After looking like a bully, Instapaper CEO Marco Arment has apologized for blocking Apple blog 9to5Mac off the read-it-later service. "In retrospect, that was an overreaction," he wrote on the Instapaper blog, after explaining that he didn't appreciate the tech blog calling his popular app "Instascraper." "9to5Mac’s statements, as much as they angered and scared me, did not constitute an opt-out. Furthermore, it was inappropriate to add a publisher to the opt-out list that did not explicitly request it." Readers of the tech blog can now go back to Instapapering it again.
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Though Arment sounds truly remorseful for his actions, there is another reason why he has taken the ban back. When it comes to copyright issues, Instapaper has little power. "I tread lightly with the fair-use liberties I take, because it’s extremely expensive and therefore effectively impossible for a small company like Instapaper to defend itself against such claims," he wrote. His only defense is this opt-out. "The last thing I want is for Instapaper to have a hostile relationship with any publisher, so I give publishers complete control. I offer the opt-out confidently, knowing that major publishers don’t object to Instapaper, and many of them actually love it," he continued. But after an incident like yesterday, in which the service forced a site onto the opt-out list just because he didn't like their commentary, publishers might not love Instapaper so much anymore. Because of the "legal gray area of fair use," as Arment describes it, the service can't afford to look like a bully.
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9to5Mac's Seth Weintraub responded, "Yipteedoodah. I’m not going to lie and say I agree with much of his point of view of the events. But I’m happy for readers who want to use that service and happy to put this behind us."