This article explains whether RSS feeds are copyrighted. In short, the answer is YES.
What is RSS?
Websites are normally accessed with a web browser. RSS is a technology that allows a webpage (blog, etc.) to be accessed without a web browser. RSS can be accessed by many tools, including an RSS reader, which is software that allows you to view the RSS feeds of many websites at once.
Are RSS Feeds Copyrighted?
In the United States, the author of any written material generally owns a copyright on that material. Since RSS is merely a way to access that material, the material is still copyrighted. RSS doesn’t change anything. Whether you use an RSS tool or a web browser to access material, the material is still copyrighted.
In other words, laws apply to new technology just as they would to traditional materials (books, brochures, etc.).
Is Republishing an RSS Feed Considered Copyright Infringement?
In general, copying material without permission of the copyright owner is copyright infringement. However, there is an interesting legal questioned raised by RSS. By making your website available by RSS, are you granting permission for others to republish your RSS feed?
In other words, RSS is an abbreviation, which includes the word “Syndication.” Syndication generally means that the owner is making the material available to be accessed in other locations, which is essentially republishing. To my knowledge, the courts have not come up with a clear answer to whether republishing an RSS feed is actually copyright infringement.
Are Scrapers Violating Copyrights?
Scrapers are software tools that copy material off one website and post the material to a website owned by the person using the scraper. When scrapers copy material without permission of the copyright owner, copyright infringement occurs. However, read above (“Is republishing an RSS feed considered copyright infringement?”).
What Can I Do if My Website is Illegally Copied?
I answered this question and some others on these posts:
If you want to protect your material, or if you need to defend yourself in a copyright lawsuit, I would be glad to talk with you about your situation.
What if the RSS feed is a collection of blogs from thousands of different authors? Example: An RSS feed of the website http://www.activerain.com which pulls every single blog post created each day as they are published by the community. The RSS feed is published on a for-profit company’s website – http://www.firstamericanhomerealty.com/Web/AR414706/RSSFeed/index/729?IDXSESS=nf3inlkba8prcv3iobmias56o2 .
The best practice is to get permission before reproducing an RSS feed to avoid potential problems.
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