, this. When you publish work on the Internet, others can link and use it, no problem. For best results, have clear attribution (which they clearly show the link).

I think people are too quick to anger here. This guy was already providing all this information and content. Looking at the site, I don't see advertising, so it's not like Apple is going around that.

This guy is happy and with a quick addition of a JGuitar logo or copyright (if he wants) on those images then everyone is happy.

Oh no. Whenever a corporate is trying to make 'bulk requests' to your website, primarily so that the users don't have to visit your site, it totally warrants for at least a permission (separate licensing, to be more fair). It's called freeloading otherwise.

Is a “corporation” making bulk requests? Or are users of shortcuts making requests?

The corporation is allowing it to happen. Users won't do it otherwise.

In this case the author is happy, but the point stands that he wasn't asked. And most people would be angry at receiving no attribution or warning.

Not to mention the huge spike in hosting costs due to the upsurge of new visitors.

For which you many not be receiving any ad revenue...

Any data to suggest a “huge spike in hosting costs?”

Hm – Linking is one thing, displaying another one.

Notably, we had (I don't know about all countries) rulings regarding displaying 3rd party content in frames, and then there's the EU copyright legislation, currently discussed. It's not the author's obligation to embed copyright and source information in any resource. This is not how it works.

Are you sure you don't have an adblocker? There's ad over JGuitar, 2 of them actually. I hope he didn't have to add theses ads because of the increase of request.

If I build a chart generator for use in one of my sites, hosted on that domain, with no published API whatsoever, it would be odd to see some random productivity app using that straight from peoples phones to chart their stuff.

Not illegal, Apple or the developer isn’t claiming that my API is theirs. And maybe it’s open on my robots.txt and maybe my terms of service say nothing about it.

But it’s weird. You just pushed an app out to a billion devices allows users to hit my chart generator directly. That’s plain weird.

I recently found out that a contractor that won a tender with a government used my website without my consent. They were given my details and asked to reach out to me. They didn't, and instead linked to my website without any attribution.

Should I be happy that the government is gaining a benefit from my work, something with commercial value, while I'm not benefiting?

If my website was explicitly GNU or licensed under something that gives another person permission, then sure. Otherwise it's unfair for someone to make something out of my labour without reaching out to me and asking for at least permission.

If you put a website online you're explicitly giving the right to link to it. If the government are not allowing use of their IPR then I think you have an argument, unless they're trying to stop linking to their stuff then I don't see the problem.

In South Africa, if you put your website online, you're automatically protected by our Intellectual Property Act under copyright protection. Unless I waive that copyright (which I haven't waived per my TOS on the website), whoever hotlinks to my website or derives financial gain without my consent is violating my rights per my country's Constitution.

I don't see any "explicitly giving the right ..." there. In fact, I explicitly did the opposite.

You realise the internet is global? You put up a "free food" sign, put chicken on the brai and now you want to stop people from helping themselves to the chicken.

Take the website off the internet if you don't want to share it.


I’ve never understood this mentality. Why publish content on the Internet without access control if you don’t want people reading the content?

And that's an ignorant law, since all a link is, is a way to say, 'hey, go to this machine and ask for this resource.' If you, the owner of the machine, wish not to give it to people who ask for it … don't.

It's very likely that it is a violation of one or another contracting rule. If you wanted to, you could get in touch with the government agency's contract management and complain.

I don't get it either... It's like calling a lawyer because Google links to your page.

This isn't linking, this is hotlinking: taking unattributed images. If you had some nice images on your site that I'd put on mine, presenting them as my own, while still using your bandwidth to serve them to my users how would you feel about it? What about if I was the richest company on the planet already?

So all this is about is bandwidth and attribution?!? I mean aren't they sending their users to your web page? Other people would be glad if they would just have to pay the hosting costs for an image to get people on their page.

> mean aren't they sending their users to your web page?

No, in this specific case, they are sending images from the page to users, bypassing the actual page.

For a site where the user value was in the image and the monetization was elsewhere on the page, it's capturing the value of your work and bypassing the mechanism which pays you for that work. It may be legal, but even if so it is not sustainable.

