Mae West once said, “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.” So here’s something you can do over the weekend just for fun. Create a blog page with one of those inexpensive blogging services like blogger or typepad. Subscribe to a bunch of relevant RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds to populate it. Now, drop a link to Google’s AdSense on the page. What have you created? A Web site that is, for all intents and purposes, an automatic money machine. The original goals of RSS were lofty, but simple: create software that lets publishers completely control publishing and that lets subscribers completely control subscriptions.
When used as designed, RSS allows you to receive highly relevant content directly from the publishers as it becomes available. You can read, or otherwise enjoy (RSS envelopes are sometimes filled with other files to create podcasts, videocasts, streamcasts, etc.) the content by using special feed reading software.
When used as designed, the same attributes that enable you to automatically subscribe to an RSS feed enable you to embed the commands in a Web (or blog) page. This allows you to “sub-publish” someone else’s work and make it look, smell and feel like your own. Not exactly what the software designers had in mind.
Oddly enough, some of these “mash-up” blogs are extremely creative. The sites can include information from several blogs, search and information services and can be more relevant to a user than the original blogs. That being said, there are many, many more that are just created by cutting and pasting a few lines of code for the sole purpose of making money off someone else’s creative.
The evolution of technology is an arms race. Every positive innovation seems to inspire some individuals to concoct ways to exploit it. Bloggers go to great lengths to get as many people to read their material as possible. Is this problem just a bunch of graffiti artists complaining about someone defacing their work? Or, is this a real copyright problem? Personally, I think it is pure piracy, but I’d like to hear from you.