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I'm working on an app idea which offers users a "read view" of websites, which includes stripping the content of ads, changing font and changing the layout of sites to make it easier for certain users with special requirements to read. The app would function like a browser in that the user can go to any url they desire and the app would present the page in a simplified layout in a way that caters for their needs.

The opinion of the accepted answer in this question is that it's generally acceptable to modify the display of website content in general as long as:

  • The user is entering the url themselves
  • I have a clause in my TOS that advises users that they should consult the TOS of the target site before using the application

However, the linked question has an answer including the following: "If your application points at a specific list of sites specified by you, whether configurable or not, this answer might change"

To be more specific, the app will be targeted at language learners who may want to read news articles or blog posts, etc on websites which are written in their non-native language where they may only have a limited understanding. So it would be much more accessible for the users if the website were re-organised into a simpler format, stripping out ads, images, banners, etc. and additionally offering extra functionality such as being able to tap on a word to show the definition in their native language, save the word to personal lists, etc.

Clearly, the target audience would only be interested in viewing websites written in the language that they are currently learning, so having the idea of a "general browser" where the user can enter any url would be less appealing. It would be much more useful for my target audience if the app provided a list of suggested websites with reading material for their target language. I would still include the ability to enter any url if they wanted to. The requirement for the app to provide a list of suggested sites is further reinforced by the fact that learners at different levels of language ability will require the suggested sites to be organised into categories of difficulty. If I only provide the ability to enter any url with no suggested sites, the user will be rather lost as to what to do with the app unless they already have a list of sites they like to read before finding out about my app.

  • Is there a way that I can provide a suggested list of sites without violating anything?

  • What if I do this indirectly by providing a way for users to "recommend this site to other users learning your target language" and then show a list of "most recommended sites by other learners of your target languague" such that the list of suggested sites does not come from the app creators directly but is crowdsourced?

Also some questions raised by reading this question on the topic:

  • Could I argue that I'm not stealing traffic from the target websites since the users of my app only have limited ability in the target language and would not easily be able to access the site in its original form?
  • Could I argue that the app is transformative in nature, because it radically changes the layout of the page and offers additional functionality for language learners?
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    While I don't disagree with the linked answer in this case, I think it is too strong to say that any Law.se answer has "determined" anything. An answer here gives an opinion, ideally supported by cites and logic. But it is not legal advice, and certainly not a court decision. Jun 1, 2022 at 11:52
  • It has been determined. NO. An user did give his opinion. Sure, that opinion seems sound and reasonable to me, but it might be wrong in some jurisdiction, or on account of some unspecified details. If you do take actions on the basis of that answer and later get sued using that answer as a defense would be useless. Legal advice is highly specific, and you should not rely on some stranger's answer on the Internet in order to get legal security.
    – SJuan76
    Jun 1, 2022 at 11:54
  • Those are fair comments, I've updated my wording to say that it was the opinion of the answerer and not definitively determined
    – F Chopin
    Jun 1, 2022 at 11:57
  • You do realise that specific functionally is built into most web browsers?
    – Dale M
    Jun 1, 2022 at 21:50

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