Apple iPhone application infringes on Bulbapedia license

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  • Thursday, October 15, 2009

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This article brought to you by Bulbanews, your community Pokémon newspaper.

A recently released application for the iPhone, Studio Bebop's aptly-titled Pokedex App, has caused a bit of a controversy with its content; or, more specifically, its use of Bulbapedia's content. Connecting directly to Bulbapedia's Pokémon articles, the application displays helpful information such as stats, evolutions, and types.

Apple iPhone.jpg

The problem? The application costs $1.99 to download in the Apple store, while Bulbapedia's content is strictly licensed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.5 license.

The CC BY-NC-SA license stipulates that the content it protects is free to anyone, under the conditions that it correctly attributed to its source (the app does not give attribution to Bulbapedia), the content is released only non-commercially (by charging for the app, Studio Bebop violates this part of the license), and the content is shared alike, retaining its CC licensing (the app does not use the Creative Commons license).

After being contacted about the above issues by Archaic, the webmaster and head of Bulbagarden, Studio Bebop responded, insisting:

When someone purchases the Pokedex App, they are not purchasing access to Bulbapedia, nor are they purchasing any of the information hosted on Bulbapedia. Instead, they are purchasing a tool that streamlines and organizes the information one accesses from Bulbapedia, and presents it in a more refined, user-friendly fashion.
  -- Brandon Smith  

However, this is a misinterpretation of the Creative Commons license. By parsing and displaying Bulbapedia's content through their own app, in a format different to what is displayed should someone simply be accessing our web page, they are creating a derivative work of the content. And as per the Creative Commons license, derivative works must follow the same Creative Commons license. Meaning, non-commercial, shared under the same licensing, and with full attribution.

Despite having this pointed out, Studio Bebop has yet to respond, and has instead chosen to update their application (fixing bugs caused by a templating change on Bulbapedia).'s not just about the data. They're stealing our bandwidth, and they're stealing processor load on our databases. It's like image hotlinking images off the Archives wiki, only a lot worse.

This means that they're actually having a direct impact on our server health, while those using this ap are not viewing the advertisements that allow us to keep the servers up. They're not just profiting off of the work of our staff. They're profiting off the work of the community of people here at Bulbagarden who have volunteered their time to edit pages on Bulbapedia, and they're profiting at the expense of everyone's enjoyment of any part of Bulbagarden, Bulbapedia, or the Japanese Pokemon Wiki (which we host).

  -- Archaic