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Do You Need Permission to Use Feeds

I recently wrote about asking permission to include a blog in your blogroll and asking permission to link to website or blog content, and now I want to know if you need permission to publish a feed on your blog.

This is a complex issue. Like blogrolls, I think it is a compliment to include titles or excerpts from blogs on a site. I have some as part of my test-driving of the WordPress Widget sidebar accessories in my own sidebar here.

When it comes to replacing content with feeds, then I feel the blog becomes a splog, also known as a “spam blog”. Without permission, I think it is a form of content theft.

When it comes to using titles and excerpts in a feed, it is a great way to highlight related content to your readers, a form of expanded blogroll, and acts like a news feed, giving people up-to-date information and content.

Do you need to ask permission to use feeds on your blog that meet this qualification?

What do you think? Have you found anyone writing about this, offering opinion or legal advice? Would you want to be asked for permission to use your feeds? Do you think that these should be free for the taking? If so, then how much of your content is acceptable? In general, this could be seen as blockquoting and come under the fair use laws, so 100-200 words, give or take, would be acceptable, but what are your limits?

This is a bigger issue than just use on personal blogs. Feeds are being used by search engines, directories and aggregators, using full or partial content to develop their searchable database information. Their thought is that your feeds are like marketing tools, helping them direct more readers to your blog. Still, they are using your content as theirs. I’ve heard of a few law suits and investigations into looking at the fine line between content use and abuse on this subject, but I’ve heard no definitive results on them.

Tell us what you think about people using your feeds on their blogs. Should they ask permission? And if they shouldn’t, at which point should they?

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

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25 Comments

  1. Posted July 14, 2006 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I’ve had my feeds published online as a part of an aggregator service for blogs similar to mine before without my permission. In fact, my Creative Commons license explicitedly prohibited such unauthorized commercial use. In the end though, I determined that the trade-off of allowing the site to republish excerpts of my feed was worth the extra traffic it started sending me. It would have been nice to be asked first, though.

    In general, I think anyone should ask before republishing feeds or excerpts of feeds unless the original author expliciting grants permission to do so ahead of time.

  2. Posted July 14, 2006 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with Nick – a polite request for republishing work followed by express and clear permission would be appreciated, and I feel that it’s proper “Netiquette” when it comes to the use of another person’s work.

    As far as how much material should be republished – I suppose that might vary by the venue. Generally speaking, I am willing to allow a portion of my material to be republished with permission (and provided credit is given), which I have found acts as a great teaser and encourages interested readers to visit my site.

    Republishing any portion in its entirety feels a bit like the material loses its roots, and with it any ability (real or imagined) for the creator to monitor and dictate its subsequent uses.

  3. Posted July 16, 2006 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Feeds are an issue for professional writers. Anyone writing a piece owns the copyright. When you sell your work you can either sell on the copyright – retaining no further interest in the work (except on occaision royalties), or assign licenses for its use. The copyright to the work is more valuable naturally than a license to say, print the piece once in a magazine. So unless a writer has assigned the right to use the work to syndicate as well as publish on a website, copyright may be infringed as the work is in effect being republished without their permission.

  4. Posted July 18, 2006 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I recently ran into this problem when I started a site critical of a semi-popular political blogger. I published a feed of short excerpts from her posts (certainly not the entire articles! Maybe the first 30 words or so) because my blog was explictly challenging points she was making. Every excerpt published linked back to her.

    She took it poorly, but I still don’t see the problem. I think reusing content is implied in the publication of a feed – it’s called “syndication” after all. Now, I’m not saying it’s ok to have a site that just rehashed whole articles in full length, but I don’t see how publishing short excerpts of, say, the last 10 posts at a blog isn’t fair use. It’s really easy to change your site if you only want readers to see your site one way: don’t publish a feed!

    I think there’s a larger trend here of writing and ideas moving away from ownership and towards a common pool of information, for better or for worse. When you’re looking for info on the web, 99 times out of 100 it really doesn’t matter who’s saying it – what matters is the content of what they’re saying. I find it interesting that people still think they have any effective control over their online writing anymore, especially when everybody benefits from all this open and highly available information.

  5. Posted July 27, 2006 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Speaking of asking permission — Mind if I add you to my blogroll? :)

  6. Posted September 24, 2006 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Depending upon who you ask, RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” or “Rich Site Summary”. Regardless of what you call it, RSS is a way to automatically publish (syndicate) someone else’s content on your web site or reading them from 3rd part applications.

    That’s not the same as stealing someone else’s content.
    There is nothing illegal about using RSS feeds.
    In fact, the publisher of the content wants you to have it show up on your site and that’s why he or she makes it available as an RSS feed to begin with.
    However , he/she can decide which part can be read by feeds and how many amounts.

