Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, November 26, 2004

Open Access Directory Of RSS News Feeds: Who Is For It?

There is a lot of untapped potential around the intelligent use of RSS syndicated content, and I have extensively pointed out some of the possible directions this may take us to.

Photo credit: Robin Good

It is important to acknowledge though the issue of free content re-use when many of the content originators want to enforce tight controls on the use and re-syndication of their news.

I have recently catalyzed some attention around the issue of content re-use by engaging relatively small traditional publisher who uses the Internet for syndicating press-releases from major outlets, into evaluating whether my RSSification of his content headlines and further public distribution was legal, appropriate and beneficial.

Unfortunately, John Rourke of has not followed up on his commitment to publicly reply to my points and while he has promised this in a private email to me, he has not followed up with facts.

Point is: sooner or later more independent publishers are going to be threatened, sued and harassed by larger and more powerful companies, either because they have syndicated headlines, or have republished within their content news excerpts or passages from copyrighted articles.

This will be a tough battle to fight, not only because there are so many ethical, cultural and political issues involved. But also because this comes down to be also a technical problem, because as it is easy for traditional content originators to track down in real-time where their RSS content has been re-published, it is equally difficult for both the independent editors/syndicators or for the digital information librarian to find out rapidly whether certain RSS-based content can be re-used or not.

Yes, this is the same problem that has led to the birth of the Creative Commons and similar initiatives.

Unless we can clearly label content that CAN be re-used from copyrighted one, we are going to restrain much of the potential evolution of this tremendously valuable application of content syndication and re-use via RSS.



It is in this light that I am making a public request for pulling together sensible sponsors (RSS related companies and organizations that want to defend and facilitate increased use of the commons) to create a CC/PD directory of explicitly re-usable RSS news feeds.

As the author and maintainer of the RSS Top55, the fastest growing reference directory for submitting RSS news feeds to English-language based RSS search engines and RSS feed directories, I am best positioned to immediately start offering this opportunity to the several tens of thousands of readers who regularly visit this resource.

What I am asking right now is an indication of your support and interest for this initiative.

Here, in the simplest terms possible, an executive summary of what this idea would consist of:

a) Creation of an open access directory of RSS/Atom newsfeeds that carry an explicit Creative Commons or PD (public domain) license.

b) Ability for end users to classify/categorize RSS feeds according to their own taxonomies, just like delicious or the emerging Internet Archive/OurMedia do.

c) Ability for submitters of RSS news feeds to specify the type of license adopted, the amount and type of syndication/re-use allowed, the type of attribution/credit/linkback required and any other specification that would allow newsmasters to make best legal use of such content.

d) Optional facility for users to select keyword-based content, specific news sources or a mix of the two to generate on the spot re-usable news feeds for immediate use.

Are you for it?

If yes, why?
Can you spell out your reasons and put them here below?

If not, why?

This post is being sent as an email copy for notification to:

  • Joi Ito

  • Lawrence Lessig

  • Dave Winer

  • David Weinberger

  • Chris Pirillo

  • Robert Scoble

  • Stephen Downes

  • Marc Canter

  • Cory Doctorow

  • Sebastien Paquet

  • Flemming Funch

  • Andrius Kulikauskas

  • Dan Gillmor

  • JD Lasica

  • Dave Pollard

  • Jean-Francois Noubel

If you want to help this initiative, please post a comment here, write a post on your blog about it, and consider adopting a CC/PD license for at least some of your RSS content now.

Readers' Comments    
2004-12-07 17:32:32

Andy Waschick

I would like to lend my help to this effort. I have some experience through my work with handling news content for clients, and some (but not am immense amount) of experience with the RSS format.

Where I believe my help would be particularly useful is in the architecture of such an archive. I have spent the last 7 years building, refining, and extending a web database environment designed specifically to be infinitely extensible, self-organizing, and user-customizable. I have clients using my system to manage collections of upwards of a quarter-million article elements.

I agree with the ideals of creative commons and believe that the promotion of material distributed under its guise-- and the institutions which support that effort-- might lead to much-needed improvements in the battle to keep ideas and expression from wholly becoming private property and stifling cultural development.

Also, beyond the joy of altruism, it would be a great way to demonstrate some of the abilities in the software I have developed and maybe give my business a boost.

Please let me know how I can contribute.

2004-11-26 14:00:16

Flemming Funch

I'm certainly for it too. And I might be willing to put some work into it.

I'd prefer as well if the use of syndication at all implied that it could be redistributed, but I don't think we'll win that one. So, instead, there needs to be a clear way of identifying the license one is publishing it with. Which should really be in the feed itself. As far as I know all formats have a copyright type of field, so if we can just agree on what should go into it to identify different CC licenses, that would be a good start.

What I'd hope for would be that market forces would clearly demonstrate that there are much greater advantages in letting one's content be sharable than not to. I.e. you get more readers if others can pass it on. That's intuitively obvious to me, but doesn't really seem very proven as a business case yet.

2004-11-26 12:36:25

Stephen Downes

The problem described here is something I flagged just a few days ago.

As advertised content makes its way into RSS feeds, there will be absoloutely a push to restrict aggregation through enforcement of copyright provisions, especially for full-content aggregators.

When Atom was first being discussed I proposed that a provision of the language be that users of the language agree that their content be available for syndication, that this be a condition for use of the language. This, unfortunately, was rejected.
I therefore am in support of this initiative (without letting go of the idea that putting your content into a syndication format ought implicitly to be recognized (by the courts) as permission to syndicate).

Keep me informed; let me know what I can do.

posted by Robin Good on Friday, November 26 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.




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