Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Mounting a defence against the flogosphere

Any one that has read my writing in our firewalled ITJourno/MediaConnect sites knows that I’m fiercely passionate about writer’s copyright and that I’m appalled at the level of theft that takes place in the blogosphere, or what I called the “flogosphere” in my most recent post.

Am I’m not even talking about so-called splogs here. Even high-profile bloggers regularly paste massive slabs of an article into their own blogs, under the premise of providing context. I simply don’t get it? You simply provide a link and the reader can go read the original post themselves and that’s real context. I don’t ever see the need for more than two or three pars to be “quoted” in any blog/story/article. For me, once you step over that boundary, you’re plagiarising. You’re taking away the reason that somebody might link through to an article and thereby possible earn revenue.

This issue has got some traction over the last 24 hours, because big-time blogger, Om Malik, got the shits his content was being ripped off. Fact is, though, it’s happening all over the net, all-day, every-day. There’s simply stuff all respect for writer’s copyright on the Internet and there needs to be a fundamental change take place or it’s going to go on unabated and the tenuous economics that one day, might make blogging and independent media sustainable remain even further off in the distance.

I’d suggest bloggers all start by stating their terms and conditions of copyright re-use. How much content can be republished (eg: three paragraphs/1000 words/partial-RSS feed only) and under what terms and conditions that can occur (eg: proper attribution and link). And then I’d love to see some of the big media companies start dropping lawsuits on serial plagiarists. The content community needs a big stick of some variety or they will be powerless to enforce copyright. I’d love to see a global organisation that any content provider can become a member of which would be charged with enforcing copyright through the legal system. The software industry has one, so does the music industry.

Also, the blogosphere needs to get over it’s reticence for partial-RSS feeds. Let’s face it, if you publish a full RSS feed, you’re inviting people to rip off your content. Om Malik’s blog couldn’t have been ripped off as easily as it could were it not for the full RSS feed he offers. Robert Scoble last month wanted to “shoot someone” because they refused to publish full RSS feeds, reasoning that they were treating him like a “slave”. The subsequent discussion is well worth reading. I really don’t see how you can expect to run a commercial blog, if you value your content so little, that provide a mechanism for anyone to publish it, wherever the hell they want.


Filed under: Blogs, Content Copyright

17 Responses

  1. A few points:

    1. I’m reading your site via a full feed. If you start publishing summary feeds, I’ll stop reading your site, because it’s just too much of a hassle to click through. Full feeds are a great convenience and time-saver for the more tech-savvy, and thus more likely to have some influence in quarters you’re interested in influencing, of your audience.

    2. Treating your audience in a patronizing and suspicious manner, as if they’re all potential criminals, is not a successful public relations strategy. Here’s a hint: if the RIAA and MPAA are for it (any value of ‘it’ applies), you’re most likely better off opposing it. Urging lawsuits a la the RIAA and MPAA is likely a waste of time and money. The vast majority of your readership will respect whatever license you choose to publish under, and you can include tags for those things in your full feeds.

  2. Phil Sim says:

    Roland, I guess if this were a commercial website then I’d just have to bite the bullet and accept that I’m not going to get your patronage. But as your not clicking through to the site, you’re not adding value; ie revenue; to the site anyway. It’s probably a challenge for all bloggers/blog websites to provide more value than just the single piece to make it worthwhile to click through??

  3. You’re mistaken about feed-readers not adding value – you can track your RSS stats same as with clicks directly to the Web site; with FeedFlare (and like technologies soon to be available more generally), you can embed further tags/URLs/etc. into your feeds.

    Putting ads directly into feeds also works just fine.

  4. […] Full feeds are not attracting plagiarism to your blog, or allowing people to steal your content (like some people are saying). They’re empowering your readers to take your content anywhere and everywhere. Because above everything else, they love what you write. So, care about your users. Post full feeds. Please. […]

  5. […] On the issue of wholesale copying of blog posts. This comment sums it up nicely. […]

  6. There is really not that much pain differential for a splogger who steals content from a full RSS feed or from an HTML page. I should know, I’m doing the exact same thing with Tinfinger at the moment: full RSS feeds do make life easier for indexing scripts, but it’s no biggie to scrape the HTML.

