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RSS and Copyright Continued

Over the weekend, it came to my attention that a site (I won't link to them, or even mention their name) was re-publishing content from The Sand Trap's RSS feed, sans author and copyright information. The summary text, often with images, was being re-published. The Sand Trap was not the only site having content stolen - about four or five sites appear to be having their content re-published without their permission or knowledge.

The site in question provided no original content in their entire archive. The re-published content was the only content on the page(s). The story titles did link to the original content (because it was dumbly re-publishing content from the RSS feeds, so those are the PermaLinks it had available). In addition to the re-published content, about 20 different Google ads were running around the edges of the site - top, left, and right. The site owner was quite literally making money from the content of others (including me).

I've previously written about RSS and Copyright before. That discussion revolved around Bloglines and their re-publication versus consumption of content. I didn't have a big problem with Bloglines back then (and I still don't) because they were trying to provide a service and were not profiting from the content alone.

Contrast that to an AdSense campaign running on the same page as my stolen content. That is profiting from my content, and I won't stand for it.

I contacted the owner of the site as listed in the WHOIS, and a day later, he responded that he wasn't doing anything wrong. He told me that RSS is for "really simple syndication" and provided me - a guy who's co-authored an award-winning (an Apple Design Award winning, in fact) feed reader - an explanation of what RSS is.

Copyright law on this is clear: I can photocopy parts of a book for personal use. I cannot sell those photocopies. I can make copies of CDs for personal use. I cannot sell those copies.

Following those examples, this should come as no surprise: I can aggregate content published via RSS feeds for personal use. I cannot re-sell that content, and selling context-based advertising is not very different than selling the content itself. And, of course, all of this is based on the loosest interpretation of copyright law.

I admit to having a weak argument in the previous discussion. This issue is not necessarily about "consumption vs. re-publication" as I previouisly argued. Instead, it's about "personal" use versus, uhhh, "nonpersonal" use, including commercial use. Publishing content to a publicly available website is not personal use just as I can't make MP3s from a CD I purchased publicly available and free of DRM. It's in the "re-publication" of content that it stops being "for personal use."

5 Responses to "RSS and Copyright Continued"

  1. In the meantime - and this will not stop the fellow from stealing my content - I've put up an image blocker. Now the guy will see this every time he steals a post with an image: http://iacas.org/asm/thief.gif.

    I used a script available here to generate the appropriate rewrite conditions and rules.

  2. Report them to Google. That's what's called a "splog" - a spam blog. I'm pretty sure Google will terminate their Google Ads account.

  3. I did, but I made the mistake of telling him I was reporting him to google. He took down most of the ads he had on the section of the site where he was stealing my content (and the content of others). I hope they still terminate his account. The main portion of his site is still quite "sploggy."

    Two more interesting links are here and here, thanks to Rainer.

  4. Incidentally, this particular individual fails to "get it." Despite my firm requests that he remove the site (he's done so, finally), he insists he's done nothing wrong and has responded tauntingly by saying that he's copied my entire site to a "gag" site and "good luck finding it." He's clearly broken the law, but since he fails to see it, there's little I can do short of hiring a lawyer and suing him.

    I'm tempted to post his information from the WHOIS database, but I won't stoop that low. He's on the wrong side of the law. It's as simple as that. I'm done wasting my time with him.

  5. That's disgusting.

    There are things called "quoting" and "paraphrasing". Both require stating the source, academically speaking. Using an entire article is clearly out of line.

    Just a small question, where is your Copyright policy for your blog? Sorry, I can't seem to find the link from the page.

    Just a suggestion, Paparazzi! is a handy tool for keeping screenshots of the webpage, good for archiving purpose.


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