    Regards,

    Turkay

  7. Posted September 24, 2006 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    plus , who use the publisher’s feed and if he noticed on the page where he/she take this content ( content’s real owner) , how come it can be illegal ?

  8. Posted September 24, 2006 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Actually, there is an illegal aspect to using feeds. If you use full content without permission or in violation of the content owner’s feed and content usage policies, especially as a replacement for site content, and/or credit it as your own, you cross the lines into copyright infringement. If feeds are your total source of content, and you are using them combined with advertising, you are also crossing the line into splogs – spam blogs.

    Just because you can doesn’t mean it is legal.

  9. Posted September 24, 2006 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Dear VanFossen ,
    Actually, there is an illegal aspect to using feeds. If you use full content – that was your saying , we can use content how much publisher seted in her/his Feeds. not more.
    I was talking about using contents via publisher’s RSS Feeds.

  10. Posted September 24, 2006 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    and I wanna add that too , we can use contents how much publisher seted in his/her rss feed , and if we write where that post was taken orginally from…. I think there is nothing illegal there.
    1 – Publisher setted his/her own RSS , and we know the aim of the RSS.
    2 – When we use RSS Feeds , if we inform where this knowledge taken from..
    what is wrong with it ?

  11. Posted September 24, 2006 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Sorry for wasting your time , but we have a discusss about RSS Feeds in Turkey and someone give us your writtings as reference .. so I should ask to you and I should clear this subject. cause there are some other writtings by other Authors.But although you writtings are very clear about stealing contents, it was just not clear about using RSS feeds. in ths situation ; ( for example )
    if we use a RSS feed of a publisher and if we write the owner of the post in the below of content which was directly taken via RSS – is it illegal or not ?

  12. Posted September 24, 2006 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    What do you mean by “publisher”? Anyone who has a website or blog and puts content on it is a “publisher”. Do you mean something else?

    Reading feeds is fine. Replacing web content with feeds from other sites requires permission. That’s “republishing” feed content. To do that, if the website or blog has rules regarding their feed usages, you have to obey those rules. If you don’t, your blog or site could be shut down for violating international and national copyright laws.

    Reading feeds is fine. Showing titles or short excerpts of feeds on websites is usually okay. Republishing full content from feeds on websites without permission of the blog or website owner, author, and “publisher” may be illegal depending upon their copyright policy. Usually, it is.

    If you wrote the content, you own the copyright. There are rules. Whether you wish to obey them or not. If you write it and publish it, whether on paper or the Internet, in a podcast, feed, video, or tape recorder, you own it. It’s copyright protected, whether or not you want it to be. It’s yours to do with it what you want.

    No matter how the person gets the content, if they use it for commercial or “not permitted” usage, it violates copyright law. It’s the law. I create it, I own it, I have control over its use. You break the rules, you can be punished.

    This blog’s content is protected by the Creative Commons – Copyright Protected – Some Rights Reserved copyright policy which says that you can use my content in excerpt format, not the entire content, for non-profit sites only. You cannot use my content without my permission. This is the simple explanation.

    Every article I write is copyrighted, and designated such. Look above and you will see it. I own every word on this blog that I write. I decide what can happen with it. Read it in your feed reader, that’s fine. Put one of my articles on your blog and run ads around it, whether you get it by copy and paste or a feed, and you put ads on it, you are illegally using my content.

    There are many blogs who have an “open source” policy that their work has “no copyrights reserved”, it’s totally free for the taking and the use. Do what you want. Mine is not that way. You decide what you want for you.

    If you are going to use full content feeds on your site, GET PERMISSION. If not, your site could be shut down or blocked by search engines under DMCA or other international copyright law protection acts.

    Here is another issue. There is a lot of noise going around the web right now about a new “search engine” service called bitacle.org which is hosting tons of full feed content from thousands of sites without permission. They are trying to get around their illegal use of web content through feeds by saying “it’s an aggregator which makes this legal”. It’s not. It’s a fine line, but they didn’t get permission from everyone and they are hosting full content posts and not excerpts.

    While many are going after them properly and legally, there has been a huge backlash from bloggers around the world who are thinking revenge, a policy I totally disagree with. There are some creative people out there willing to do evil in the name of good, and it’s wrong.

    So think carefully about using anyone blog’s content as “your” content through feeds or otherwise. You could be the target of some serious nastiness. Spend more time creating your own unique content or using excerpts instead of taking other people’s stuff.

  13. Posted September 24, 2006 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Thank you very much Lorelle , may I publish your last answer in one site ? sure I will inform that it was taken from this site ?

