Issues Concerning RSS Feeds and Web Publishing
November 12th 2005
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
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
Investing or Security
Protection. 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 and replicated.
Tips and Tricks to Protect Your Feed.
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
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
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.
Sharon manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing,
publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing
for FeedForDev an RSS component
Keywords and misspellings: Pod-cast pod cast
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