RSS' Copyright Debate
The Copyright Debate &
RSS is commonly defined as really simple syndication.
So, this means that any material contained in
a feed is available for syndication, right? Well
no, not exactly. It means that the content contained
in an RSS feed is in a format that is syndication
friendly, if the copyright holder allows for syndication.
Offering a feed for syndication does not in fact
grant any legal rights to anyone to reuse the
feeds content beyond what the Copyright laws grant
as Fair Use.
In practice, while your feed might
legally be protected, you could literally spend
weeks attempting to protect the contents of your
feed. Legal gray areas are introduced with Search
Engines indexing feeds and RSS Feed Directories
including copywritten feeds, in their categorized
directories. How do you distinguish between a
legitimate search engine, RSS directory and someone
simply reproducing the contents of a feed for
personal gain? Legally how can you defend against
one and not the other?
One can ask whether it is legally
is it wrong to reproduce content in a feed. Morally
is it wrong? Does the site have a purpose or value
outside of the syndicated content? Is the aggregation
of topic specific feeds in itself a value?
If you use the feeds for content
and label the site a directory does that make
it any more legal? What about personal web aggregators?
If it is for personal use,is it OK?
Take a look at the following topic
specific feed directories:
Financial Investing - http://www.finance-investing.com
Security Protection - http://www.security-protection.net
One could argue that the above sites
do in fact provide value, aggregating and categorizing
related topic specific feeds in a single location.
In fact those in the security sector of the finance
arena might find the above sites of significant
value but what of the content creators?
Laws and Technology Collide
Most people publishing content via RSS
support republication of feeds. Because the technology
is fairly new, the laws and legalities are still
murky. It is assumed that content in RSS is protected
by copyright laws but let us not forget the Internet
is global and their is not a centralized body
governing what is right or what is wrong. Not
only does law and technology collide the laws
of different countries, those creating the feed
and those displaying the contents of the feed
may contradict each other. It is for this reason,
I would advise that publishers using RSS to assume
that the contents of their RSS feeds will be syndicated
Tips and Tricks to Protect
That is not to say there are not things
that can be done to protect feeds. At the end
of the day being proactive is the best way to
protect intellectual property.
Part of feed protection is ensuring
that appropriate credit is given, this can be
arranged by including a copyright assignment in
the final line of the Item Description field.
Additionally you can include links
back to your website in the Item description field.
Use teaser copy in the RSS feed's
Item description field, linking back to your website
which contains the full contents of the post.
At the end of the day, protecting
the contents of a feed can be daunting and limiting.
Controlling your contents to ensure appropriate
credit and links are included is critical.
About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll
software for creating, editing, publishing RSS
feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages
marketing for NotePage http://www.notepage.net
a wireless text messaging software company.