It seems that my entry on Top Ten Sources sparked some nice debate around the blogosphere. Everyone from Susan Mernit to Dave Winer has been brought into the shuffle. I discussed Top Ten Sources with John Palfrey via email, and he let me know that the company is alerting writers of the impending aggregation, however Kevin and Michael commented on my entry saying they received no such notification.
I’ve left comments at other blogs defending my position against people who see nothing wrong with republishing RSS content sans-permission, and I thought it time to write my viewpoint out as a full entry.
At the bottom of every page of this site is a copyright notice. At the top of every page, in the HTML, is a Creative Commons license that more explicitly details what you can and cannot do with this creative work. RSS feeds republish said content, so why is it that people feel RSS feeds are in the public domain where you can do whatever you want with them? RSS, after all, is a way of redistributing content, so why do so many detractors feel that adhering to the copyright affixed to my writing is such a horrible concept?
Just like you are free to browse this site and read the content, you are also free to read this content via RSS, which is just another way of repackaging this content. If you want to redistribute any part of my content, you need to attribute it to me. If you are going to redistribute, in whole, my content, ask me first and I’ll let you know if that’s alright and how I want you to attribute me. It’s pretty simple if you think about it — you can read and browse and link all you want, but if you want to redistribute my content, just ask me first. The keyword here is first however.
If you redistribute my content on your site, and 1) don’t ask for permission first, or 2) don’t attribute me, I’m probably going to be upset and send you a tersely-worded email. If you are redistributing my content and running advertising next to it, that’s based on my content, then I’m definitely going to be upset. You and your site can easily get around these nasty emails by just emailing me first because like I said, as long as you ask my permission first there’s a 99% chance that I’ll be friendly and let you do whatever you please.
I left this comment on an entry:
“I think thereâ€™s a big difference between making a siteâ€™s RSS feed available for personal usage (aka, feed reading) and a company republishing it in an effort to draw more readers to its site. Top Ten Sources effectively has no original content and uses other peopleâ€™s content to draw in readers. That, in my mind, is the crossing the line from personal use to copyright infringement.”
This sums up my thoughts pretty well, however Jim Moore has this to say as an argument:
“Get a life. HTML is a worldwide common open resource. That is its value. If you want to publish in a private proprietary way, make your site by subsciption, or write for a magazine.”
“RSS content is also part of a worldwide web commons. When you put it out, you presume if will be read, used, aggregated, etc. If you want to create a private feed, do so. If you want to feed only headlines and summaries, like the New York Times, do that. It is entirely your choice.”
If Jim’s argument holds water, then he’s saying that anything on the web is part of the worldwide web commons, and can therefore be read, used, aggregated, etc. What about an illustrator putting his or her work in their online portfolio? Can that just be used, sans-restrictions, any way that someone feels fit, say for a worldwide portfolio site that republishes copyrighted content without asking? My creative work is expressed in writing, their creative work is expressed in pixels, how is that different? Maybe he’s suggesting that all websites have registration locks on them if they want readers not to steal creative work. If so, then that is a world I’d rather not live in.