Skip

Plagiarism - or web 2.0 in action?
January 19, 2006 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Top Ten Sources takes posts from RSS feeds and aggregates them in full for the public to see. Some take offence; some say it goes beyond expected usage; some call it plagiarism - others say it's legal, that detractors should get a life or are even thinking about investing. Some people don't appear to want their RSS feeds to be aggregated at all. Will this discussion set blogging policy for the future? Or will it block the web 2.0 pipe?
posted by bwerdmuller (50 comments total)

 
As long as their "...editors search Web 2.0 ..." it's all good.
posted by fixedgear at 8:43 AM on January 19, 2006


Now taking bets: how long will it take for this argument to extend ad-absurdium into personal use?

"What if someone publishes a 'playlist' of RSS feeds? Isn't that the same thing? Should congress block all syndication? Should I sue everyone who reads my fully-syndicated content? Where does the RIAA come into all this? Are my rights being dismantled? Nazi scum!"
posted by ThusSpakeZarathustra at 9:08 AM on January 19, 2006


Their take on Geekstars: "I say punk because these young 'uns don’t like the old rules and love open source and code on the fly and hate anything that stinks of artifice or exclusivity. In fact, they’d never put themselves in a grouping like this and I won't be able to avoid the flack."

Their page resembles one of those fake portal sites you hit when you type in a URL incorrectly. And if Web 2.0 gets their pipes blocked, here's the solution
posted by craniac at 9:09 AM on January 19, 2006


If people don't want their stories syndicated then maybe they shouldn't syndicate them with the really simple syndication system.

Like, duh.
posted by delmoi at 9:10 AM on January 19, 2006


Firefox also takes webpages and makes them visible.
posted by srboisvert at 9:11 AM on January 19, 2006


There are a number of sites that I've found that are literally just mirrors of my blog (which has an RSS feed), sometimes without any linkback or credit to the original.

The point of syndication is to allow readers to more conveniently access your site, not to allow others to take your content and republish it with their own ads on it.
posted by glider at 9:13 AM on January 19, 2006


If people don't want their stories syndicated then maybe they shouldn't syndicate them with the really simple syndication system.

delmoi: Exactly. More than anything else this seems to be people jumping on the RSS bandwagon without realising what RSS is actually for.

That said, it opens up a can of worms for weblog providers, many of whom - LiveJournal is a big example, and I assume Blogspot and Wordpress.com - provide feeds for users without asking if they want them. It does imply that perhaps there should be some kind of toggle, with a big button and an idiot-friendly label that shouts out: "do you want to syndicate your content to other web services?"

And also, probably, some kind of copyright / CC permissions tag in the RSS spec.
posted by bwerdmuller at 9:17 AM on January 19, 2006


More than anything else this seems to be people jumping on the RSS bandwagon without realising what RSS is actually for.

I don't believe the purpose of RSS is to allow corporations to take content written by others, collect it in a single place and repost it without credit or linkback, post for-profit ads on it, etc... I believe the purpose of RSS is to allow readers and writers to communicate more effectively.

This use/abuse of RSS will have the exact opposite effect because it drives traffic (and profit, when it's a blog with ads) away from the source material... Especially since in the long run the sites posting combined feeds should be able to dominate the search engine results.
posted by glider at 9:22 AM on January 19, 2006


(BTW, sorry if I read your post in reverse)
posted by glider at 9:22 AM on January 19, 2006


I definitely don't want people aggregating the RSS feed on my blog.

Here is a post about it:

"By all means, use the Atom feed or a Bloglines account. You can even read it, along with the others I read, from my Bloglines account. Just do not re-post what is on this site wholesale somewhere else on the internet. I reserve the right to change what is written here when necessary and do not want large amounts of content on other servers. Likewise, it really diminishes the value of the time I put into building the site in this way to have it regurgitated in full elsewhere."
posted by sindark at 9:28 AM on January 19, 2006


I believe the purpose of RSS is to allow readers and writers to communicate more effectively.