This “linking vs hotlinking” distinction is pointless. It’s an image sitting at a URL. A browser can request that image and display it. If you don’t want people to view images you publish publicly, then don’t publish them or require authentication in order to request them.

They are showing the image. Did you read the post? There's no attribution, you wouldn't know at first glance it came from his website. Even the shortcut is only called "Guitar Chord Finder" and never mentions his website. You need to edit the shortcut to find it.

Sounds to me like theft.

You mean like stealing someone's business cards in order to promote his company?

No, like stealing bandwidth and services.

If you're taking the business cards and cutting the contact information off them and then handing them out, that's theft.

This is more than just straight linking though, this is pulling content without attribution nor financial remuneration. To use the Google example, it would be like a 3rd party YouTube app that bypassed Google's advertising while still streaming content from YouTube's servers. Which is something Google have clamped down on in the past.

Would there be a difference, if Apple had downloaded the content and was serving it from its own hosts? (As far as an app user is concerned, there isn't much of a difference.) Now add to this the hosting fees / resources used…

This would actually cross the line. Right now there's a strong argument that Shortcuts is just acting as an images-only web browser, (like Lynx, but the opposite). If Apple actually copied the images to their own servers then they're copying the author's work without his authorization.

> That's how the internet works.

Not if the EU has anything to say about it!

Author here. Thanks everyone for your thoughtful feedback. I intentionally wanted to strike a cooperative tone in putting this story out there. When the largest company in the world features your side hustle in their brand new product, it's an opportunity, not a reason to "lawyer up". You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Would I have preferred attribution and a heads up? Sure. But I'm frankly more interested in how I can help improve the user experience and further incorporate my software into Apple products. If anyone from Apple is reading this, let's talk. You can reach me here:


And those concerned about JGuitar.com's scaling or bandwidth costs need not worry. JGuitar.com serves several million pageviews/year, and is well optimized to handle the traffic coming from these shortcuts.

I sincerely urge you to follow-up with this story. I would love to see what Apple does in good faith on this one - it would have a real impact on how I perceive them as a company.

There's a lot of misunderstanding here. As someone that has been in a similar situation:

1. It's not Apple, it was Workflows that wrote the tool.

2. It's not an integration, it's an example of how to use Shortcuts.

3. The biggest pain point won't be bandwidth (OP seems to know what they're doing with caching) but fielding user requests/complaints/spam without the upside of the web traffic. iOS 12 has only been up for a few days and he's already getting a ukulele request. Tip of the iceberg.

> We can work together to make this experience even better.

This isn't "working together". This is someone at Workflows finding a neat, unauthenticated API endpoint and using it in a demo. I doubt Apple knows about it.

1. It's not Apple, it was Workflows that wrote the tool... I doubt Apple knows about it.

The app is "developed by Apple". They bought Workflow last year. Nothing in the gallery view suggests that this shortcut is provided by a third-party.


Well argued.

(which point is wrong?)

Apple did not create this. It originates in the "Workflow Gallery", which Apple rebranded when taking over the service.

I think the question is: Are these downloadable workflows an integral part of the Apple software or are they just merely "Sample Code"? In this case the gallery is curated only by Apple (I think), but if we go down this path, what prevents DCMA takedown requests for GitHub repos that contain sample code which accesses services like this?

If apple cannot make the products they aquire conform to their own ecosystem, how can they expect users to?

It's cool that Apple's using your stuff, it's not cool they're not giving you attribution.

I'd add a JGuitar url and copyright notice to all your images, so that this is displayed in Apple's results, and also call a lawyer.

Apple essentially repackaged this guy's work, used it to enhance their own product in a way that all but eliminates any need to ever visit his website or even know it exists.


Crazy thought, but, what if the primary motivation of the creator of JGuitar has nothing to do with his website, his reputation, etc.? For example, what if his primary motivation is to do something useful for others? What if his primary motivation is just to improve the enjoyment of people who like playing guitar?

I agree that Apple should have handled this differently. At the same time, I think we should honour this guy's attitude. It's refreshing and if we all behaved that way - major corporations included - the world would be a better place.

