Scoble, RSS and fair use..

Scoble has stopped his experimental blog. As he says, he’s reached a point where some folks think he’s “stealing their content” by reposting it to an aggregated blog. It’s an interesting idea, but I think they’re wrong, although I’m not a lawyer and I certainly think he’s probably wise to shut it down until he can get some actual legal advice. Here’s why I think they’re wrong. Everything he publishes to that blog comes from other site’s RSS feeds. (Or Atom feeds, but for this purpose let’s say those are the same thing..) The very definition of syndicated feeds is that the content can be distributed and displayed in different ways. Whether that way is in an aggregator or on another site, the ability to redistribute content comes with the territory. As long as you are publishing an RSS feed, you are not protecting any copyright you might have, since anyone with an aggregator can display that content without ever having to go to your site to read it. For example, once I grab your RSS feed, there’s nothing stopping me from having an aggregator display my subscribed feeds over an intranet. Is that somehow different from what Scoble is doing? Actually Scoble’s only putting the occasional post up on his site, not your whole feed, so what he’s doing is probably much better for you then other things that, to my mind, would be completely legal.

For that matter, if Bloglines grabs your feed once and then displays it to everyone using their service who has subscribed to your feed (I don’t know if they actually do that, but I imagine it would be trivial to set it up that way if they wanted to), aren’t what they doing stealing, much more than what Scoble’s doing? As long as you make your full posts feed available, aren’t you giving some sort of passive permission for that to happen?

I really don’t see the big deal, at all. Scoble quotes wholes posts, but he also provides links and probably drives more traffic to those sites than he takes away. In fact, having the opportunity to read what some other people post by simply subscribing to Scoble’s experimental blog feed has introduced me to plenty of folks I never knew about before and helped me find their sites. That’s not stealing, that’s free publicity!

Robert, you can quote my posts any time you want! 🙂

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