Adaptation – Does it Trump Copyright?

    March 20, 2007

A recent post by Dorrian Porter highlighted an interesting topic raised by Russell Buckley just over one year ago. The title was, ‘Who Gave Google Permission to be the Judge and Jury of Mobile Content?‘ Despite some very informed comments the topic remained unresolved. In order to render certain web pages suitable for mobile devices, Google had cut out some advertising and in some cases added their own.

One of the key processes in achieving Thematic Consistency, which is a prime objective of the One Web Principle, is what is called Adaptation. Adaptation of content to render it suitable for mobile devices is the current recommended practice. Andrea Rus of MobileAware in a presentation, ‘Embracing Device Diversity‘, at a W3C Mobile Web Seminar in November 2006 at Paris, France had a very good representation of that.


Since mobile devices have much less screen real estate, it makes sense to reduce the content and even remove items that cannot be displayed such as large images. If this is done ‘neutrally’ then who could object. However what may seem fair use to one observer may be regarded by another as breaching copyright.

The One Web principle may be attractive in theory, but here is another serious hurdle to its practical acceptance. For any website owner wishing to be visible on the Mobile Web, the only guaranteed fail-safe method of operating is to maintain distinct web pages for large screen devices and for small screen devices. Although it would be great if this could be achieved with style sheets, these are sometimes ignored by some browsers. It also is a technically challenging approach even if it worked all the time.

So think of your visitor and present the information the way that works for them. Being visitor-centric is the only sensible way to go. That means having separate web pages that the visitor is directed to or can choose that will give a satisfactory user experience.