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Does A RSS Feed Grant Right to Republish?

I received a couple of pingbacks from a site that republished a couple of posts from my site in whole, pulling them from my RSS feed.

The owner of the site maintains that by having a RSS feed that has the full content of a post, I am allowing someone to republish the content. If I didn’t want the content republished, I shouldn’t use a RSS feed, or should at least only include summaries.

While technologically old, RSS feeds are still awesome. They provide a standardized format for folks to digest virtually any blog in whatever form that you, the reader, prefer. Sure, I put effort into the presentation of my site, many folks have ads they depend on, but at the end of the day, I’d like to give freedom to my reader to choose.

Whether you use Outlook or Thunderbird or another desktop-based client, or a web-based client like Feedly or the Reader, you can drop my site’s address and always have my latest posts. Internally, I use RSS to provide for my daily update e-mails.

Consumption, though, is a completely different beast than republication. The argument (from the content scraper) that the existence of a RSS feed implies that both consumption and republication are permitted isn’t valid.

My site is an example that disproves the argument. Content published so far content on my site is published under a Creative Commons license. The license says, basically, if you give me credit, use my content for non-commercial purposes, and share it under the same terms, you can use it without any further permission. The RSS feed helps make that easier for folks, though republishing my content without using the same terms, or with a site that had ads (making it a commercial venture under most common definitions) is violating those terms.

Copyright rules exist for a reason. Making content available doesn’t grant anything. A musician having a song played on the radio doesn’t grant me the right to record it off and sell CDs of it. The VCR brought forth new legal guidelines—could someone legally record a TV show on a videocassette? Sure, for personal use. To rebroadcast it or play it for a public performance? No.

I’m not a legal scholar, but that principle seems sound to apply here.

RSS feeds and other technological means that can reduce the barrier to distribute content are great tools, but they’re just that: tools.

photocredit: flickr/crobj



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5 responses to “Does A RSS Feed Grant Right to Republish?

  1. M. R. Avatar

    Listen, OBO … go visit this site:, scroll down the sidebar and you’ll come to an icon that should interest you – The Electronic Freedom Foundation. I would LOVE to be able to put this on my site; but of course I can’t. You can not only do so, but actually take advantage of their protection.

  2. Kim Avatar

    You can use a plugin to add a notice at the end of every post that will only show up in the RSS feed (and the scrapers’ websites): You can modify the message as needed.

    And no, a feed does not give anyone the right to republish the content in full.

    1. Brandon Kraft Avatar

      Thanks, Kim. Yoast’s SEO plugin ( ) has that too. That plugin is a nice and small alternative if the whole SEO plugin is overkill.

      The scraper in question said argued that it was up to the publisher to include such an attribution line 😐

      1. Kim Avatar

        Only an attribution line makes a scraper feel that they can continue to rip off your content, and make money from it.

        I have a fairly strong-worded message for mine. I’ve modified it to include your info. Take it, change it to your needs, and attach it to the posts in your feed:

        Copyright 2013 Brandon Kraft – All Rights Reserved.
        This feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement.
        Please send an email to with the link of the offending website so I can take appropriate action. Thank you.

        Seeing a message like that on a scraper’s site will let their readers know that the site owner isn’t writing their own content, but ripping off off others for profit. A bit embarassing, yes?

        Sometimes you have to play hardball. 😉

        1. Brandon Kraft Avatar

          That’s a nice touch!

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