20
Jan/05

If He Doesn't Like Bloglines, Why Does He Make a RSS Feed Available?


If my major complaint with RSS was that it strips the frame from my content, then those who have posted to the effect ‘if he doesn’t like that, he should not make an RSS feed available’ would be correct.

However, as I have been making a full text RSS feed available since May of 2002, I am well aware that I, not the aggregator, am ‘stripping’ the frame.  That is not my primary concern – commercial use of my content by aggregators, specifically contextual advertising and subscription data mining without my consent, is my primary concern.

Right now, among the million bloggers, there are bird watching blogs, and anti-Michael Moore blogs, and Linux blogs.

Those bloggers do or do not view their blogs as part of a commercial pursuit, and do or do not wish to run advertising, and do or do not wish make use of information about their readership.

As far as I can tell, based on its stated intentions, the leading web-based aggregator is reserving the right to, for example, place Windows-based software ads on Linux blogs, and Anne Coulter ads on pro-Michael Moore sites, and to sell everybody’s subscription list to anyone.

All without notification or authorization by the blogger.

At least it hasn’t said otherwise in response to this brou-ha-ha.

This type of commercial use is, in my opinion, clearly copyright infringement, but since my protest is prospective in nature, people may not realize it until they see their own content serving as ‘editorial’ for someone else’s ads.  Or until a reader emails them to demand that they be taken off a mailing list the blogger didn’t know existed.

To argue that the creation of a RSS feed impliedly allows this type of uncontrolled commercial re-use is to argue that RSS strips all content of effective copyright protection.  I have not seen a compelling legal or policy argument as to why all RSS content should be public domain in this way. 

HTML content isn’t automatically public content.  The implied license is for the user’s browser to make the copy necessary to read the content.  You can’t re-purpose HTML content without consent.

As far as I can see, from a copyright point of view, the only thing different about RSS content is that the template formatting isn’t part of the work.

Regardless of whether the blogger has signed up for a CC license or whatever, he or she can prevent commercial re-use of the feed.  But should he or she?  Many posters have criticized my post not on the legal issue but as a business decision.

Maybe they’re right. 

So the question is not why, if I don’t like Bloglines, do I make a RSS feed available.

The question ought to be:

Is there a compelling business case for the blogger to waive effective commercial control of content in order so that the aggregator can make a full-text web-based feed available?

Or can aggregators accomodate bloggers who wish to maintain the non-commercial nature of their feeds?  I will guess that if Bloglines offers a commercial opt-out, its business model will still work.

 

 

 

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