about syndication feeds and copyright, in particular, about the rights of other sites to wholesale re-publish information that appears in feeds. John Palfrey of the Berkman Center at Harvard joins the issue most centrally, from the perspective of a reasonable and interested party to the discussion.
Palfrey describes a site called Top10 Sources that has editors who have a certain expertise in a subject. These editors go out on the web and compile a list of the ten most important blogs in one of dozens of areas of interest. Then they turn on the flow from those sites’ syndication feeds and contact the blogger to note that they’ve been included.
Palfrey’s discussion of the legalities of it are interesting and the further discussion of the fact that there may be ethical issues outside of the purely legal question is equally important. The problem is that there is a fundamental error that occurs before any of these issues are joined. Palfrey seems to assume that asking for permission in advance would be impossible – but he gives no evidence nor does he advance any logical argument as to why this may be true. As is the case with Google books, this point is simply to be assumed to be true.
For me, opt-out is fundamentally unethical in this context and further it’s evidence (as far as I’m concerned) that the company who rolls out with such a strategy is unprepared to do business and quite likely doesn’t really understand what their business is in the first place. To suggest that sending a selected blogger an email asking if they’re like to be included before re-publishing their feed is too difficult is a tough proposition to take seriously.
Before the issue of copyright even arises, then, prove to me that there’s a good reason why NOT to ask people to opt-in before publishing their feeds. Then we can have a discussion about copyright.