Some People Just don’t Understand RSS

Last night I happened across a post by Martin Schwimmer entitled “Why I Have Asked Bloglines To Remove My Site From Its ‘Service’“. It generally accepted that BlogLines is by far the number one news aggregator so I had to go read that post. Here’s Martin’s post (emphasis is mine):

This website is published under a Creative Commons license that allows for non-commercial use, provided there is attribution. Commercial use and derivative works are prohibited.

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. In response to my inquiry to Blogline’s CEO as to whether they sell advertising, he indicated that they ‘are not currently running advertising.’ Nevertheless, the Blogline’s home page currently is soliciting ‘targeted advertisements.’ I would also assume that Blogline is accumulating commercially-useful mailing lists (its privacy policy appears to allow it to sell information). The privacy policy also has a provision entitled ‘mergers and acquisitions’ clearly allowing it to sell its lists.

Thus, in my view, Bloglines’ reproduction of my site is a commercial derivative work. Bloglines has agreed to remove my site from its service and I thank it in advance for its cooperation.

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.

For the 190 of you who subscribe to this site through Bloglines, I apologize for any inconvenience, but I think that you will still find my site easily accessible, here.

If anyone desires the convenience of being notified only when this blog (or most any blog) is updated, then I recommend subscribing to one of the many RSS programs available.

Those of you who are familiar with syndication will understand why Martin was quickly reamed across the blogosphere. People rightly pointed out that other aggregators display ads, including “My Yahoo!”. So to single out BlogLines, which isn’t even showing ads yet, and is very likely his biggest pool of RSS readers doesn’t make much sense.

The part that really gets me is when he talks about BlogLines “reproducing his site” and “Stripping out his contact info”, yet he tells people to use (other) newsreaders. Martin fails to realize that newsreaders only display what’s in your feed. So if Martin didn’t put his contact info inside his feed it won’t display in any of the newsreaders. It seems to me that Martin would have been better off changing his feed to:

  1. Only display excerpts/summaries of his posts.
  2. Include his contact information on every post.

His other option is to turn off his RSS feeds.

Martin does raise an interesting issue about fair use of feeds under Creative Commons licenses. I won’t pretend to be able to describe what constitutes fair use but it seems to me that Bloglines isn’t doing anything different than any other aggregator.

Interestingly enough, another attorney, Dennis Kennedy, also has issues with Bloglines. I’m beginning to share Scoble’s fear that RSS may soon come under legal attack.

P.S. If Martin is so concerned about others making money off of his content he should ask the search engines not to index his site. That’s where he really needs to be concerned about ads being wrapped around his content!