Schwimmer's Clarifies His Bloglines Stance

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Schwimmer makes some good points in his clarification to his decision to ask Bloglines to remove his feed. A few points in particular warrant further discussion.

Creating the free content for advertisements that Bloglines will sell to other trademark law firms. This isn’t baseless conjecture - read this discusssion of Bloglines’ plans for advertising keyed to the content of blogs. At least with Google’s contextual ad program, the blog creator gets some money.

The question I have is how is this different than if say FeedDemon or Newsgator decided to release a free version of their aggregator that included targeted ads. Tyme White claims…

there is a big difference between Bloglines search/preview feature where anyone can view a blogs content and someone adding the feed for private viewing. The argument of desktop readers having ads is completely different - that would be for private viewing only by the user and the ad would NOT be on the feed, it would in the software.

Seems to me it’s only a difference in mechanics. Most aggregators contain search features as well. Wouldn’t be hard for them to include targeted ads. Not only that, it’s still making money off your content. Even a desktop aggregation company could print the following ad…

Find out how our sales team can help you reach you reach new customers with targeted advertisements on ACME Aggregator. Contact for more information.

In my view, there’s a big difference in what Bloglines is doing and some website blatantly ripping your content. I can see the problem if Bloglines was a profit motivated legal website and the main content of the site was taken from legal blogs that provide feeds. With Bloglines, the primary usage is for private users to subscribe to feeds. Yes, your content is available via search, but it’s the same as with Google. Likewise, don’t you want people to find your content, regardless?

Tyme goes on to say…

The bottom line, if money is being made off of a feed it could be deemed commercial use and you should receive permission from the author before redistributing unless the content is considered public domain.

Does that mean Google must ask permission to display your site in search results which might contain ads for your competitors (which was recently ruled completely legal).

Suppose you send copyrighted email to a gmail user? Does it infringe on your copyright that Google can target ads to be displayed alongside your email?

I don’t ask these questions to be contrarian, but to really understand the issue. As I see it, yes martin is right. He does have the right to control his content. But true wisdom is knowing when one should excercise a right. As Scoble points out,

…(by the way, how come you guys aren’t yelling about Google’s caching? Did you see that all your pages are cached over on Google? That breaks with traditional copyright law too, but so far we’ve been cool with that too. Why? It helps everyone.

My advice to Martin is that yeah, you’re right. You have a copyright over your content, but think about the big picture. You’ve definitely got yourself noticed. Now let Bloglines use your content for fun and profit, become a blogging hero, and watch your own clientele list and profit grow as a result. Everyone can win in this situation. Don’t try to force a new technology to fit within the confines of an outdated copyright system that’s winded and unable to keep up.

Probably the best thing to come out of all this is a discussion of copyright as it pertains to an entirely new medium. Let’s hope the right decisions are made that reflect the cooperative nature of RSS.

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3 responses

  1. Avatar for Koba
    Koba January 17th, 2005

    Do I have to wear a cape if I become a blogging hero?

  2. Avatar for Tyme
    Tyme January 27th, 2005

    1) A desktop reader will display an ad to you alone - the sole person using the program at the time. There is a huge difference between that and what Bloglines does (the preview feature) where anyone on the net can search for the feed and view it. In an desktop reader the user has to be subscribed to the feed to view it. On Bloglines people can search for a feed and view it.

    2) The Google comparison is different. Google displays a cache of the page. They do not edit the page at all. If I have ads on the page, it will show it. Google caches a duplicate of the page.

    What you are failing to realize is that many sponsor contracts have terms regarding the sponsorship, for example competing ads on the same page, etc. Ads ontop of the ads in place by the site owner causes conflict. There are many business reasons as to why a site owner would not want their content used in a commercial manner.

    Martin isn't forcing the new technology to fit to his wishes - the law is on Martin's side. The new technology has to fit the law, and those who don't understand that will ultimately pay the price....and that's their choice. :)

  3. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked January 27th, 2005

    1. But applications in this day and age blur the lines between desktop and online. For example, I can search for blogs using my desktop RSS aggregator. How's that different than searching Bloglines?

    The argument that a desktop reader has to be subscribed to the feed to view it doesn't hold any water. First of all, the actual feed itself is on the web. ( Performing a Google search will sometimes display my feed instead of the actual page.

    Secondly, the preview feature is merely an automation of a task a person can do without bloglines. Simply do a Google search, temporarily subscribe to the feed, now unsubscribe. Subscription, whether by desktop or by bloglines, doesn't confer upon the subscriber any special status.

    I agree that the law is on Martin's side, but I disagree that he's taking the best approach. I don't think copyright law is keeping pace with technology. Trying to force technology to fit the law stifles innovation. It's not an open shut case. Is Bloglines a desktop app that just happens to be on the web? Or do desktop apps with significant online features need to be restricted as Martin has done to Bloglines?