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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Update on online plagarism

I was re-reading my post and parts of it were not very clear (it comes across like I'm an intellectual property hating communist :) ), so I thought I'd put it in a Q&A format to clarify my position.

Please, please remember that I am NOT a lawyer, so I could be totally wrong here. The authoritative source would probably be this guy.

[Someone who commented on the previous post (anonymous) pointed out that content is All RIghts Reserved by default, and he (or she) is correct. I'm going to ignore that for the time being because if we assume All Rights Reserved on RSS feeds then you would need to get into a contract with the author before using the feed and the whole concept of RSS would collapse. Either that or I'm totally wrong. Maybe someone can explain]

This is my (limited) understanding of the legal standing.

Q. Can anybody just put my posts online
A. If you have an RSS feed, it means you want your content syndicated. I would think then its OK if people syndicate your content.

Q. But it's not attributed
A. It doesn't have to be. You are providing the RSS file. It is up to the syndicator to then do display sections of it as they like.

Q. I want it to be be distributed by also to be attributed to me
Q. I want it to be used non-commercially
Q. I want to place certain rights on its usage
A. Affix one of the Creative Commons licenses, or maybe one of your own licenses to the RSS feed. It's your feed, and you can attach whatever conditions you want to it.

Q. I've attached a license, but he still copied my stuff
Q. I've got only excerpts on my RSS feed but he's showing the entire post
Q. I've not got an RSS feed. He's copying from the website!
A. I guess you can go after him now :)

However, and this is the central point I'm trying to make, even leaving aside the legality of the whole thing, it doesn't really make sense to go after him so hard. Lets assume that what he is doing is completely illegal. He isn't slandering you, he isn't stealing your profit, he isn't cutting into your viewership, he's just running his blog on his corner of the Internet (with your posts :) ). It was just a random search that led to his blog. Now, if he were to steal all your viewership, or had some other malicious intent, then the case would certainly be much stronger.

It's like the grumpy old uncle evicting the kids who are sitting on his lawn. Sure, the uncle owns the lawn and is totally within his right to evict the kids, but it still leaves a bad taste in everybody's mouth. Maybe it just disturbs me, because I am used to the openness of the Internet. Why be a bully to someone who isn't even harming you?


Anonymous said...

Google caches entire websites on its servers. The internet archive ( has several versions of entire websites on their servers. I think copyright rules get really murky on the web. I think if you put something out there on WWW, then you have to accept that it might get used and abused in ways you didn't want it to :)

Siddhi said...

Good point.

Shanti Mangala said...

Again, there is a possibility of something being abused on the web doesn't mean you sit quietly when abuse happens. You are taking a risk by driving on the road, so should you not sue the guy who collided into you? That is ridiculous!

Siddhi said...

Hi Shanti,

I think abuse is too strong a word.

The MPAA and RIAA have been attacking P2P "thieves" for a long now, on the basis that they are pirating music and movies. They have a case: They suffer huge losses due to piracy. Yet, the only response has been a huge online backlash for displaying a big bully attitude. Lots of people (including me) on the Internet feel that instead of understanding the spirit and openness of the Internet, they are trying to force their ideas of IP onto a community that is foreign to them. On the other hand, the Apple Music Store is doing great business. Apple understands how to use the Internet, rather than fight it.

Like I said in the post, he is not harming you, slandering you, eating into your profits, or cutting into your viewership. I think it is a stretch to call it abuse. While you may be fully within your rights to attack him, it leaves me with one question: Why would you want to, when it doesn't hurt you? It gives the same big bully signal to people like me. I'm sure that is not at all how you are, but it comes across to me like that.

I can totally understand your viewpoint, and it makes complete sense. I hope you can see mine.

Shanti Mangala said...


First of all, you are making a decision here that someone stealing my posts is not hurting me. Great! What would be hurting in your eyes?

It took me over 2 years of blogging to get where I am right now. Not once did I take the easy way out. Even my links are attributed to the blog I first saw them on. To say someone is not physically hurting me so whatever happens is OK is not right. How do you arbitrarily decide when it is OK for me to feel angry and when it isn't? When do you set the standards of what harm to a certain person consists of?

Would you be fine if I started a new blog and lifted all the content from yours and didn't attribute since it would really not be hurting you in anyway?

As for the comparison between this and RIAA/MPAA and Apple, Apple is paying royalties to the musicians when people download the songs - they are not ripping off the musicians. The comparison is pretty bogus.