When you are involved in RSS everyday you get to see the fantastic opportunities RSS can bring to the web and how it can contribute to bettering the browsers experience and the webmasters bottom line. Unfortunately there is a dark side of RSS use.
It continues to amaze me how some webmasters always see ways to abuse new communication mediums. It is well know that email has become synonymous with spam. Email was a great communication tool when it arrived, but individuals soon started to abuse email by sending unsolicited messages to everyone with an email address. Now the same seems to be happening with RSS.
More and more webmasters are starting to use RSS to improve and maintain a good relationship with their readers. They are using RSS the correct way by keeping their readers informed and using RSS to syndicate content around the web. I talk more about this at http://www.newsniche.com/ where I help to inform and educate webmasters about RSS.
Unlike email you can't spam readers using RSS as it is a pull technology which means as a webmaster you do not have the contact details of your readers. Unfortunately as RSS is such a good tool for syndicating content it looks like some webmasters have taken that to mean all RSS content is public domain. This has lead to RSS feed being copied verbatim and reused in new feeds or republished on websites.
I know what your thinking, what exactly is my problem, that's what RSS is for. Well consider this. How would you feel if you found the contents of your feed copied word for word in another feed and also replicated on someone else's website. No problem you might be thinking, think of all the traffic it will bring to your site. No, I'm afraid all the links back to your site have been removed, in fact all reference to you has been removed. It's as if you didn't even create the content.
I am afraid this is the new scourge of the internet and it is going to affect you sooner or later. But all is not lost, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. First off I would suggest not publishing full content feeds, that is only publish part of a large article and link it back to your website. Secondly put a copyright notice in your feed. Then if someone copies it verbatim they will get the copyright notice as well, when they republish it all of there readers will know what they've been up to. Thirdly contact there publisher of your work and remind them that they are stealing copyrighted material.
If you do want to republished content from other feeds then you should contact the publisher and ask permission. When you republish the content do not remove any links and make sure the original publisher is properly attributed. This way you get free content and the author get some traffic, a fair exchange and everyone wins.
Allan is the webmaster at http://www.newsniche.com/ an RSS resource for webmasters. Learn how to use RSS to attract and retain visitors to your site.