Publishers urged to tell Apple to stop 'screenshot' piracy of paid-for news

Apple, maker of the iPhone, is coming under pressure to help news publishers combat “screenshot” piracy of paid-for content.

The issue of readers flouting copyright to share paywalled journalism online was highlighted last month when Guardian columnist Owen Jones used his Twitter feed to publish almost an entire Sunday Times investigation into the UK government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. The material was removed after The Sunday Times contacted Twitter, but by that stage it had been read and shared thousands of times on the platform.

PressReader, which hosts online editions of more than 7,000 publications across 120 countries, is urging publishers to write to Apple asking the tech firm to help them “protect our content”.

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Currently, online publication hosts like PressReader say they can create coding to restrict users’ ability to take screenshots of their content on Google/ Android and Huawei devices. But they are unable to do this on Apple devices.

Alex Kroogman, the chief executive of Canada-based PressReader, has written to publishers asking them to lobby Apple to amend this, explaining that the Covid-19 crisis has given rise to a “significant increase in our content being pirated and distributed by various social and other platforms”.

Kroogman has supplied publishers with a suggested letter for Apple (below).

Dear Apple,

I am addressing this letter to raise significant concerns we have as a publisher about technological restrictions on the iOS platform that prevent us from fighting piracy. Since the beginning of the global pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in our content being pirated and distributed via various social and other platforms. This is being done in many cases by screen capture on mobile devices. We have been working with our technology partners to eliminate this and have been successful with Google, but currently, your terms and conditions prohibit inserting the required code to disable users from taking screenshots from the digital newspapers and magazines, and then distributing them illegally.

In the middle of these unprecedented times, the publishing industry has been required to adapt rapidly to sustain itself and deliver the quality content readers know and trust globally. The iOS platform plays a pivotal role in delivering that content, but the piracy issue must be addressed. As noted, other app platforms (Google/Android, and more recently Huawei), allow our technology providers to enable this required code.

Noting how Apple has supported other key industries like music and film, we know that you will review this and work to help protect our content.

I look forward to your response.

Picture: Reuters/Phil Noble

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