For sure, and usage without credit or linkback is categorically wrong, and because the ownership of the feed goes to its author, they should be able to remove it from any aggregator (by force - i.e. .htaccess - if required). But I don't see why it's wrong to use content placed in a format designed for sharing it.
posted by bwerdmuller at 9:28 AM on January 19, 2006


The point of syndication is ... not to allow others to take your content and republish it with their own ads on it.
Perhaps you think that the point of RSS should not be this... But that is, in fact, the whole idea behind syndication as a concept. Television networks and newspapers, say?

What we need are ways to link micropayments to these kinds of things. And a pony.
posted by verb at 9:30 AM on January 19, 2006


(I'm slightly playing devil's advocate here - I can see that it's undesirable and a lazy verging on irresponsible business model. But I think different people expect different things about RSS, and possibly the model or the format might have to change to accommodate.)
posted by bwerdmuller at 9:32 AM on January 19, 2006


I like http://diggdot.us/ for this reason, it lists the source, and I can click the source and comment on the refering site. I still visit the refering site, so this type of RSS collector feeds back to the original site. Top10 doesnt make it clear that all content is linked. Very bad taste, but not illegal, but they could be sued in civil court. :)
posted by IronWolve at 9:33 AM on January 19, 2006


I think I'm missing something here. I see why people are complaining about Top Ten Sources -- they're taking RSS feeds and republishing them on a completely separate Web page. What I don't see is why Top Ten Sources is getting the flak and sites like Bloglines and Livejournal aren't? Is it because you have to subscribe to feeds in Bloglines and Livejournal, but Top Ten picks the feeds for you? Is it because Top Ten has ads and Livejournal and Bloglines don't?

It seems to me that what we have here is a misunderstanding. When I put up RSS feeds, I knew that syndication means republishing. I knew that I wouldn't be controlling where my material ended up, and that I wouldn't know how much readership it was getting. Other people apparently thought that it was just a way of letting people read their site without the formatting.

I don't want to say that the other people were wrong, but it does seem like anyone publishing an RSS feed for the past couple years has been publishing it into a Web where sites like the aforementioned Livejournal and Bloglines are already republishing it, and it seems disingenious to join a potluck then ask why everyone's just coming up and eating your casserole without even asking.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 9:34 AM on January 19, 2006


...expect different things from RSS, that should be. And micropayments! Possibly. Some way to specify what's acceptable use, anyway.
posted by bwerdmuller at 9:34 AM on January 19, 2006


While I don't think my own writings are compelling enough for sites like these to hoover up my RSS feed, I wouldn't like it if they did. Yes, I know exactly what RSS was originally intended for, but what these sites are doing is akin to the old "ad framing" problem.

Fortunately, if your content is being ripped off, there are solutions:
1. Publish an excerpt-only feed.
2. Block access to your feed by whatever agent these parasitic sites are using.

Of course, this may mean you'll have lower readership overall. If you're sufficiently offended that someone else is monetizing your writing, that may be a fair tradeoff.
posted by adamrice at 9:37 AM on January 19, 2006


The idea that RSS is for "syndication," in the broad sense of the word, begs the question. Just because I, or rather, my blogging software, provides a technical tool for syndicating content doesn't mean that I have legally authorized you to use that tool without respecting my copyright. As bwerdmuller suggests, there needs to be better inclusion of licensing information in the various feed specs. We also need better tools for controlling access to feeds. If I own my own domain, I can control access through .htaccess or otherwise, but I can't do that on blogspot or livejournal. Blogging software providers need to address that deficiency.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:39 AM on January 19, 2006


Is the difference that normal RSS usage just shows a title, summary, and a link to the full article while these guys use the link to extract the full article and display it on their own site? That seems like a big difference, both technically and philosophically.

But hey, Web 2.0 is so last week. I'm on like Web 4.5 I think - the CVS tag is WEB-4_5_2-ER1-DEV. Check out the repository and see what you think.
posted by freebird at 9:41 AM on January 19, 2006


What if we apply bwedmuller's logic to HTML in addition to RSS? HTML/RSS is meant to be copied (that's how it gets to your browser/aggregator, after all), so anyone who doesn't like their websites/feeds being copied wholesale for others' profit shouldn't publish in HTML/RSS.