This story reminds me a little bit of the guy who made Flappy Bird, earned millions in ad revenue, then shut it down at its peak because he didn't want people to be addicted to it. Almost impossible for most of us to fathom, given that most of us are motivated by money. But it's nice to see that some people act according to different motivations.

> Crazy thought, but, what if the primary motivation of the creator of JGuitar has nothing to do with his website, his reputation, etc.? For example, what if his primary motivation is to do something useful for others? What if his primary motivation is just to improve the enjoyment of people who like playing guitar?

The whole point is that Apple never asked for this guy's opinion. That he's OK with what Apple's doing is a happy coincidence, and the next guy whose work they're going to use may have a different opinion.

Firstly, I do understand why people think this is Apple being a bit scummy, I really do. However, I do want to say exactly what you have. When I reached the bottom of the article I was expecting to see a rant/moan about how hard done by he was by "big evil corporation" and wanted some sort of compensation. I was stunned he invited Apple to reach out, so together they could make it better for everyone. Truly refreshing and reminded me of the attitude I saw more often in the early days of the web.

> Truly refreshing and reminded me of the attitude I saw more often in the early days of the web.

Kudos to the author for that. Unfortunately, he has extended his well-meaning olive branch to companies built on the philosophy of Bill Gates' Open Letter to Hobbyists.

> Bill Gates' Open Letter to Hobbyists.

Serious question: do you believe that letter to be immoral or indicative of immoral behavior? Or something specific?

Edit: format; quote.

I don't see anything wrong with the letter; if you want to be paid for use of your software, that's reasonable. Gates basically expressed that he disagreed with the philosophy of the club. Nothing wrong with that.

What's happening with Jguitar however is that a big tech player that exists because people pay for their software (iOS) setting a precedent where they're actively siphoning content outside the garden and feeding it back to users in their ecosystem, with no attribution or licensing deal with the creator. That's wrong, in the exact same way that homebrew Hackintosh machines built for sale are wrong.

Thanks for clarifying.

Yes. Everyone should donate their resources and work to megacorps to make the world better.

They should patent it.

Patent what? The better world?

Exploiting fans. Maybe they did patent the better world already.

That just makes the lack of proper attribution worse.

If you're breaching courtesy and decency it doesn't help your case that the victim is a nice person.

> For example, what if his primary motivation is to do something useful for others? What if his primary motivation is just to improve the enjoyment of people who like playing guitar?

Sure but Apple doesn't essentially have to send him the bill for it, bandwidth isn't cheap and it can grow pretty quickly with that much devices.

This simple isn’t true - Apple made an app that lets you call arbitrary links and display the result, and in a gallery added one example for guitar chords linking to this site. The gallery also has examples for third party integrations for news, weather, music, bookmarking and it’s not unreasonable to expect more for lyrics, laundry, taxis, groceries or pretty much anything else.

This site was in the examples for guitar chords, that’s about it. Maybe they should have asked him, but there’s zero obligation to do so. If you have a blog someone links to it, you don’t mind, do you?

The point of contention here is that the template linked straight into the chord image generator - which isn’t kosher. If I build a chart generator for my site, I wouldn’t want anyone linking straight into it - Apple isn’t using it on their site and claiming it’s theirs, but they’re pointing out to all their customers that they could just hit my generator directly for visualising charts. That’s weird. Not illegal, but weird.

not only that - he was grateful for them to do so!

Apple invented outsourcing api support to some of their fans, that's new.

I bet it's a nice feeling to get this kind of "your work is cool". But this would probably violate copyrights law (unless he uses e.g. a attribution-less CC variant). And Apple is but above that.

I would also want to make sure Apple doesn't accidentally DDoS my service - I mean, if this gets broader use and if the service does not scale well this could be an issue. Or if it scales too well via AWS (doesn't seem the case here), there could be a huge surprise bill coming in.

If I'd use some non-public Apple API without asking them for written permission (or strip content from their site) I bet all hell would break loose.

Why call a lawyer?

The OP put something on the internet with the intention for others to use it. Apple used it. Is there anything on his site (terms,"rules") that indicate what Apple is doing is considered non-acceptable use?

