Again the consideration of exactly what it means to put an RSS feed online has reared its head. Specifically, Mitch Wagner found out that his RSS feed — which includes full posting content not excerpts — was re-published online at LiveJournal. He wrote:
That site is my intellectual property. You do not have permission to post the entirety of my weblog to your site. Please take down the site
Well, all sorts of interesting commenting occurred, as you can imagine. In particular the implicit assumption that RSS feeds come with ‘tactic approval of republication’ was raised.
What was a surprise is that Mitch reversed himself and now offers a Creative Commons license on his material, though the license information isn’t duplicated in Mitch’s RSS feed directly. Mitch also brings up the ‘commercial’ aspect of re-publishing the material at LiveJournal, and what’s to stop someone from grabbing the content and putting it behind password protected sites that charge money for access.
Easy — don’t publish all your entire posts in your RSS feed. Keep the RSS feeds to excerpts only. Remove the content-encoded field and just leave the description. And adjust your blogging tool to publish excerpts, only. If your weblogging tool doesn’t allow this adjustment, ask the tool builder to provide this capability. The RSS feeds are there to help promote your ideas, not promote their theft. But you have to control the technology, not let the technology control you.
I have a feeling that 2003 is the year when technology and the law will finally find ways to learn to live together, or forever exist in a state of permanent hostility.
(Thanks to Ben for the story.)