Written on January 13th, 2005 at 10:01 am by Darren Rowse

What are the Ethics of using RSS feeds?

Pro Blogging News 5 comments

I’ve been watching a site for a while now that both intrigues and concerns me - again because it is using the content of a blogs for its own personal gain - without asking permission from the publishers concerned. I’ve been wondering how to respond to this site and am yet to go to them directly to raise my concerns and would like your opinion here first.

The site is Gadgets99. They promote themselves as a source for gadget news and are basically a site that tracks a collection of technology blogs via their RSS feeds. They collate these feeds by category and by blog. It is a handy service I’ll admit (hence it intriguing me), however it does concern me also as the site is of a commercial nature and is using the content of bloggers to generate an income without their permission.

I know this because they track one of my blogs without having ever contacting me. They also use the RSS feeds of some other more prominent sites like Gizmodo, I4U and Bios Magazine.

The page dedicated to my blog is here. Now to be honest my feelings about being featured on this site are mixed - they obviously recognize that the site is full of useful information and they do acknowledge my site as their source and even give some links back to it (unlike others that I’ve seen who try to pass off stolen content as their own).

Actually if the summary page was where their service stopped I’d probably be pretty find with it - there are no ads on it and it is professionally produced. However they don’t stop here.

Instead around half of the links on the summary page link to my site but the other half have further pages for each post like this one which gives a short extract from my post and then a link to it - however the link is not prominent and is under some ads from Adsense.

The other concern that I have is that they have an RSS feed for my RSS feed. Huh? Check out their RSS feed page which lists the RSS feeds of 14 blogs. Well you’d think they were the site’s RSS feeds - but not they are actually Gadgets99 RSS feeds that link back to pages like this one again complete with ads and a small link back to their site.

As I said - I’m not completely opposed to the idea - to be honest I’m still getting my head around it. They are not stealing large quantities of content with no acknowledgment of source. They are providing some links back to my site. They are only using extracts. However they are using an approach that I worry about a little about and am seeing more and more sites using.

Where are the appropriate boundaries for using other people’s RSS feeds or content? How would you feel if they were using your RSS feed?

5 Responses to “What are the Ethics of using RSS feeds?”

  • Business is business, license is license, jail is jail.
    If they break your license for business, send them to jail.
    The concept of gadgets99.com is silly, it does the job of an aggregator without allowing its control !

  • I forgot to say that like skweezer.com they are what I call blog-looters.

  • I’m of the “my posts want to be free” school. My blog is covered under a Creative Commons license that offers pre-approval to anyone to use its content in a non-commercial way if attributed. If asked, my definition of what is non-commercial is rather broad. Certainly, I don’t mind if anyone takes what I’ve blogged and displays it on a page carrying Google ads. Go ahead. If they generate enough traffic to make money off of AdSense, then, heck, the exposure is worth it to me.

    I think my only limitation to reuse would be for the usage of my posts in a repackaged-offline commercial way, although I’d probably be generous on that front, also…I’d just want to grant permission.

    I live and work in a world of copyrighted content. However, when I blog, I do so for reasons (or maybe it’s some crazed compulsion) that are almost counter to anything (like copyright hang-ups) that would limit the distribution of what I have to say. It’s the blogosphere. It’s a conversation. If I start saying it’s unethical for someone to (in the case you bring up) merely point to my posts in the context of aggregated headlines from similar blog, or extract a sentence and point to it, then, what’s next? Not letting Google News point to me (they don’t anyway? Technorati?

    And what do I gain by forbiding such aggrevators to highlight my posts? I think, in terms of “value,” the additional inbound links (and, one would hope, click throughs) to you are probably a good trade-off for the value of your headlines. If you were paying for an AdSense click through, what would you have to pay?

    Just my thoughts. Probably, worth very little on a Sunday afternoon.

  • freudian slip: “aggrevators” - aggregators

  • Hi Darren,

    We’re happy to see that you have noticed our page. First, I’d like to apologize if our usage of your RSS-feed has offended you. As many with us we work under the assumption that RSS-feeds are “semi-free”. We both agree and understand your concern that they might not be.

    We would like you to know that if you do not wish to be included as one of the sources to Gadgets99 we will immediately remove you. Our main goal is to give the user a broader view of the gadget-scene and provide them with a “above” view of the information flow.

    It’s not happy news to be compared to sites like the above skweezer.com or other “spam”-like sites. We have worked hard to create a professional look and feel without the spam. There is a niche and need for this type of service, its ten years old and called intelligent agent.

    Please dont hesitate to contact me if you have further questions or inqueries about our service.

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