Shouldn't we be happy the world can still work like this - bottom-up implementation with presumably good intentions - instead of having to talk to lawyers before every tiny step we take? We're taking about looking up a guitar chord for crying out loud.

Of course better attribution is desirable. Why not let this be Step 2.

I admit a bad turnout could be an unexpectedly high bill for the OP. And I would assume Apple to turn a deaf ear if he'd requested them to help pay that bill. But aren't those the consequences of putting up a public API?

@asaph If you want: please follow up on this and let HN know how this plays out. What course of action you took, how Apple responded (if at all)

Congrats... I guess

[Edit: typo]

The basis of copyright is that you own what you make and you retain the exclusive right to publish it and decide how it should be published.

If you don't have any terms of service or any kind of licensing info on your website the default is: it belongs to you and you choose to exclusively publish your work on that website. Just because there's no license info doesn't mean it's public domain. You have the right to cite the content properly (meaning attribution) as part of anther work under fair use.

The problem here is the technicality of what it actually means to publish on a website.

"the default is: it belongs to you and you choose to exclusively publish your work on that website. Just because there's no license info doesn't mean it's public domain. You have the right to cite the content properly (meaning attribution) as part of anther work under fair use."

Interesting, thanks. (I presume there is jurisprudence to substantiate this statement)

If true, it opens up a way to question fair-use: Suppose Apple now properly cites JGuitar.com as the source, and otherwise continues its implementation unchanged, would that be fair-use? Hmmm.

Did he put up a public API? From the post it looks like the shortcut is constructing a search result url, and then scraping the photo out of that page.

Every URL is kind of an API. Some returns HTML, some JSON.

If I write a custom browser that only loads images from web pages then I'm abusing the internet?

You're not abusing the web IMO, however, if you sell that browser there's a good case for contributory copyright infringement as you'd be commercial aiding others in making derivative works from the website owners content.

> however, if you sell that browser

That statement would be true for any webkit based paid browser.

"Every URL is kind of an API"

That is exactly what I meant, but better phrased - thanks.

Not an 'API' in its most commonly used definition - but a publicly accessible interface to his chord search algorithm nevertheless. Wouldn't you agree?

Yes, it’s called a “URL.”

I really don't get why people suggest lawyers and c&d letters as step 1.

Yes apple could have done this better and they should -- but why not just have a chat with apple before you go nuclear?

"For exposure......."

Well they are placing an increased load onto the side and get nice resources for free, not even doing the cheapest form of flattery: attribution. That's happening a million times on the internet each day, where pictures and other copyrighted materials are redistributed without consent or attribution, and it's ridiculous that the currently most valuable company on earth feels the need to be a cheapskate about that, too.

People lost their mind when Google did something like that in their image search, and unlike Apple, they provided attribution and a prime backlink. If Apple likes the service so much, they could just have bought it entirely and it wouldn't even show up in their balance, so proper attribution, and maybe ask the provider if he/she can handle the additional load, or even provide some support to handle the load, would just have been fair, don't you think?

I think a lot of people feel that if it was the other way around (people using Apple copyrighted material) they would get a lawyer on their ass in no time.

However it is debatable since Apple is 'only' providing a template/example which the user must actively turn into a 'shortcut' to have this functionality. Or at least that's how I understand this feature works.

Then again, I think Apple surely could do a better job in attribution toward the sources. Maybe a standard for website owners to provide meta info with a fallback to the website URL.

> However it is debatable since Apple is 'only' providing a template/example which the user must actively turn into a 'shortcut' to have this functionality. Or at least that's how I understand this feature works.

According to the linked site, this is a premade shortcut that Apple supplied, not something the user needs to create. Just click install and it works, was how I read it.

I agree, I'm not saying they should engage in litigation, just that talking to a lawyer to understand exactly where the law stands on such behavior is probably going to be useful when it comes to talking to Apple, particularly if they don't respond.

>I really don't get why people suggest lawyers and c&d letters as step 1.

Because that's exactly what Apple would do if you used their stuff without permission?

> have a chat with apple

How would you even do that?

Get on the front page of Hacker News.

A person who represents themselves has a fool for a lawyer.

