What is RSS? How Can You Use It?

This is the last thing that I’m going to publish about this ridiculous copyright infringement debacle I’ve been dealing with for a week. But as I said earlier today, I am going to try to make the best of it by sharing some pertinent and related resources about copyright.

The owner of the site that was republishing all of my posts has been infuriatingly persistent in saying that her copyright infringement was my fault because my RSS feed had too many characters (see the screenshot in this post). Just because you can read something on the Internet doesn’t mean that  you can republish it in its entirety without permission (possible exceptions for a Fair Use critique).

If you’re wondering what RSS is, Common Craft explained it very well in this video released twelve years ago. With the exception of the mention of Google Reader, the information in the video is still accurate today. Today, your RSS reader options include popular sites and apps like Feedly and Flipboard. (Disclosure: I have a long-standing in-kind relationship with Common Craft).

RSS feeds make it easy to follow your favorite websites in one convenient place. When you follow a site in an RSS reader, you’re reading that site’s original content with full attribution and full links back to the original source. And if the owner of the site chooses to monetize the RSS feed with advertising, that site gets the benefit of ad revenue (I’ve made the choice not to include advertising in the RSS feed for Free Technology for Teachers because I think it muddies the reading experience).

Unfortunately, RSS feeds also make it easy for people to republish a site’s work in full violation of copyright. Just because a feed exists doesn’t mean that you can republish a site’s entire content without permission. As Haje Jan Kamps rightly explains in his analogy comparing stealing from a blind shopkeeper to copying content via RSS, just because something is easy to do doesn’t make it right or legal.


Thank You Readers for 14 Amazing Years!