I received a couple of pingbacks from a site that republished a couple of posts from my site in whole, pulling them from my RSS feed.
The owner of the site maintains that by having a RSS feed that has the full content of a post, I am allowing someone to republish the content. If I didn’t want the content republished, I shouldn’t use a RSS feed, or should at least only include summaries.
While technologically old, RSS feeds are still awesome. They provide a standardized format for folks to digest virtually any blog in whatever form that you, the reader, prefer. Sure, I put effort into the presentation of my site, many folks have ads they depend on, but at the end of the day, I’d like to give freedom to my reader to choose.
Whether you use Outlook or Thunderbird or another desktop-based client, or a web-based client like Feedly or the WordPress.com Reader, you can drop my site’s address and always have my latest posts. Internally, I use RSS to provide for my daily update e-mails.
Consumption, though, is a completely different beast than republication. The argument (from the content scraper) that the existence of a RSS feed implies that both consumption and republication are permitted isn’t valid.
My site is an example that disproves the argument. Content published so far content on my site is published under a Creative Commons license. The license says, basically, if you give me credit, use my content for non-commercial purposes, and share it under the same terms, you can use it without any further permission. The RSS feed helps make that easier for folks, though republishing my content without using the same terms, or with a site that had ads (making it a commercial venture under most common definitions) is violating those terms.
Copyright rules exist for a reason. Making content available doesn’t grant anything. A musician having a song played on the radio doesn’t grant me the right to record it off and sell CDs of it. The VCR brought forth new legal guidelines—could someone legally record a TV show on a videocassette? Sure, for personal use. To rebroadcast it or play it for a public performance? No.
I’m not a legal scholar, but that principle seems sound to apply here.
RSS feeds and other technological means that can reduce the barrier to distribute content are great tools, but they’re just that: tools.