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Content theft on the rise: What now Scoble?

Content theft on the rise: What now Scoble?

Duncan Riley> Unfortunately Microsoft-uber blogger Robert Scoble’s jihad against partial RSS feeds continues at full stength. Last Friday in Scoble vs the average blogger I highlighted one area that I personally here, as a content creator, was struggling with, and that’s content theft. Now Robert was nice enough to link to that piece, even if I couldn’t spell my last name correctly, and I’ll give him credit for listening to both sides of the debate, although he didn’t directly respond.

For those who has missed my concerns of this point, it goes something like this: people are stealing content from blogs and a republishing it for profit, and its not just a few blogs, its thousands, if not millions of them.

Then this morning I’m reading my blogline subs and I read that even the big guys are still having problems, with Jason Calancanis highlighting a site that was stealing content directly from Autoblog. Fortunately the webmaster of the other site realised that Jason wasn’t the sort of person you should mess with and took the content down.

But wait, there’s more!

We know that comment spam is generated by scripts and programs that pump it out across the blogosphere automatically and with little effort. But how many people realise that content stealing through harnessing full RSS feeds is just as simple.

ION RSS highlights three sites that promise exactly this: Super Feed System, RSS Equalizer and RSS Content Builder. How about this for a choice quote from one site:

Never hire another writer again and always have fresh up to the minute news and articles from your industry on your web pages. Add one line of code to your website and your pages will update themselves forever.

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That’s right folks, its not even hard to steal content, more and more people are doing it, and its only going to get worse. If you are being paid to write for someone else, like Robert Scoble is, then you don’t really need to worry. If you enjoy bringing in some pocket money, or even a bit more from your blog, enough to cover your hosting costs and occasionally buy some toys, or even more, then your revenue is potentially threatened by scum who are multiplying by the day using scripts and tools such as these.

The only solution that I can see: limited RSS feeds.

Scoble, tell me I’m wrong, and show me how to fight back. Tell the tens of thousands of readers of the Blog Herald, most of whom own and write blogs themselves what they should do? should we stand still whilst we get streamrolled by the rise of content theft, or should we take protective action. The way I see it, pulling back to a shorter feed is like wearing a condom if you’re having sex, it protects you from disease, and in this case the disease in content theft.

View Comments (7)
  • It’s becoming increasingly irritating to me, all of this latest round of protestations against bloggers who provide excerpt-only RSS feeds.

    Thing is, while that’s the easiest way to steal people’s content, it isn’t the only way. Some time back, there was a site that was republishing full-text feeds, but if they couldn’t find full-text they would scrape the site and get the content that way. I caught them republishing my content that way and ultimately got them to remove it.

    There’s not much to be done to stop the scraping theft, but there’s one easy way to stop theft-by-RSS: Excerpt-only feeds.

  • Duncan, I’ve done a little hacking of the wp-rss2.php file and found a way to add a copyright notice right in the excerpts themselves. It says something to the effect of:

    (C) 2005 If you’re not reading this in your news aggregator, this material has been stolen. Please contact editor at so we can take immediate legal action.

    The beauty of it though, is that it’s part of the content of the excerpt itself, so that message shows up right on the offenders web page. ;-)

  • I’m not sure how much more of a niche area in which one can participate than the world of performing magicians and mindreaders. So you can imagine my surprise and irritation to find a guy reblogging the feed from Escamoteurettes. (Even though my copyright notice is fairly plain in language.)

    It took three days, several phone calls, and a number of emails before I found the owner of the site (thanks, whoever you are, who came up with the brilliant idea of proxy registrations) and convinced him I was dead serious about him ceasing from republishing my stuff.

    The Reader’s Digest version of the story is I was called a luddite for not embracing reblogging. “Why would I not want my content republished?” Uh, maybe because I’d rather visitors to my web site to read my content there? Maybe I have something of a problem with someone republishing my work — insignificant as it is, it’s still my work — and not even bother to credit me or provide a link back to my web site, let alone ask my permission?

    Yes, I know it’s a bit like two ants fighting for a crumb of bread. But to the ant, it’s a pretty big thing.

    I applaud those who publish under the Creative Commons license, or those who lay no claim at all to their words. I happen to not do so.

    So now, my RSS feed is excerpted with an irritating and stupidly long copyright notice mentioning no copying or reblogging so even the IP-rights-impaired should be able to understand my wishes. Now, whether or not they are honored is another thing altogether.

  • The disclaimer idea that Paul put forward above seems like a reasonable idea, but I doubt it would act as much of a deterrent, and whether people would report the stealing sites is another matter – is there another way of determining whether your RSS content has been stolen, e.g. with an image “beacon” which links back to your own website? Not sure whether that would work or even possible within XML, but the likelyhood is the theives would find a way of stripping that out anyway.

    It’s also probably the case that a lot of these sites are probably using this stolen dynamic content to feed search engines, getting visitors to come and maybe clicking on the AdSense ads they’ve no doubt got on their pages. Excerpts seem like the way to go for the moment.

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