This is why we have robots.txt.
posted by scottreynen at 9:45 AM on January 19, 2006


A lot of people are saying "Hey, just because I use RSS doesn't mean that you don't have to respect my copyright." Which, near as I can tell, is legally true. But there seem to be widely differing opinons on what "respect my copyright" means. Some people don't want you to read the RSS feed without a personal reader, some are okay with a subscription aggregator but not an edited aggregator, some are okay as long as you give credit, some are okay as long as you don't attach ads, so on and so forth.

This can't be boiled down to an argument between people who respect copyright and people who don't. This is an argument among a widely disparate group of people many of whom seem feel that respecting copyright means reading their minds to find out what rights they're willing to give up and which ones they want to retain.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 9:47 AM on January 19, 2006


"Information wants to be free."
posted by mischief at 9:48 AM on January 19, 2006


This is an argument among a widely disparate group of people many of whom seem feel that respecting copyright means reading their minds to find out what rights they're willing to give up and which ones they want to retain.

Which is why several of us suggested that the spec needs to include that information.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:50 AM on January 19, 2006


don't most people publish stuff to the internet with the hope that it is consummed? i can understand full scale plagarism being a problem, but this isn't plagarism. the sources are clearly cited and linked. syndication means that your stuff is going to show up all over the place. and some of those places have ads. that's the idea. if you don't want that to happen, password-protect your feeds.
posted by panoptican at 9:51 AM on January 19, 2006


bwerdmuller: "...some kind of copyright / CC permissions tag in the RSS spec."

Bingo. I've found my content reproduced via RSS or Atom, with the addition of adverts, quite a few times and in every case, a polite email pointing the copycat to the relevant CC license has done the trick.

Perhaps surprisingly, every time I've caught folk nicking my stuff, they were happy to remove my feed or add credit/a link back to my site, and apologised, which leads me to believe that some people, at least, would honour a license tag in RSS or Atom.
posted by jack_mo at 9:58 AM on January 19, 2006


Regarding the last article:

Web 2.0 is just a way to lump the bad innovations in with the good and sell it all. If the 90's have taught us anything, it's that the "household" doesn't want refrigerators with internet access, or wireless toasters. The average joe doesn't want to have to sift through even more web garbage (comment spam, post spam, overtly offensive content, radical opinion) looking for information. Mashups and aggregators allow you to be somewhat picky about the source of your information, but most people don't have the time to hand pick their feeds. When the household gets RSS, it's going to be the same easy-to get easy-to-digest mass media information flowing through a different 'pipe'. I don't want to be cynical, but to me, the words 'Web 2.0' are degrading to the few new great innovative ideas on the internet, lumping them in with the latest fashion. Dirty dirty words.
posted by potch at 10:04 AM on January 19, 2006


If you don't want your site syndicated, don't syndicate it. Seems pretty simple to me. This is the WHOLE POINT of RSS and Atom.

You can copyright your content all you want, but if you include a link on your site that says 'syndicate me' and 'add me to your feed' that seems like a pretty clear license to syndicate you.
posted by empath at 10:06 AM on January 19, 2006


Agreed, panoptican. I guess I just don't understand what the problem is. As long as I get credit and a link, I'd be thrilled to be syndicated on another site.
posted by brundlefly at 10:07 AM on January 19, 2006


The point of syndication is to allow readers to more conveniently access your site, not to allow others to take your content and republish it with their own ads on it.

No, the entire point of syndication is to let others republish your work with their own ads, at least in the newspaper world (the AP, syndicated columnists, etc). Normally that's paid for. If that's not what you want then you shouldn't use RSS. RSS has no DRM, in other words. Maybe the protocol should be enhanced with some sort of system demarcate appropriate uses.
posted by delmoi at 10:09 AM on January 19, 2006


No one has ever made the case that it's too onerous for companies that wish to republish articles in their entirety to simply ask permission before doing so. Figuring out the permission problem - which is as much a matter of courtesy as it is of copyright - should be as prominent an issue in the business model as any technical or promotion or cashflow issues.

