(These are my views and not the BBC’s)
Cory Doctorow (BoingBoing, EFF) has asked “why does the BBC needs an RSS license?“.
If you look at a web-page, no one argues that you need a “license” to read it. The act of putting it on the web implies a license to read it in a web-browser.
But then ends his post with:
Should we ignore RSS licenses in the same way that we ignore “Linking policies” and “Terms of service?”
I think Cory has forgotten that those “terms of service” he’s been ignoring often are the very license by which you are allowed read a given webpage. It?s simply not true to say that web pages don?t have license attached to read them ? they do. Here?s the BBC News website?s license, for example.
I would go further and say that there is very little content on the Internet which doesn?t have a license associated with it (be it explicitly stated, implied or derived in some form). Even people who want their content to be freely used and reused still place a Creative Commons license on it.
Why shouldn’t we all assume an implied license to aggregate, read, download, spindle, fold and mutilate it just the same way that we assume a license to download web-pages, view their source, cache them, block their popups and images and so forth?
‘Downloading pages’, ‘viewing source’, ‘caching pages’, ‘blocking popups and images’… These are all passive ways of consuming content in which the data isn?t changed or redistributed. It?s kept in the same format as when the original content provider put it out onto the Internet. It’s kind of the “what you do in your own home is your business” argument.
‘Aggregating’, ‘spindling’, ‘folding’, ‘mutilating’… These are non-passive ways of consuming media ? by definition you?re altering or manipulating the content into something else. That?s why a content provider would want to place a clearly visible license up their content ? to ensure users are clear as to where the boundaries lie with what you can and can?t alter. It’s the “you’re not allowed to do anything you want in public” argument.
If you read the BBC?s RSS licence you?ll see that it?s actually very unrestrictive in terms of what you can and can?t do with their feeds. It?s certainly groundbreaking stuff to come out of a big media organisation like the Beeb.
To say that there should be no restrictions at all seems somewhat naïve to me. Does Cory really want me to do anything I like with his BoingBoing.net RSS feed? I?m sure he?d be pretty peved if I created a mirror BoingBoing site plastered with my own adverts instead of his. In fact, I know he would because he?s placed a Creative Commons license upon his page (or is that one of those webpage licenses that he says I should be ignoring?)
“there is very little content on the Internet which doesn?t have a license associated with it (be it explicitly stated, implied or derived in some form).”
There was a time when copyright maximalists (notably Bruce Lehmann, who represented large instutional rightsholders at the 1995 NII hearings on the demilitarization/privitisation of the Internet) argued that every single copy, even a transitory copy in RAM, required a license. This suggestion was never placed in a statute, and no one ever tried to litigate it: because the copynorm by which unauthorized transitory copies are lawful were so widespread, it would have been risable to ask a court to restrict them.
“those “terms of service” he’s been ignoring often are the very license by which you are allowed read a given webpage. “
Not true at all. As I note above: you can add terms of service to your web-page by which I waive my statutory rights to privacy, my fair use/fair dealing rights, and so forth. But the act of visiting your website does not create the binding agreement by which I waive those rights: just because you say “People who look at my website ‘agree’ to let me kick them in the teeth,” doesn’t make it so.
“‘Downloading pages’, ‘viewing source’, ‘caching pages’, ‘blocking popups and images’… These are all passive ways of consuming content in which the data isn?t changed or redistributed.”
Again, this isn’t true. Ask an advertising supported website if removing ads and popups is “passive.” Or running greasemonkey scripts. Or Babelfishing pages into other languages. Or proxying them through a system that thins out the html for mobile phones. Or running the Wikiproxy on BBC News. All in the implied license granted by the mere act of publishing a document on the Web.
This is the crux of my argument. There are categories of use that require copying bu that are so obvious and ubiquitous that we don’t even think of them as copying. You *can’t* load a page in your browser without making numerous copies of it. Because there is an implied license to make those copies by the act of publishing the document on the Web, we don’t even think of this as copying. It is an enormous blind-spot, invisible by its ubiquity.
RSS *was invented for syndication and aggregation*. Every public RSS feed published to date has been syndicated, aggregated, indexed, scraped, transformed, and so forth — just as Web pages have been downloaded, cached, indexed, copied, munged and rewritten on the client side and on the server side.
If your RSS feed isn’t FOR aggregating, then don’t publish it, or put it behind a regwall that contains an *actual* agreement (not an “agreement” in the “you agree to let me kick you in the teeth by looking at this webpage which doesn’t even include the agreement to let me kick you in the teeth”).
Finally, as to whether I put my money where my mouth is with BB’s RSS: Boing Boing’s RSS is mirrored by DOZENS of commercial entities who put their own ads on it (like Bloglines) or charge money to access it (like LiveJournal). You don’t hear us complaining.
Regarding BB’s CC license: you are missing this part of the CC license:
“2. Fair Use Rights. Nothing in this license is intended to reduce, limit, or restrict any rights arising from fair use, first sale or other limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner under copyright law or other applicable laws.”
IOW: you can do all the stuff the law lets you do. In addition to that, here’s some OTHER stuff you can do, provided you do it noncommercially.
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