Internet Legal, Laws, and Regs Weblogging

That old copyright song

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

My cable connection started working without problems yesterday, just in time for me to attempt to connect using DSL later today. I’ve also been attempting to take photos of the bald eagles wintering in our area, but have run into interesting complications, which I’ll write about later.

In the meantime, thanks to Halley Suitt for pointing out this rather amazing sleight of hand trick from John Palfrey at Harvard on copyright law, RSS feeds, and his new enterprise, Top Ten Sources.

Mr. Palfrey, the Berkman Center at Harvard holding the copyright of RSS is completely beside the issue, and only serves to obfuscate the discussion–as does raising the specter of the Big Bad Media companies. In addition, I’m very confident that I hold the copyright on my writing regardless of the medium in which I publish the writing, unless I grant that copyright to another. The fact that what I write appears in a RSS feed does not change how copyright laws work. No matter how much you wave the Web 2.0 wand, it does not change copyright law.

People who provide syndication feeds do so in the assumption that the feeds will be picked up in personal aggregators. A personal aggregator is nothing more than what amounts to a ‘reader’ for the content. Whether you read my content in your personal aggregator or via a web browser (point being moot since I only publish partial feeds), does not violate the copyright law because you’re not re-publishing or copying that material in its entirety. The personal aggregator becomes nothing more than a variation of a web browser.

To the techs out there: am I right, or am I wrong? Isn’t a personal aggregator, whether web-based or desktop-based, nothing more than a variation on a browser, in that it renders web-based material for an individual’s personal consumption?

However, re-publishing the content in its entirety for mass consumption without permission is a violation of copyright law. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. In addition, at least in the US, copyright is granted automatically on a work and one does NOT need to re-publish copyright information in one’s feed, unless one wants to. Now, people can and should include Creative Commons licenses that allow one to re-publish content if they don’t care that this happens. But if they do, and no commercial re-publication is allowed, this means that sites such as Top Ten Sources cannot re-publish the material if the site is run as a commercial for-profit enterprise.

To the legal beagles out there–point blank: am I right? Or am I wrong? No, ‘gentlemen of the court’ niceties; no A-list deference; no but it’s Harvard obfuscation; no Web 2.0 bullshit. As clearly and precisely as possible: am I right, or am I wrong?

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