Why I Have Asked Bloglines To Remove My Site From Its 'Service'
Lawyer gets Shirty over Bloglines
It was brought to my attention that a website named Bloglines was reproducing the Trademark Blog, surrounding it with its own frame, stripping the page of my contact info. It identifies itself as a news aggregator. It is not authorized to reproduce my content nor to change the appearance of my pages, which it does.
I create content in part to promote my law firm, which I cannot do effectively if my contact info is removed. I do not participate in targeted advertising programs because the majority of advertisers that target the keyword 'trademark' are competitors. I cannot prevent such advertising when my page is reproduced and 'framed' by a third party.
Martins site was (it does not say this now) licensed under the Creative Commons which essentially means that you can quote from it or copy the posts for non commercial use provided attribution is given.
This to me seems like a fair point. Not one I'd feel necessary to follow or support but a fair point nonetheless. Russ Beattie disagrees:
So yeah, I think this guy Martin Schwimmer is a anal-retentive pinhead
Martin's whole tone about the service pissed me off. He talked about it like it was some fly-by-night spam operation copying his content for devious commercial purposes. Moron. The question is does he think Google's cached copy of his website is illegal as well? Has he sent a complaining email to them? What about My Yahoo's RSS aggregator? Is Martin going to take on Yahoo next?
Though he does go on to make a larger point:
Since then I've come to the conclusion that since commercial search engines and aggregators don't charge for the content they serve, they should not be subject to non-commercial licenses or general copyright infringement. I think this is the border of fair use. They make money through the value they add to the content, not the content itself. The difference is subtle but important. That said, Creative Commons should make it *very* clear that advertising around the non-commercial marked content is against their license if they think so, or no if not. I don't think they've made it clear, please correct me if I'm wrong.
Thanks for pointing that out Russell.
Well Russ, we had that discussion right here a few months back and its one that's been debated hotly in the Search community for years. If you can manage to get past the "it's not illegal because i find it useful" argument that you appear to be taking (and many many more do aswell) it's an interesting legal question.
Do Search Engines and RSS Aggregators have the right to use your content?
Martin responded to widespread knee-jerk criticism yesterday. Among other things, he had this to say:
Creating the free content for advertisements that Bloglines will sell to other trademark law firms. This isn't baseless conjecture - read this discusssion of Bloglines' plans for advertising keyed to the content of blogs. At least with Google's contextual ad program, the blog creator gets some money.
Bloglines is also accumulating and possibly selling a list of my subscribers without so much as a hello, how are you, may we do this? My decision to remove my site, viewed as rash by some, was triggered as much as what I viewed as the disingenuous nature of the response I received from Blogline when I wrote them.
Knee Jerk Reactions to Schwimmers Move
As is always the case when this debate comes up, a number of knee jerk reactions are published, some quite heated. In my opinion, some of the folks here need to look at this again after going for a brisk walk and a cold shower. Schwimmer has an excellent point. Not necessarily a realistic one, a popular one or one that will benefit all of mankind, but a good point nonetheless.
The real trick here is: if you don't want your full posts reprinted somewhere else, don't put them into RSS. That's one reason most commercial sites don't include full content in their feeds.
To which Schwimmer asked if, on that basis, could he record NBC's VHF broadcasts and redistribute them with their ads stripped out and his own put in their place?
Talking about not having contact info provided in aggregated feeds staci at paidcontent said:
A better solution -- since he's advertising his firm -- would be to insert an info line in every post that comes through the feed.
This would be a reasonable idea as a workaround but again fails to address the point Schwimmer is making: Is it Legal? It really isnt about "having to live with it becuase everyone else finds it useful", it's a legal question that has some genuine merit in it's concerns - IMO it should not be the responsibility of the publisher to make workarounds, publish robots.txt exclusion files or initiate mod_rewrite redirects for bots that he does not want indexing/copying content - it's the aggregators and search engines responsibility to address a problem that if not now, at some very near point in the future will bite them in the arse in a big way.
For what it's worth, Threadwatch actually add a small navigation to the bottom of each syndicated post - and that could easily contain contact info also, my point is though, that that is not the point.
So where do Publishers and Aggregators/Engines Stand?
Im not sure that anyone really has the definitive answer to this, when we disussed it a few months back the general feeling was that it would take a fairly high profile case to be tested in a US court to make a ripple wide enough to have any real bearing on the whole issue of copied content for commercial use. Googe do it for a living, so do bloglines (they're biz model is rumoured to start this summer) and so do any number of other search engines, aggregators and smaller sites.
What is clear to me is that getting all hot and bothered because someone dares bring it up for debate on the general basis of "we like it, so it's okay" is not a good argument. In fact, some of the people linked above, and included in the list below really should take a long look at their views - to call some of them knee jerk reactions is to give them far too much credit.
List of Sites Discussing Schwimmer vs Bloglines
- Scoble: Schwimmer pulls out of Bloglines (and Scobleizer)
- Christopher Baus: Schwimmer proxy
- Shelly Powers: Take your hands off the Tech and back away slowly
- Phil Haacked: A Simple Solution To Schwimmer's Issue With Bloglines
- James Robertson: Well, duh
- Karsten Schneider: RSS Equivalent of robots.txt? (Don’t Lock Out Aggregators)
- Staci @ Paidcontent: How to control your rss feeds
- Neill Kennedy: Feed aggregators and robot exlcusion
- Neal Turner: Never trust attorneys
- Devin Reams: Trademark Blog Removed From Bloglines
- Alpha Geek: This guy seems very confused
- Derek Slater: RSS, Blogging, & Copyright Questions, Continued
- Ed Bott: What happens when you don't understand technology
- Thomas Hawk: And the Blithering Idiot of the Day Award Goes to... Martin Schwimmer
- Denise Howell: RSS Aggravation
- Russell Beattie: Online Aggregators and Search Engines: Copyright Thieves?
- Brendon Wilson: A Question Of Copyright
If you want just the juicey quotes then scobles post has the same links (thanks robert) but with nice quotes from each piece.
So, tell us what you think...
Well, that's enough from me other than to say that personally im very happy to have bloglines make a few pennies out of distributing my content and making it easy for people to find. Likewise with Google/Yahoo and others. However, i'll just restate one last time that "we like it! so it's okay!" is NOT a grown up argument - im really looking forward to a big court case on this at some point, we all know it'll happen and it'll be very interesting!