Please Don't Feed the RSS Aggravator

· Salon Bloggers, Weblog Concepts

Well, coincidentally, I was just dipping into my RSS aggregator news feed when I got a note from Charly Z encouraging me to check out a discussion about RSS syndication going on among some other Salon Blogs.
Scott Rosenberg’s Links and Comment picks up on a complaint from the author of FarrFeed on discovering his entire blog being reproduced (in an inferior form) with someone else’s copyright attached:

I’ve been working my freaking butt off pitching my writing anywhere I can, so when I saw my words and images gracelessly splashed across another site’s pages, I declared war. The site which had subscribed to FarrFeed had also mangled the layout and tossed out my text formatting so that the page looked like garbage. But what really made me angry was seeing the other site’s copyright declaration centered underneath my work. Oh, my copyright notice (linked to this page) was also there, but off to the left and not nearly as prominent as the subscriber’s. BAD BOOJUM!

Here’s part of Scott’s take:

I also think that, legally and morally, it falls in the category of “fair use” — which means that it becomes increasingly more problematic when others take and reuse more and more material. In the case of Farr and other blogs that are reposted on this other site, the postings are resupplied by a third party without any value added — there are no new comments from the site’s proprietor — and in fact with value subtracted, since many of the features of the original blogger’s site (layout, comments, whatever else the blogger has done to personalize the page) are gone.

Here’s my value add. It relates to the discussion about Daily Pundit Premium from yesterday. One the one hand, I want to benefit from the freeness of the web. I want my blog to be read far and wide. I’d like to be able to track who’s reading, and naturally I love to receive filthy lucre whenever possible for my efforts, but I’m probably doing this more to build reputation than for any other single reason. For the moment, I expect to extract my vig from the rest of the life, which should benefit indirectly from my contributions here.
(This reminds me of the whole “give something back to the Web” idea that was big in the mid ’90s. It was understood that we each reap huge benefits from the freely shared common spaces of the Web, so there is something of a moral imperative, or at least exhortative, to contribute something back to the common weal.)
So, in the interests of info lubrication, I have all my RSS feeds turned on and I am happy to have them promiscuously seed my posts far and wide at this time.
Nonetheless, I wouldn’t mind being a columnist somewhere, and if I start writing column-length work on, say, a weekly basis, I can imagine wanting to be paid for syndication the way some print journalists are (such as, for a random example, Mark Shields). Thus I can imagine not always freely syndicating all of the writing I put online, maybe even incorporating some kind of password or scramble/descramble security for information that’s being sold instead of given away. This bears more thought.
I can also imagine saying: feel free to use my syndicated content but please link back to me in thus and such a way.
I still remember from the late ’60s or early ’70s when “the syndicate” was a typical kind of euphemism either for “the establishment” or “the mob” (depending on context), something like Chief Broom’s “the combine” in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Hey, when I mention a book, should I always slap my Amazon store tag on it? What’s the theory on that? Am I lazy or principled for not always shilling every book I mention?