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Local news startup Ripple apologizes for taking other people's news

Information doesn't want to be that free.

Photo by Michael Brown/Getty Images
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Yesterday we told you about Ripple, the startup that wants to deliver local news but doesn't create the news itself.

Today several publications that are in the business of writing and reporting local news had a beef with Ripple: The company had taken their full stories, without permission, and published them on its own site and app.

Insult to injury — Ripple also announced yesterday that it had raised $4 million from a host of tech and media notables including Greylock, Social Capital, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito and Vice Media CEO Shane Smith. And one more: The venerable John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which "supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. "

Sometimes a tweet is worth several words. So here's Jen Sabella, an editor at DNAInfo, an excellent publication providing actual boots-on-the ground reporting in Chicago and New York:

Gothamist Publisher Jake Dobkin, meanwhile, vented directly at Ripple, sending them a cease-and-desist notice that he said covered "about 3,000 copyright violations, and once you get into separate claims on the images, you're talking literally millions of dollars in potential damages."

That was earlier this afternoon. As I'm typing this now, Ripple has swapped out the full stories it had run from Gothamist, DNAInfo and other outlets like Politico New York, and replaced them with snippets of text and a link back to the original site.

Sorry, says Razmig Hovaghimian.

The Ripple CEO says he never intended to republish full articles from publications he didn't have agreements with. What happened, he says, is that the software he uses to ingest full stories from publications that he does have agreements with, including NPR affiliate KQED and San Francisco local news startup Hoodline, also pulled full stories from Gothamist and others.

Ripple's intent, Hovaghimian said, was to simply republish tweets from news sites that he wasn't working with.

“I apologize," he said "What I want is to get the stories to go from one place to another. That’s why I called it Ripple — we want to increase the reach of the stories. I went about it the wrong way."

Apology accepted, says Dobkin. "If they stick to 75 words and a thumbnail [image], I don't think we'll have more cause to complain." Dobkin also has words of advice for Ripple and others: "All startups relying on aggregated content should really take the time to talk to the publishers. This was an avoidable error."

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