I was planning to hold off this post until after launch of the upcoming The Medical Blog Network (TMBN) release, but a complaint from Barbados Butterfly compeled me to do this preview sooner.
At issue is what is and is not appropriate in blog syndication, in particular re-publishing blog feeds in an aggregator.
I can hear a lynch mob calling for my head on copyright grounds. But let us calm down for a second and enumerate the relevant issues that have been brought up so far. I want to ask the readers not to rush to judgement and to hold off conclusions till the end of the post.
Copyright considerations are valid and important. The challenge is that the specific applications of the law are not yet well established when it comes to RSS and blogs. Real innovation usually tends to push into the legal gray areas. Controversies are inevitable, but what is really important is being able to resolve them in good faith.
So let me enumerate these grey area issues related to blog aggregation, each with their unique considerations:
We are not the first in aggregation business and we will not be the last. Medlogs, Google, Technorati, Megite and many others are providing substantially similar services, each answering the questions above in their own way. Many are generating controversy, with Google's spat with book publishers being a recent example.
So the point is, nobody should be getting self-righteous and presume their view of what is proper and what is not to be the only valid one. Instead, the community needs some good faith discussion to develop the rules everyone can live by.
TMBN mission is to develop a site where general public can find the best medical blogs and the bloggers can promote themselves. Our original approach to aggregation has been a good faith attempt to answer the questions posed above to create a service useful to general audience, while fully crediting the bloggers (links to source are there). We made an assumption that RSS feeds are OK to use as published and avoided using them whenever blogs had clear and visible copyright disclaimers.
While most of the included bloggers either felt flattered for being listed or specifically requested inclusion, a handful expressed strong objections, calling in question our motives. We want to put this perception to rest here and now.
With our reputation at stake it is critical to set the record straight and prove our good faith. Here is the new policy by issue:
Suffice to say the software update that will enable bloggers to claim their feeds is not up yet but is expected in the matter of weeks. We are going to post further details on our program for bloggers at that point.
In the meantime, if you do want to participate, please register for an account. If you want to have your feed removed, let us know. If you have questions or suggestions post them using the comment form.
We are here to be of service to bloggers and readers. We are happy to address any and all concerns.
UPDATE #1: Barbados Butterfly wrote a follow up post wondering what the fuss is all about. Well, it is about guarding TMBN good name.
UPDATE #2: Well, looks like now (03/16/2006) there is a legal precedent vindicating our position after all: Google wins a court battle