First, I was intrigued by Topix.net, an automated site whose robots screen-scrape thousands of American news sites and categorize the content for easy browsing by topic. It is innovative and useful, and the folks who put it together, alumni of the Open Directory Project, really know their stuff.
But I happened upon the site's Terms of Service and was appalled by its hypocrisy and cheekiness. It left such a bad taste in my mouth that I can't bring myself to say anything else nice about the service.
Let's take a look at the "Use of the Service" section of that page.
You may only display the content of the Service for your own personal use (i.e., non-commercial use) and may not otherwise copy, reproduce, alter, modify, create derivative works, or publicly display any content.
Note: Topix.net copies, reproduces and publicly displays content from more than 3,000 other Web sites.
For example, you may not do any of the following: use the Service to sell a product or service; use the Service to increase traffic to your Web site for commercial reasons, such as advertising sales;
Note: Topix.net displays advertising on almost every page of its site. One might say it uses other sites' content to increase traffic to its Web site for commercial reasons, such as advertising sales.
take the results from the Service and reformat and display them, or mirror any portion of the results on your Web site; or use the Service as part of a "meta-search" offering.
Note: Topix.net takes headlines and paragraphs from news sites and reformats and displays them -- often verbatim. It might be seen as a "meta-search" offering.
You also agree that you will not use any robot, spider, other automated device, or manual process to monitor or copy any content from the Service.
Note: Topix.net's fundamental operation is predicated on using robots/spiders to monitor and copy content from outside sites.
From point three on the same page: "The results that appear from Topix.net's indices are indexed by Topix.net's automated machinery and computers".
From point seven on the same page: "Topix.net's indices consist of information that has been identified, indexed and compiled through an automated process with no advance review by human beings."
I admire the Topix.net proprietors for their gall. But their hypocrisy is undeniably crass.