So - why NOT simply ask?

I don't think "because it's hard" is a reasonable answer.
posted by mikel at 10:10 AM on January 19, 2006


The permission is implied by the existence of the feed.
posted by mischief at 10:13 AM on January 19, 2006


The permission is implied by the existence of the feed.

The existence of the feed implies the permission to READ, not to republish, let alone RE-SELL. And the latter is important to consider, because these are for-profit ventures driven by advertising dollars... It's just a way for them to generate a high-traffic content site without having to spend money generating the content.
posted by glider at 10:16 AM on January 19, 2006


Flashback six years: Ohmygod! Whatever will we do about Moreover? Somebody should sure shake that Nick Denton fellow, and hard.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:16 AM on January 19, 2006


MetaFilter: It's just a way for them to generate a high-traffic content site without having to spend money generating the content.
posted by mischief at 10:18 AM on January 19, 2006


A lot of people are saying "Hey, just because I use RSS doesn't mean that you don't have to respect my copyright." Which, near as I can tell, is legally true. But there seem to be widely differing opinons on what "respect my copyright" means. Some people don't want you to read the RSS feed without a personal reader, some are okay with a subscription aggregator but not an edited aggregator, some are okay as long as you give credit, some are okay as long as you don't attach ads, so on and so forth.

This can't be boiled down to an argument between people who respect copyright and people who don't. This is an argument among a widely disparate group of people many of whom seem feel that respecting


Which is exactly why, if you're going to use an automated syndication system, you should also have an automated system that tells people what 'rights' you grant them. In the absence of any discoverable information the only obvious default options are either full rights, or no rights. Since no rights obviously isn't intended, it's full rights until a more granular system can be designed. A simple tag like "reader-only, add-free, blablabla" you know what I mean.
posted by delmoi at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2006


The existence of the feed implies the permission to READ, not to republish, let alone RE-SELL


{o,o}
|)__)
-"-"-
O RLY?

posted by delmoi at 10:23 AM on January 19, 2006


Delmoi, the use of the term syndication is more of a metaphor for something that was recognizable than a definition of what was acceptible or not.

So it's your opinion that this is the point of offering RSS feeds, but do you have any evidence to support this?

What if I only offer Atom feeds, which are not described as "Syndication" anywhere and are not just about that? Same thing?

I provide my feeds as an alternate means for individuals to read what I publish, which means re-displaying the information in a feed reader or whatever. People have the same rights to read via that format as they do via a web browser. But just as publishing on the web doesn't imply permission to scrape a site and re-publish, nor does RSS or other feed protocols.

The fact that you believe that gives people permission to do so doesn't make it so.
posted by mikel at 10:49 AM on January 19, 2006


I don't know why this discussion always turns into the same argument about sites that use content "without credit or linkback".

Top 10 Sources does give credit and a link back, and as far as I can tell they only publish excerpts.
posted by mmoncur at 10:51 AM on January 19, 2006


They publish whatever is in the feed, full or excerpt.

Let me clarify that I don't think it's necessarily true that there is a copyright problem, just that there might be and it's worthwhile to consider the issue completely.

As well, I think in a commercial context there is a responsibility beyond the legalities. Common courtesy dictates giving people a heads-up before sucking up their material and getting permission. What's the point in even attempting a business like that without doing everything you can to ensure goodwill among your content providers?

Also note that they changed the site yesterday to a CC license because it was pointed out that they were republishing material licensed under share-alike licenses but exerting copyright on that material. I think it's important to note that this company has been reasonably responsive to challenges they have had.
posted by mikel at 10:56 AM on January 19, 2006


I haven't seen any evidence that the presence of a RSS feed nullifies copyright, any more than posting your content on your own page nullifies your copyright, even though it can be easily reproduced (and how many people simply steal content from Web pages, claiming that there is no copyright on the Internet?)

My sites all have a clear CC license that says my work may be republished, but not for commercial purposes, and must credit me. This also automatically goes out with my RSS feed, thanks to Feedburner.

