RSS Abuse: What’s fair use and what’s abuse. (or Skweezer gets it wrong).

Being a publisher in the age of complete RSS feeds is really trying. At least once a week I’m explaining to someone that they can’t just republish one of our blogs on their site with advertisements around it, and that the RSS is for non-commercial use.

It’s one thing to take headlines.

It’s one thing to take an excerptlike the good folks at Google, Topix.net, Feedster or Technorati doto help people navigate.

It’s a whole other thing to take your entire feed, wrap your own ads around it, and try to sell a service on top of the content!

That is exactly what just happened to us thanks to this website Skweezer. They have an interestingbut already availableidea: make webpages fit better on PDAs and phones. Great idea. We want readers to be able to read our content easilyno doubt.

However, their execution of this business idea is to take all of our websites and then:

1. Republish them on their website
2. Place their own advertisements on them
3. Sell a “professional” version of their software based on our content
4. Deny us the ability to track our page views and readers

These slimy folks over there then tell me that they are no different then Firefox!!!

Hello? Last time I checked Firefox did not republish our site at http://www.firefox.com/www.engadget.com, they didn’t put advertisements around our content, and they didn’t charge for a “premium” version of Firefox. They also let us get the page view and the readership at our site.

Clearly some folks are getting caught up in what they can do with an RSS feed and forgetting about what they shouldand are legally allowedto do.

You want to take headlines and put advertisements around the headlines? Go for it you’re making some money and you’re not preventing us from making moneyin fact you’re sending us readers. All good.

You want to take headlines and a modest excerpt and put ads around it? Go for it! I’m all for it, again, you’re making some money without devaluing the trip to our website.

However, making it so we can’t make money and our readers don’t come to our own site? Not good.

If you made this amazing software then come to us and either sell us the software or offer us a revenue share. This is exactly what I told the folks who were putting ads in RSS feeds. If you put ads in our *full* RSS feeds and don’t have an agreement with us we will stop you. Just come to us and setup a reasonable deal and we will probably do it.

However, when you republish websites and put ads on them you are going to get in trouble. Folks like these are not going to like you putting ads around their content:

Gizmodo
http://www.skweezer.net/s.aspx/2/www.gizmodo.com/

New York Times – http://www.skweezer.net/s.aspx/2/www.nytimes.com/2004/12/29/

Now, again, you offer this service for free without ads, sell it to the publisher, get permission, or split the advertising revenue, etc. you’re fine. But you don’t just come along and take the entire feed, republish it wholesale, and put your ads around it.

This seems like common sense to me, but I guess sometime tech folks start to justify abuse as technological innovation. Fair use is cool, that covers using a portion of a worknot the whole thing.

Update: If you want to email their CEO and be removed you can reach them at kperkins@gwcorp.net and cc bkendall@gwcorp.net. As you might suspect they don’t have their contract info on their site so it’s hard to reach them.

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