A lawyer is a disinterested third party, who ought to know how to initiate negotiations without any emotional attachment.

I know for myself I’d at least want to have a legal expert review anything I indended on sending, as otherwise I may inadvertently shoot myself in the foot.

> I'd add a JGuitar url and copyright notice to all your images

If it was my site, I would have just replaced each image with goatse, if the user agent string was "Shortcuts/700 CFNetwork/974.2.1 Darwin/18.0.0"

Acting childishly will just make everyone's day worse: Apple's, customers (and children) who see the image's, and ultimately yours too, when all that shit lands on your doorstep.

Asserting your rights while finding a way forward that benefits both you and Apple is going to play out much better in the long run. Apple is almost certainly just negligent in this case (it's a data stream in an app they bought), not maliciously stealing content.

What would be the point of the passive agressive behaviour? If the intention is to get Apple to pony up some cash, he should reach out directly to them with valid concerns over traffic etc. If the point is self-promotion, he inadvertently got that now. I think the approach chosen is the right one

I'd add a JGuitar url and copyright notice to all your images, so that this is displayed in Apple's results, and also call a lawyer.

That's because you're a nice person. I'd return images that were wrong and let Apple Support deal with users thinking their new feature was broken.

I’m genuinely stumped that anyone would even think of doing that. It would cause a lot of headache for the end users, while I doubt it would even put a dent in Apples Support.

They are not your end users, they are Apple's.

Everything I know about end users I got from reading BOFH posts. http://bofh.bjash.com/

Is it realistic, as a private person, to take a company like Apple to court?

Yes. Depending on how you approach it. Get legal advice. Various courts operating at local level can do surprising things. Like impose small fines or settlements, as well as pass judgements if the company doesn’t turn up.

It's not Apple that's using his stuff, it's the end user. Apple is providing software that enables the user to do so, but saying "Apple's using your stuff" here is like saying Mozilla foundation is "using your stuff" every time someone visits the website with Firefox or Thomas E. Dickey is "using your stuff" every time someone visits the website using Lynx.

It would be cool if Apple had reached out to him, but as other commenters have mentioned this integration has existed for a long time in the Workflow app, so it's not even new.

Given that this is a gallery of possible shortcut ideas, what’s the big fuss about? How is different from suddenly making the front page of HN/Reddit or Google?

The suggestion to hotlink directly to an image is slightly problematic, but a copyright watermark makes sense whether it was Apple doing this or not.

The shortcuts app lets you connect to any site on the internet - if a rock star made this Shortcut and chose to tweet it the result would be exactly the same - why would it matter who made the sample and whether it was bundled or not? Apple isn’t claiming ownership, nor have they asked the owner not to add a notice.

Maybe he could detect the "Shortcuts/" User-Agent HTTP header, and add a watermark to the generated images ("powered by JGuitar.com"?

Apple is lucky they didn’t do this to Jamie Zawinski

(Every link to https://www.jwz.org/blog/ from HN shows a NSFWish image, based on referer header)

> Firstly, I would have used an https url instead of http and secondly, I would have made it look for images with a width & height greater than 200px rather than equal to 200px.

I didn't know Shortcuts were powerful enough to pull images of specific sizes from webpages. That's really useful.

Creating a Shortcut to scrape these guitar tabs doesn't seem that different from writing a Bash script that does the same thing.

The main issue is that most users would grab the Shortcut from the gallery, find the guitar tabs they need, and never know where it came from.

Maybe Apple could automatically provide attribution in their Gallery? Like "This shortcut is powered by Google.com and JGuitar.com".

The Shortcuts devs seems to have taken the "act now, apologize later" approach.

Another funny solution is how they implemented the "Add to Home screen" functionality: when you select "Add to Home screen" in the Shortcuts app, it opens a data:// URL in Safari, and you have to add it from there :D

> Another funny solution is how they implemented the "Add to Home screen" functionality: when you select "Add to Home screen" in the Shortcuts app, it opens a data:// URL in Safari, and you have to add it from there :D

Because, presumably, they do not have access to the private API to bypass this step yet–for third party apps the only way to add things to the homescreen is through Safari.

