Every so often I wonder why our legal system thoroughly screws up any issue that involves technology. Then I read posts like this one, from attorney Martin Schwimmer at The Trademark Blog, and I start to understand.
Thus, in my view, Bloglines’ reproduction of my site is a commercial derivative work. Bloglines has agreed to remove my site from its service and I thank it in advance for its cooperation.
This is perhaps the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Schwimmer publishes an RSS feed. You can see it here. Go ahead and click the link and you can see it in your browser in a separate window. Note the complete absence of any formatting. This is how RSS feeds work. In fact, Bloglines is a news aggregator, and a really good one. An aggregator picks up the contents of a Web site from its RSS feed, minus any design elements and contact info, and displays it within the aggregator. (Mr. Schwimmer is going to be really, really shocked if he ever discovers how many people are reading his RSS feed in other news aggregators and are seeing exactly the same stripped-down display of content as Bloglines users.)
As of today, 71 people subscribe to this blog through Bloglines, and I thank every one of you. I even have a little button on my home page that allows Bloglines users to automatically add a subscription just by clicking. If you’re curious about how RSS works, this is an excellent way to get started.
(Via Scoble’s link blog.)
Update: Derek Slater, Harvard-based copyright wonk, tries to take Schwimmer’s complaint seriously:
One of the key issues seems to be what having an RSS feed implies others should be able to do with one’s website. If Martin had no RSS feed and Bloglines was simply scraping the site, it seems people would feel very differently. But why must RSS make a difference in this case?
As I wrote in a comment at Derek’s site: Perhaps the difference is that Martin chose to publish a version of his own site, minus formatting and contact information, in the RSS format, which stands for Really Simple Syndication. The word syndication should be a tip-off that you want other people to make your content available. This is the usual and customary definition of RSS. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous, and if Schwimmer wants to change the commonly accepted definition of how RSS feeds are used, he really needs to start a larger argument, not throw a public hissy fit over a company using his RSS feed exactly as it was intended to be used.
Moral: If you don’t want your site syndicated, don’t publish in a syndication format.