Biting The Hand The Feeds You

June 19, 2008

The subject of “feed republishing” pops up from time to time, so here are my thoughts on the matter.

By publishing a full RSS feed, all us bloggers generously offer up all our content for reading. But even those who say “steal my content” expect something in return – if not ad revenue, it’s traffic, or increased reputation.

The shift suggested is content creators moving away from money as compensation and being satisfied with the non-monetary forms of compensation.

Sounds great in theory, but I think that’s a rather large mental change to expect of content creators. It’s one thing to get the user-generated content folks to shift their thinking – the hobby bloggers and the admitted non-professionals (like myself) – who don’t think their content is worth much anyway – but there’s a whole world of copyright holders who are trying to start businesses or have valuable content (imagine that) who will never be satisfied with non-monetary forms of compensation.

Various businesses have come along and tried to break down copyright with little success. Napster suggested music should be free, hoping music companies would change their views on their rights to compensation for music. Napster failed. YouTube faced the wrath of video rights holders, but even after being bought by Google, hasn’t been able to loosen the shackles of copyright. Today, we’re still faced with paying for content or enduring ads – all with the express approval of the rights holders.

But in no way does this mean a viable business can’t be created. Apple absolutely had to negotiate rights with the labels before it unleashed the iTunes Music Store. Harder, but necessary, and now there are 5 billion songs sold. They would have gained zero advantage had they ignored copyright. They chose to offer up quality content that users would pay to download, and that quality content came with a price. They decided it wasn’t worth biting the hands that feed them.

Other possible ways to dance around copyright come to mind:

Truth be told, I wish we lived in a world where content creators created awesome stuff out of generosity and with no expectation of compensation of any kind, and all the entertainment I consume was free. But that’s not reality. As demonstrated by Apple and others, a compromise can be found between users, content creators, and the business providing the innovation. The price just has to be right to dissuade people from piracy.

And here’s where I stand in regards to this blog:


  1. Ross says:

    As someone who makes a living publishing content, I honestly don't care much what people do with it. I publish under the loosely defined “copyleft” license. You can take my content, change it around/alter it, republish it exactly as it is – whatever the hell you want. But you have to publish THAT content under the copyleft license too. If it's web based I ask for a no-nofollow link back to the original, but even then I don't really bother to check.

    People who scrape every single post I write tend to frustrate me, as I consider that just a lazy way to try and make a buck. But most of those splogs are here today gone tomorrow, as they're always scrapping from people who get really bent out of shape about it, and are forced down.

  2. webomatica says:

    Copyleft – sounds interesting – does that mean “leftist”? I as well have
    resigned myself to passive tolerance of splogs – it irks me but I have yet
    to act by tracking down the splogger or contacting their advertisers.
    But my passive acceptance doesn't mean I advocate the practice.

  3. sigrandonk says:

    when we publish our feed, there is a chance for other people to republish on their blog without give a link back to us but thats is the risk and we cant avoid it.

  4. “even those who say “steal my content” expect something in return – if not ad revenue, it’s traffic, or increased reputation.”

    Eh, some just want to spread a message.