But Shortcuts is a first-party app. The developer is listed as "Apple" in the AppStore.

It used to be a third-party app called Workflow, but Apple acquired them early 2017. They had plenty of time to replace the Safari workaround with the proper private API.

Just a few years ago this would have sparked an outcry about apple / google / microsoft using his website / assets / whatever without asking for consent.

But today it's cool when some billion dollar company uses someone elses creations without paying because you should be happy they didn't shut your service down with some vague patent bullshit.

Only Apple can have someone effusively thanking them for what effectively amounts to abuse.


For the real artist, most important thing is to know that people use your work and they like it or it's useful for them.

That's an absurd statement. There are plenty of "real artists" that want to make a living with their work. You can't pay your bills with exposure.

"Most important", not "only important thing". Read carefully and try to be less salty.

Not OP, but I saw the sarcasm miles away.

I wouldn't be so sure. When Valve had their failed attempt at a marketplace for paid Skyrim mods, one of the common complaints from other modders was that you should only make mods out of passion for the game, and any modders who put paid mods on the Valve store were sellouts that the community shouldn't work with anymore.

No sarcasm intended.

Then I apologize. Also missed the nuance as Sgt_Apone

Perhaps, but I have a strong suspicion that if this had been a Google or a Microsoft the response by the author would have been very different.

I would just sniff the UserAgent and replace the images with a miniature version of the graphic and a big "Visit JGuitar.com for the proper experience".

This is the first time I understand the point of the new EU copyright legislation or the "Leistungsschutzrecht" in Germany.

- It's NOT OK to integrate s/o else's content into a website. - It's OK to link to it.

As a content creator, how are you going to profit from such an integration?

EITHER license the content for integration OR only link to the original sources.

Not saying that the laws were good or that I understand them well, but AFAIK they are aiming in this direction.

Isn't this exactly the kind of situation that the European Copyright article 11 'Link tax' tries to remedy? A big company takes content from a small one without attribution, remuneration or anything?

Imagine if s/o "integrated" Apple Maps into their site and showed maps rendered by Apple on their app without any form attribution.

I highly doubt that Apple would be thrilled.

Isn't this what Google has been doing all along, creating "mini" integrations with all of our websites? I don't see the big difference.

They at least provide attribution.

Remember microservices?

This is what the web was built for. Good job everyone!

Yes, so "good job" to Apple because they're freely sharing all their IPR online too?

In the same way every company today wouldn't be able to run without MIT-licensed software, with absolutely zero guarantee of giving anything back, the spirit is that you don't care what others do or not do, all you care about is that content is open by default.

And speaking of that, you can definitely use the same workflow automation to extract anything from Apple's own websites.

I don’t think this is an Apple app. The app info says the publisher is DeskConnect, Inc. The subheading says Apple, but when clicked to see all apps by “Apple”, it only shows this one. Looks shady.

It is a legit Apple app, released alongside iOS 12. Apple bought the app called Workflow which they've made their own, rebranding it to Shortcuts.

(slightly OT)

It is not clear if the author is earning something out of the situation (more traffic I suppose?).

However, it seems to me if Shortcuts really takes off among the average iOS user, there could be a massive business building cloud services exposed via these low-code programming environments.

Killer App for FaaS?

At the same time Microsoft's TouchDevelop tried in the past to bootstrap the lack of apps on Windows Phone, but didn't succeed and had virtually no impact.

I am curious if (and hopeful) Apple will be different here.

What's stopping the website owner from returning any image he wants in this case. Advertising, political messages, pornography?

Doing things like this without the consent of the website owner feels very dangerous. It looks bad on Apple they haven't thought this through and are a disgruntle owner away from a major incident.

Somewhat relevant: Whatever Happened to the Semantic Web? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18023408

This sets a bad precedent. I’m not convinced this is good for anyone regardless of how innocuous it seems.

Apple wouldn’t tolerate this if it was done to them. It would be like Disney complaining about copyright infringement while infringing someone else’s copyright...

If I were you I'd send them a cease and desist letter

Why? Just out of pure hate or dislike for apple? A request to show a link to the website under the image would be better imo.

