Monday, November 06, 2006

RSS Feeds and Copyright

I've always been under the impression that the contents of an RSS feeds are open to republishing, with attribution. For a while, I've done just that in the sidebar of my blog, embedding a great auto-updating newsfeed tool with the help of a plugin from CHAITGear.

More and more people are now accustomed to / hooked on RSS Newsreaders, thanks to great advancements in Google Reader, among other apps, and new browsers (Flock) and extensions (Hyperwords) lifting and reappropriating content from Web sites and RSS feeds (with attribution) is easier than ever.

"Does RSS Imply Permission To Reuse Content?," a recent article by Jason Lee Miller of WebProNews ponders the Q:
A content provider distributes his or her content through the use of an RSS feed. This feed is open to any who would subscribe. The first question is: Is there an implied consent to repurpose that material by republishing it (with proper credit) on a blog or Website? The act of syndicating (distributing) content may imply that permission.

The second question is: How are splogs (spam blogs) that are set up as aggregators of content to attract keyword-driven traffic, that publish only the headline and snippet of text, that link out to the original source, and that make money from AdSense different from Google and other search engines? Doesn't Google do, essentially, the same thing?

The short answer is that the legal system hasn't really decided for certain.

As Matthew Ingram details in this post, some bigger-name bloggers are uppity-in-arms and fanning flames over so-called "RSS-stealers."

RSS is also called "syndication." As with any sitcom in syndication, it is open for anyone to pick up, a sort of implied license. At least I'm sticking to that opinion, although while this should be easily inferred by the concept, I think it's also implied that syndicated material can only be used with original attribution.

All that said, there's not much on either side of the debate in the Wikipedia RSS entry and I can't seem to locate any address to this matter by RSS visionary Dave Winer, but considering the guy never thought once about patenting XML, etc -- I'm betting he's a believer in the implied consent to share RSS'd content.

No comments: