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RSS - who profits?
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You are currently in Business and Industry in Gaming, Media, Web, IT and Computing
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Mon Jun 30, 2008 6:44 am Reply and quote this post
Of course your content is your copyright and others should not copyit without your permission. But a feed can be repurposed in many ways,and we need to look at what parts of the feed are being copied and whoprofits.
Copyright lawyers will have to fill me in on the latest case law onall of this, but I think in practice we have despatched the question whether links are legal (is the web legal?) with a resounding yes.
Shouldn’t You Have To Ask Permission If You Want To Take A Blog’s Feed For Your Profit? which has attracted considerable comment.
As Sir Tim father-of-the-web-but-not-a-lawyer Berners-Lee has said:

There are some fundamental principles about links onwhich the Web is based. These principles allow the world of distributedhypertext to work. Lawyers, users and technology and content providersmust all agree to respect these principles.

What of link+title? In principle there is copyright in a title, butit’s hard to see anyone any longer seeking to enforce copyright here.
But an RSS feed is an aggregation, so what of a bunch oflinks+titles? Here there is a stronger case for saying that thisaggregation is protected by copyright, and if we’re talking about anaggregation of links+titles+descriptions or even +excerpts, that isclearly protected. So let’s talk about permission, express or implied.
I don’t believe there’s any implied permission for others to republish feeds.But in practice, why publish a feed if you don’t want it to berepublished? It will be, and there’s little you can do to stop it. Youcan frame some stern T & Cs or apply a more friendly CC licence,but most, whether intentionally or by default, will take little notice.
Susan makes much of others taking your (blog) feed “for profit”. Weare all miffed if we see others profiting from our work at our expense.But, with feed repurposing, in most cases we profit too, sufficientlythat we do not see it as being at our expense.

  • Google indexes, caches and republishes parts of my website, myblog, my feeds without my permission. Google profits handsomely, but Iprofit too.
  • Other specialist search engines and directories - like Tehcnorati,Blawg Search - also index and repurpose my content. If I’ve submittedmy site to them, I’ve probably given them permission to do this, but inmost cases my signing up only legitimates what they have been doing /would do anyway. (Susan, Technorati indexes your blog whether you’veclaimed it or not.) They profit, but I profit too.
  • Smaller fish might also republish my feeds, but in all cases shortof their republishing my full text, I profit as much as or more thanthey do. All items link back to me. And I really am not going to losesleep if they choose to wrap Google ads around it or seek to profit inother ways. (I do view sploggers etc as the scum of the earth, but I blame Google Adsense.)

So in practice, what we are all most concerned about is othersclaiming our real work - our full posts or articles - as their own; andthere is a simple answer: if you want to protect your content, includeonly excerpts rather than full text in your feeds. Syndicate yourmetadata, not your data.

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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