Growing trend: making money off somebody else’s content!

This is an issue that is going to demand attention sooner or later. In an article about Web services, looks at, a site that’s aggregating the latest news and blog entries related to federal legislation from hundreds of sites.

Think of the site (GovTrack founder Joshua) Tauberer has created as a virtual news fetcher, bringing all the relevant info right to your PC. No more need to surf around the Internet or plow through wordy government sites. It all comes to one spot, his Web site.

Such Web-service sites are just starting to catch on, thanks to technologies such as the Extensible Markup Language (XML), which is sort of a lingua franca for Net programmers, and Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds, which make it possible for sites to easily share data. It’s not a stretch to say they could revolutionize the way content is delivered.

“In the past, Web sites were data roach motels,” says David Sifry, CEO of the search engine Technorati, which sends information to via a Web service. “Your data comes in, but doesn’t come out. Now it does. And Web sites are able to create services that are better than the sum of their parts.”

These kinds of businesses make a lot of sense for consumers, but there’s a scary line to cross when it comes to them generating revenue, assuming that’s what makes the business viable. The owners of the content being aggregated deserve some form of compensation, don’t they?

More on this in a forthcoming essay.


  1. »> The owners of the content being aggregated deserve some form of compensation, don’t they?

    Not necessarily.

    In the case of government information, it’s free and open to all people for any purpose, isn’t it?

    In the case of RSS content — isn’t it being published for the sole purpose of extending its reach through syndication? The intent of the RSS publisher was to have it used (syndicated), and I suspect any reasonable person would conclude the same (including a judge).

    If there are monetary requirements to using such content, the publisher should secure it or create a reasonable indication (in the subscription process) that payment is required under certain use cases.

    Free and open access to XML content sends a message to content consumers — “here it is in an abstract semantic form; feel free to decide where and how you’d like to present it.” This will lead to unintended consequences, so be careful what you publish on the open Internet. 😉


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