Even without that, copyright law is pretty specific in this country. You have the right to control how your work is copied. These people are republishing</i< someone else's work, without credit or permission, for money. Saying that the work's creator is responsible for this because they provise an RSS feed is preposterous.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:05 AM on January 19, 2006


Uh oh. Tag OFF
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:05 AM on January 19, 2006


The point is not, 'if you don't want to be syndicated, don't syndicate.' Rather, it should be, if you don't want your full feed to be used by others, then don't provide a full feed, provide headlines-only feed, or an excerpt feed. Or, if you have a need to still reap your own ad revenue from your full feed, place ads in the full feed.

Or, make a very specific comment: "the full feed rss of example.com is available only for non-commercial use."
posted by cell divide at 11:09 AM on January 19, 2006


I wonder if Top Ten Sources reprints ads that appear in feeds? If they strip them out, I think that would be a problem. If they choose not to include such feeds, their premise ("the best ten sources on a subject") is clearly untrue and the whole product loses credibility.
posted by mikel at 11:37 AM on January 19, 2006


I first found Metafilter through Yahoo. I assume there are other aggregators who link to Metafilter. The web needs many more second level aggregators like Metafilter than now exist. Yahoo and Google are just not capable of putting together intelligent multi-site links like one sees in Metafilter. Perhaps sites like Top 10 can help sluice all the dirt so that Metafilter can find more nuggets.
posted by notmtwain at 11:53 AM on January 19, 2006


Eh, welcome to the internet. There's no reason this shouldn't be done. It's unpolite, perhaps, but people are unpolite.

The point is not, 'if you don't want to be syndicated, don't syndicate.' Rather, it should be, if you don't want your full feed to be used by others, then don't provide a full feed, provide headlines-only feed, or an excerpt feed. Or, if you have a need to still reap your own ad revenue from your full feed, place ads in the full feed.

This isn't the point. Even if you don't provide a full feed, what's to stop me from manually copying and pasting all your content from your site to my site? The point is, once you post something on the net it is no longer in your control. It's out there and anybody can come along and do whatever the hell they want with it. If you don't want your content indexed, aggregated, remixed, plagarised and more then don't put anything out there. Write a book.

Anyways, it's good to know that it didn't take much for all the bloggers and syndication fans to invoke the spectre of copyright law.
posted by nixerman at 12:18 PM on January 19, 2006


So you're suggesting that there should be no more copyright of any kind for anyone in any medium? Because just as I can copy and paste from a website I can also transcribe or scan and OCR a book.

Sorry nixerman but that doesn't really have much to do with the issue at hand.
posted by mikel at 12:50 PM on January 19, 2006


- The point of syndication is to allow readers to more conveniently access your site, not to allow others to take your content and republish it with their own ads on it.

- But just as publishing on the web doesn't imply permission to scrape a site and re-publish, nor does RSS or other feed protocols.


Both of these comments are precisely wrong. Syndication technology in general, and RSS specifically, were developed for the exact purpose of republishing content across (and aggregating content from) multiple sites. You could look it up.

In the absence of any more-restrictive terms of service, publishing a syndication feed absolutely implies permission to republish -- in exactly the same way that putting up a unsecured webpage implies permission to retrieve that page with a browser.
posted by jjg at 3:20 PM on January 19, 2006


Yeah, you're right that that is what they were developed for, among other things, but I think that practice and common usage have led to people having different expectations. That's why I think it's not precisely a copyright issue necessarily, but an issue of keeping the people who provide the information that you publish as happy as possible.

I also question whether Top Ten Sources would happily allow you and I to put up a site and simply re-publish the feeds they provide without change but with our own ads. Which would be totally appropriate to do if we're sticking with the definition of RSS based on one of the needs it was developed to meet.
posted by mikel at 5:13 PM on January 19, 2006


This is not as good as this. My2c.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:33 PM on January 19, 2006


I want my web 1.0 back... you know, like, when all information was meant to be free and shared.

aaaah, good times.
posted by twistedonion at 2:33 AM on January 20, 2006


« Older And awaaaayyyy we go...   |   Jesus, his hooker, and her pimp Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post