He could always play dirty and just print the website on the bottom of the image but I don't see how this or the c&d will help his site.

This is as though Apple were hotlinking his images -- they are being consistently used in a setting besides that which was originally intended, without permission (or even attribution).

I don't see why putting your url on your own content is 'playing dirty', but displaying someone's stuff without telling them you're doing it or even attributing it sure is.

That's assuming he wants them to cease and desist. Apparently he doesn't and thinks it's really cool.

Just because you can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that one must do that thing.

Now only if Google had done it, the feel of the article might have been a little different ...

I am baffled that Apple would dare do such a thing, not only from an attribution stand point only, but also for offering a service to their customers, they can't rely on being there, or its quality, or anything really.

It's really, really weird.

As others have pointed out (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18038182) the Shortcuts app is a slightly rebranded version of the Workflow app that was acquihired by Apple early 2017. Looks like they launched Shortcuts without vetting their content.

In which sense does this fact make it better ? Not only weird, but to me this feels a careless attitude...

It turns out that corporations are not people, but are instead made up of people, and some of those people - especially when working together with lots of other people on projects - are prone to making stupid mistakes that make the corporation itself look stupid even though knowledge of what was being done might not have been purposefully present anywhere among the people responsible for the error.

I mean I've worked on projects where somebody got in some content and I said - hey you should probably vet that content and they said oh, oh I think it's okay because of X, and I said well are you sure because, well ok I'll check I asked and they said they think X is fine. Ok well whatever, I'm sure not going to fight over this thing for the next two weeks just to end up looking like a jerk at the end.

Shortcuts/Workflow is just a out systems-like programming tool to interact with the web. That just like saying "how can Apple allow Xcode to download link from the internet."

Absolutely. I didn't want to sound like an apologist! Just wanted to shed some light on how it might have made it into production.

So just a few days ago a good number of HNers were lamenting copyrights. One commenter even going so far as to say that he never respects copyright. Other suggesting that copyright owners should lose copyright when they’ve made enough money. Just ridiculous nonsense.

And today, because the “bad guy” was Apple, suddenly everyone cares about copyright.

A forum where people have no problem discussing torrents which are used frequently to violate copyrights — and now they are outraged about Apple using chord finder in a gallery example for Shortcuts? And the owner of the content is actually happy about it!


Most actual complaints I see here are about moral rights. These are adjacent to copyright, but represent a distinct set of concerns related to the author's reputation rather than exploitation of the work per se.

I dont get it, he should be extremely happy by what they did. Free advertising, free traffic, its like getting a nr 1 result Google. All i read here is, get a lawyer. He should be celebrating.

Free advertising for what? No attribution, the user won't see it comes from him.

Free traffic for what? He will have to foot the bill for image hosting + generation. No other part of the website can be discovered, let a lone an advertisement or donate button displayed.

The only thing he got was being able to write this blogpost about how apple uses his service.

TFA ends:

> I'm genuinely thrilled that someone at Apple deemed my chord calculator technology worthy of inclusion in the iOS shortcuts gallery. If anyone from Apple is reading this, please reach out using JGuitar.com's contact form. We can work together to make this experience even better. I can provide high quality SVG images of all chord diagrams, support alternate tunings, instruments and more.

The only reference to his site is hidden behind 3 screens in a URL. All ads are stripped, his brand is stripped. I don't think he must celebrate (though he seems happy).

>All ads are stripped...

What ads?

(looks like ads have been added... never mind)

They've been there for years. You just turned off your ad blocker :)

weird... when I reloaded without content blockers on my phone there weren't any ads, but checking on my big computer I saw them.

I guess that's what I get for assuming.

The mobile site has fewer ads than the desktop site. Ads only appear in the footer on mobile.

He actually seems happy - the decriers just live here in the comments. As usual...

Now that's funny!

What's funny?

Everything needs to be on a level playing field. Imagine if that situation is the other way around. Would Apple be so happy? In fact, it would be good if Apple _is_ happy but I somehow doubt it.

"We at Apple are grateful that Asaph hacked into our product presentation feed and replaced it with an ad for his chord finder..."

Somehow I doubt it too.

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