Content ownership, fair use and attribution


There is a very lively debate between a blogger, Jason Calacanis and the CTO of Skweezer, a "Web
portal that reformats Web pages, searches, and e-mail for handheld
devices, such as PDA's, smartphones, and most XHTML-enabled cell
phones."

At the heart of the discussion is the fair use of content.  Jason's complaint is this:

"It’s one thing to take headlines.

It’s one thing to take an excerpt—like the good folks at Google, Topix.net, Feedster or Technorati do—to help people navigate.

It’s
a whole other thing to take your entire feed, wrap your own ads around
it, and try to sell a service on top of the content!"

See Skweezer's version of blogs.msdn.com as an example.

Jason goes on...

"However, their execution of this business idea is to take all of our websites and then:

1. Republish them on their website
2. Place their own advertisements on them
3. Sell a “professional” version of their software based on our content
4. Deny us the ability to track our page views and readers"

A detailed explanation of what Skweezer does and how it does it is provided on blog posting by Barnabas Kendall, CTO of the company.  In the same blog posting called 'Why Skweezer is good for Content Publishers', Barnabas tries to explain the company's position:

"Here is a quote from Jim Elve,
which he permitted me to reproduce here, and I think illustrates a
content producer's frustration with Skweezer at first glance: "The
content on my site represents thousands of hours of work. That work is
copyrighted. You are displaying my intellectual property on your site.
You are stripping my ads from my content. You are displaying your ads
with my content. The ad revenue you are receiving is, indeed,
misappropriated
."

Barnabas goes on...

"First, the Skweezer service does not interfere with a publisher's visibility of their audience, except for IP address. Publishers will serve the same HTML content traffic
(and slightly less image traffic), hit for hit, which they would
otherwise serve to these mobile browsers, except that these mobile
browsers can actually view and experience the content. Also, nowhere does Skweezer explicitly remove advertising,
unlike a pop-up blocker. Images are removed in accordance with view
mode and size constraints; many advertising images remain intact. The
fact that text ads do not show is a by-product of JavaScript being
removed, not some malicious intent to steal content. How is this
different than someone browsing a site with images and JavaScript
turned off?"

I'm
not sure whether Jason has been pacified or not by Skweezer's genuine
efforts to explain how the service works, but there are a number
of questions that concern bloggers / content creators in
general:

  • When is it ok, is it ok to render content dynamically/statically created by another author on another site/service?
  • What is fair use, what is not?
  • Is
    it ok to take snippets of others' content and republish (as I have done
    above)..if so, how much is content is too much...10%, 50%, 80%,
    100%?
  • If you do use a snippet, should you link to original source? (personally I think this should ALWAYS be the case)

Anyway, if you are introducing any friends to blogging, point them to a little blogging etiquette advice from Cafe Mama and Seton Hill.

Comments (11)
  1. So long as there is a hyperlink back to the original content, I see no problem with such services. I am, however, biased against companies that make usability decisions based on money instead of actual usability. Even when you consider the money alternative, this type of site forces those who do care about money to provide a mobile-accessible alternative to their standard site if they wish to remain in business.

    From his presentation at my college, Ted Nelson showed a vision of hypertext in which microcontent could be freely copied back and forth between sites and their relationships kept intact. The current Web model does not show such relationships to the best extent, but there is room for such improvement.

  2. Daniel Moth says:

    Blog link of the week 53

  3. Alex Barnett says:

    Interesting post regarding copyright:

    ‘Copyright myths and creative common(s) sense’, http://nevon.typepad.com/nevon/2004/12/copyright_myths.html

  4. Jim Elve says:

    Over the past few days, Skweezer has scrambled to post their terms and an easier method for site owners to opt out of having their content displayed on Skweezer. Too little, too late? Time will tell.

    What I found extremely interesting was Skweezer’s Terms of Service – particularly #9.

    From http://www.skweezer.net/help/?agreement :

    ————————-

    Intellectual Property. This Web site, including, without limitation, all information available through this site, the content, graphics, images, audio and layout of this site is the property of GWC and is protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws of the U.S. and other countries.

    ————————-

    "including, without limitation, all information available through this site, the content, graphics, images…" ????

    Now, they are claiming that they own all of the content they display. How can that possibly be ethical?

    As a further indication of the way Skweezer operates, Scott Watermaysk and the other dotText developers might like to note that the Sweezer blog is a dotText blog but they didn’t even bother to give any credit to the selfless guys who made it freely available to them.

    Like my own dasBlog-based site, the "CSSed" dotText pages should display quite nicely in most small screen devices. Indeed, readers do not need Skweezer for most blogs. Blogging software and online blog tools are mostly doing a good job of making content cross-browser/platform compatible.

    As to the fact that they provide one direct link back to the site, notice that the link is simply named "URL" and it is the very last thing on the Skweezer page.

  5. Dug Falby says:

    I reckon once content is available online it should be treated as largely in the public domain.

    It’s no sin to chase audience and ad revenue by repurposing other people’s content, but generally, readers want a relationship with a site, and these are best provided by active independent publishers who keep it fresh by keeping it coming.

    I think Barnabas Kendall’s "Why Skweezer is good for Content Publishers" is a bit ingenuous in places. In any case, he puts his finger on the real issue:

    > After all, certain sites (Bloglines for example)

    > detect and offer alternative content to mobile

    > browsers. In a perfect Internet, this would

    > obviate Skweezer entirely.

    As handsets improve (and they are–quickly) and websites become more semantic and more media neutral (and I think the rush is now offically on) services like Squeezer will become obsolete. I think we’re looking at a couple of years, so not really anything to get your knickers in a twist about.

    Besides, I’ve not yet found an aggregated or repurposed site that I favoured over its original. Or, in other words, while it’s no sin, repurposing probably isn’t the best way to build an audience.

    Finally, I won’t say Jim Elve is a psycho, but he’s not so much way off the mark as missing the point entirely. For now, Skweezer is a proxy service. Period. Same as websitegarage and the modem proxy you get with your copy of Analog. As a hosted service that isn’t a registered charity, of course they whack some ads at the bottom of the page.

    I think this exposes a sidecar issue: Google adsense will be rubish until it adopts standards. Google, read my lips, The IFRAME tag is NOT STANDARD it is a deprecated MSIE extension *grrr*

    If Google let us store the adwords in page memory so they could easily be manipulated, Jim’s ads would still be on his page.

  6. Denise Howell interviews (mp3) Bob Wyman (CEO of PubSub) about the thorny subject of the legalities of…

  7. Dating says:

    There is a very lively debate between a blogger, Jason Calacanis and the CTO of Skweezer , a " Web portal that reformats Web pages, searches, and e-mail for handheld devices, such as PDA’s, smartphones, and most XHTML-enabled cell phones." At

  8. Weddings says:

    There is a very lively debate between a blogger, Jason Calacanis and the CTO of Skweezer , a " Web portal that reformats Web pages, searches, and e-mail for handheld devices, such as PDA’s, smartphones, and most XHTML-enabled cell phones." At

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