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Can someone create such a program that enhances third party services?

A few examples would be: - A program that embeds a website within itself and modifies its interface. - A program that makes adding content to certain sites easier (e.g. streaming to Youtube, Twitch etc') - A program that enhances multiple websites by adding useful buttons etc' to sites.

All I want to know is whether this is against the law. An important thing to say is that it will be made clear to the users of the program that modifications were made to the site / service. Logos / design etc' will all remain intact.

And if it matters - there's a program called "Franz" - which gathers plenty of web chat programs into one, by simply embedding those sites into it. It reads the data from every service in order to display notifications etc'.

Is that program doing anything wrong?

Thanks in advance.

  • A "wrong" example would be a program that strips all ads/UX bullshit from a news website essentially presenting a nice ad-free version of it. This would certainly be subject to legal action as you would be stealing traffic from the original site owners who would be losing revenues on running ads. – Greendrake May 21 '18 at 8:53
  • @Greendrake You contend that ad-blockers are illegal? I think you'd need to back that up. – D M May 21 '18 at 16:34
  • @DM I'm talking about programs that embed websites (which can be websites themselves). They well could pose economic threat to the sites they embed, and/or breach copyright. – Greendrake May 22 '18 at 13:43
  • How is that different from, say, FireFox's built-in "Reader View", which you can get just by pressing F9? – D M May 23 '18 at 3:00
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A few examples would be: - A program that embeds a website within itself and modifies its interface. - A program that makes adding content to certain sites easier (e.g. streaming to Youtube, Twitch etc'). A program that enhances multiple websites by adding useful buttons etc' to sites.

As a web designer, I've created plenty of those!

All I want to know is whether this is against the law.

As always: It depends.

Since I do this myself, I have given it some thought. You may want to also read my answer to this related question.

First, I am not aware of any laws that specifically regulate these design practices.

However, most jurisdictions have regulations that say what you can't do when exploiting the work of others, and exceptions, such as "fair use" and "fair dealing". Such regulations are usually found in copyright law and laws regulating business conduct, and differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, as do case law.

My general impression is that it is usually not considered fair if the use you make of other's work by such design practices is commercial in nature, you create something intended to directly compete with the site(s) you scrape, embed or modify, and your product or service does not communicate something new and different from the original or expands its utility.

So, as a rule, I refuse to create a competing commercial service if that is what the client requests, and I always make sure my work is transformative in nature.

As always: If you want specific advice, hire a lawyer.

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Web pages are creating using HTML and CSS, which do not dictate how that page is to be displayed. They are merely providing the browser with information about how the data is intended to be displayed or interpreted, but it's up to the browser to adhere to or disregard it.

An example would be a web browser designed for the visually impaired, that rather than rendering text and images as suggested decided to render only certain parts of the text in Braille or via a text-to-speech engine.

Most browsers include usability enhancements, as do most operating systems. By publishing a web page the publisher must accept that the platform they have chosen does not allow them to dictate how the page is displayed or interacted with.

As such, in most jurisdictions it would be very difficult to argue that any application performing the common functions of a web browser were illegal.

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An example of a program that enhances third party services is Adblock Plus, which is an ad blocking extension for web browsers. As website owners are not happy with this "enhancement", they went to court several times starting in 2014. In the most recent case, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court ruled that Adblock Plus did not violate any laws. (Eyeo, the company behind Adblock Plus is located in Germany).

Important for the Constitutional Court was that users manually install Adblock Plus, and can remove it at any time. And website owners have the possibility to block users of Adblock Plus from their website.

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