  7. Rob Irwin says:

    Well, personally I try to not use a lot of text, ever, and just use links in my entries. When I DO use some text, it’s usually:

    (i) Because there is something REALLY pertinent that I want people to see, rather than clicking through and scanning to find it and,
    (ii) Some sites DO take their stories offline after some time. If I didn’t include at least SOME of the text, the link becomes completely useless, 3, 6, 12 months down the track.

  8. […] My most recent post, particularly the part about partial feeds attracted a bit of flack.We’re talking these comments, this blog, this blog, this blog and this blog. There may have been another spray at this blog but it was in Dutch, so I’m not quite sure whether it was a criticism or not. But considering, I’ve received SFA support for my point of view, I’m choosing to believe it was a vehement defence of my hypothesis. […]

  9. Doug says:

    As I pointed out to Scobelizer when he was whining that he wasn’t going to read sites that didn’t offer full feeds, “wasn’t that the real intention of RSS, a descriptive summary of the site’s content?” He promptly told me that I was wrong.

    The information I provided to him was:

    “RSS is defined as Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. RSS files are formed as XML files and are designed to provide content summaries of news, blogs, forums or website content.”

    “The feeds are generally simple headlines and brief descriptions if the user is interested they can click to see additional information.”

    “Initially rss feeds were intended for news headlines.”

    He never responded

  10. So what? TCP/IP wasn’t originally intended to act as a general-pupose communications protcol on a commercialized, generally-accessible Internet – and yet, here we are, heh.

    You could always ask The Whiner about it, and maybe get a sensible, non-self-serving answer. Also, note that RSS is not the only syndication format:


    Atom is an XML-based document format that describes lists of related
    information known as “feeds”. Feeds are composed of a number of
    items, known as “entries”, each with an extensible set of attached
    metadata. For example, each entry has a title.

    The primary use case that Atom addresses is the syndication of Web
    content such as weblogs and news headlines to Web sites as well as
    directly to user agents.


  11. Tristor says:

    I find it humorous that you would think blogs are important enough to even bother suing over. While I understand your point, it’s a bit ridiculous to think of some sort of MAFIAA of the blogosphere going around suing people who use too much of somebody else’s content. Think real hard about why people don’t like the *AA, and then ask yourself if that’s really what you want being lorded over bloggers.

  12. Phil Sim says:

    Tristor, I’m a media owner. Content is my company’s lifeblood. I pay people to create it. I make my money because people pay to read it. When someone plagiarises my company’s content (I’m not talking about this blog), they’re stealing my company’s most valuable asset. So would I like an organisation that I can subscribe to, if it helped protect that asset. Hell, yeah.

  13. […] Phil Sim writes that he thinks Robert Scoble was being unreasonable in his plight for full-text RSS feeds. This, in my opinion, is bulls**t. Phil is talking in most of his article on why taking content directly from articles is wrong. Frankly, as long as credit is given where credit is due, there is no reason why he should be complaining. Full RSS feeds, yes, make it convenient to copy information, however, you could also just set your aggregator to display the linked document instead of the RSS content. I don’t see how publishing a full RSS feed makes stealing copyrighted information any easier, considering you could also say the same for NNTP. Who says newsgroup posts aren’t copyrighted? Should NNTP servers only show half of the message? Why don’t we just make it illegal for web browsers to display entire webpages by default because it makes it easier to plagiarise information. […]

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  15. Fwd Credit says:

    Nice and simple article to read, instead of reading
    all that crap which is floating about on blogs.
    Must admit it’s saved in my favorites……

  16. […] Full feeds are not attracting plagiarism to your blog, or allowing people to steal your content (like some people are saying). They’re empowering your readers to take your content anywhere and everywhere. Because above […]

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