Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Illegal To Display Feeds?

I came across (and I must say this) a really stupid post at The Trademark Blog, where the author accuses Bloglines for illegally reproducing his site's content.

It was brought to my attention that a website named Bloglines was reproducing the Trademark Blog, surrounding it with its own frame, stripping the page of my contact info. It identifies itself as a news aggregator. It is not authorized to reproduce my content nor to change the appearance of my pages, which it does.
I think this kind of thoughts either stem from a poor understanding of feeds, or maybe this guy is just looking for legal issues to talk about (he's a lawyer, after all), or both.

Bloglines might be putting their ads next to my content and earning money out of it. I don't think that constitutes "commercial use" of my content. They are providing a service, for which they are going to need money to run, and ads are a good way to get that done. The ad money I make off my site is barely anything, anyway. I don't mind if I lose an additional $2.05 to Bloglines, considering that my user-base is actually increasing thanks to services like Bloglines. I could think of it as paying them to keep my audience coming.

Besides, it's not like Bloglines is running a site that makes money thanks to my content being published there. The users of Bloglines choose to put a feed in their reader, and Bloglines just provies a means to read that feed easily. Bloglines makes money because they provide a great way for users to read a site's content, grabbing what the site's authors have willingly distributed for just that purpose.

Personally, I read a lot of feeds too, a lot of which I prefer to read in Bloglines and not on the original sites. This is because, with Bloglines, I can strip off the clutter on a site, and grab just the content of the site, in a font, style and layout that I am comfortable with, and that works with all the other 130 sites in my feeds list, consistently.

I did come across a similar problem recently, where a blogger had published one of my recent posts on his site, even though he gave me full credit for the post. I just sent him a friendly mail asking him to get my content off his site, and instead link to me if my articles are really important to his site's audience. Promptly, he removed that entire section off his site. (Apparently, it was his personal link blog, and he has now put that behind an authentication system ensuring that he's the only one reading it.) I am ok with him reading my feeds, really. I guess it would be a problem if he publishes my posts without asking me first. Publishing my post on his site, and reading my feeds are two different things, though. Obviously this blogger respected that when I brought it to his notice, and did the needful to correct the mistake.

In the end, is it illegal to view/display/publish feeds from a site? No, it isn't, considering that the site's author willingly distributed the feeds. Is it illegal to publish one single article on a site without the author's permission? It probably is, but more than that, it's unethical, and should be refrained from doing. Is it illegal to make money by providing a service that reads feeds? Definitely not!

I think I am thankful to Bloglines for making sure that I get a consistent flow of people reading my content, even if they don't ever visit my site. If I don't like Bloglines' idea of reading feeds, I should probably just stop publishing feeds. But that'll just crash my audience-size. In fact, I like the idea of Bloglines displaying my feeds so much, that I had written a post earlier recommending that people read my feeds through Bloglines, and I even added a permanent link on my sidebar making it easier for people to subscribe to my feeds with Bloglines.

How about that, Mr. Lawyer?

1 comment:

Sriram said...

Since I'm the linkblogger in question, might as well add my own $0.02 :)

Stuff like this makes me wish for Xanadu - where you could put content from someone else on your page -and the original author would know of every single hit and be in full control over his content..though its on your site.

Anyway,Rakesh is right -but I foresee more issues like this with RSS.In my case, it was simple. I just flipped an option and changed my MSN Spaces linkblog from public to private.