  14. Posted September 24, 2006 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    by the way I meaned “Anyone who has a website or blog” :)
    but I got your point.
    thank you very much :)

  15. Posted September 24, 2006 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Yes, you may republish my answer if it helps clarify the position. And thank you for asking. Good luck.

  16. dargy
    Posted September 25, 2006 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    I published it at http://www.sanal.org , and I just noticed your noticed to remove it ?
    should I remove it ?
    Turkay

  17. Posted September 25, 2006 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Ah. The excerpts are fine. The full posts are not. As are the individual comments from the various posts. I recommend that if the comments are part of what you want to say that you put them in one post so the information is together and not separate. Like part of an article, keeping the information together.

    It is always better to point people to information rather than copy it. Just consider that a rule of thumb. ;-)

    Thanks.

  18. Posted September 25, 2006 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    sorry , I did try to get it via RSS , and I noticed there was 2 titles more.. I removed all and I just left your answer
    at http://www.sanal.org/?p=3652 and I informed that it is your answer and there is returning link to your site back.
    I think it is ok. Thank you very much , you are so nice.
    have a nice day

    Turkay

  19. Posted September 25, 2006 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I think the link I gave filtered by comment spam filter :))
    anyway , thank you very much , you were very clear and very nice.
    I left just your answer there and with information that it was written by you with a returning link back to your blog :)
    have a nice day

    Turkay

  20. Posted September 25, 2006 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    You are welcome and glad to help.

  21. Posted March 1, 2007 at 3:04 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle, First off thanks for great posts here and at Blog Herald. I enjoy them.

    I link to this blog and other useful sites at Big Blog Directory. I list several blogs and also blog there. Recently I started a feature called BBD News and began to experiment with Google Reader to spotlight some of my posts and posts from the blogs listed on my site. I am also thinking of featuring useful posts I find such as this one.

    My concern lies with the way Google Reader presents full feeds when you link to the shared feeds or click on “read more” in the blog widget.

    Part of me feels that linking to your shared feeds is not copyright infringement because you are only showing readers what is freely available on the web. At the same time I wonder because I can share any feed I wish. Technically they become paet of my site.

    So my question is: Do your think feed sharing violates copyright?

    It has the potential to be a great tool for blogs like mine. But… is it ethical?

  22. Posted March 1, 2007 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    I haven’t used Google Reader so I can’t comment on how it works. So you are showing a list of post titles brought through Google Reader to your blog? The ones I see on your blog under BBNews just highlight your blog posts. But you can still use this technique to link to other blog posts.

    As long as you are linking tot titles or even the first 200 or so words of a post (excerpt or summary) then that comes under fair use. You do not need permission unless the blog owner has a policy that excludes fair use. That’s really rare on the web where most people wouldn’t know a copyright rule if it bit them. ;-)

    Ethical? The real issue comes down to money and intent. If you intend to replace or abuse someone’s content saying it’s “yours” then it’s illegal. If you make money from other people’s content, without credit or permission, it’s illegal. If you want to feature post titles and excerpts to direct people to external sites, it’s fair use – no permission required.

    Thanks for worrying about this. I need to look into how Google Reader works so I can give you a better answer. A lot of what Google does, caching full posts and such, is a direct violation of copyright and they get away with it millions of times a second. Someone might be brave enough to take them on someday, but right now, everyone is begging to be included in their copyright violations. ;-)

  23. Posted March 1, 2007 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Sorry, I changed to the headline bit when I started thinking about this. My Reader page. I found this post and it’s interesting. I was considering a sidebar widget too. Your blog is in the reader on the site.

  24. Posted March 1, 2007 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the links. That helps me understand this better.

    Again, post titles, especially with blog links as credits (as shown), and even short excerpts come within Copyright Fair Use. They are okay and do not need permission UNLESS the content owner has specified otherwise. Few do, but if this bothers you, check with them and ask permission, but only for excerpts. Links don’t need permission.


7 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Do You Need Permission to Use Feeds

    I say yes, you do, every time. I can post a link to you, but automatically taking your content and rebroadcasting it? Rather pointless, I say. If I wanted somebody else’s content, I’d go there. Like, you know, when you click that link up there.

  2. [...] Do You Need Permission to Use Feeds [...]

  3. […] Do You Need Permission to Use Feeds […]

  4. […] Do You Need Permission to Use Feeds […]

  5. […] Do You Need Permission to Use Feeds […]

  6. […] let’s do the same experiment with a single post page. I randomly picked Do You Need Permission to Use Feeds, a fair example of the typical writing and links I use in an average article. There were 180 links […]

  7. […] Do You Need Permission to Use Feeds […]

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