Are You Reading This Blog From The Source?

Here is an interesting ethical question. Perhaps it is one worth discussing in class. I would welcome comments and discussion here as well. [Come on Alfred - get to the point. ed.]

Well at least one and probably more web sites are reproducing content, including my blog, from on their own sites. They are using the RSS feed to automatically update their sites with content written by other people.  If you are not reading this blog at then you are reading one of those copies. (Please come over and look at my site and think about subscribing directly if the other posts there look interesting. End of shameless plug begging for subscribers.)

So what is the big deal? After all these people are not editing my copy and they are not taking credit for my work. And it is not like I am losing advertising dollars or that they are making big money from me either. Some of these sites have advertising and some don't. The one I am most aware of does not have advertising though it does have a button to donate via PayPal. And of course the main goal of this blog, promoting information of use to computer science teachers and others, is still being met. One could argue that having my content on other sites helps that goal.

On the other hand authors lose out on some less tangible things when this wholesale copying takes place. I don't see traffic reports and hit counts from those other sites. That makes it harder for me to know how much interest there is in what I am writing. That is useful when I try to justify my time and effort - be it to my manager, my wife or just to myself. Also some links may go to those other sites rather than to this site. That effects how my content is found in search engines.  Some of these sites link back to the original source (which is good) but some of them do not and that is not so good for search engine traffic. I think that a lot of bloggers get a lot of their traffic via search engines. I know that I do.

Probably the worst thing though is that there is potential for people to leave comments on these other sites that I may never see. People will think they are replying to me (or the author of another copied blog) and be dissatisfied when that person never replies. And of course the author of the post misses out on a potential conversation.

This is not something I lose sleep over of course. But it is something to think about. Is it stealing? Is it helping? Are these people providing a service? (Note that anyone can subscribe to the main RSS feed at without these other sites.) Just what is going on and is it ethical?

Feel free to discuss. Actually please discuss and let me know what you think.

Comments (12)

  1. Tom says:

    First, I’d like to say that yours is one of the best MSDN Blogs – probably in the top ten IMO.

    In my view, Microsoft should copyright the blog content, and go after those who copy blog content in the way you describe.  That, after all, is the purpose of copyright, and I don’t see it as any different than if somebody took a magazine and made and distributed tons of copies of it.

  2. I read your blog through RSS — so I rarely see your actual blog.

    I consult for a large media company, and their own TV & Radio articles are "borrowed" on MANY people’s blogs. So they are losing "credit" as well as money!

    While the polite thing to do is add a "link" — or use a "trackback" . . . people tend not to be polite, and most services do not support "trackbacks"

    My solution? Place your own links throughout your articles. I catch people all the time, but more importantly I’ll still get credit at sites like Technorati.

    Blake Handler

    Microsoft MVP

  3. You can use FeedBurner or some service like that to add a Copyright notice to every post from the RSS Feed.

  4. Another blogger at found interesting issue I mean, on this blog for some period I have

  5. Another blogger at found interesting issue I mean, on this blog for some period I have

  6. Diane says:

    Maybe I’m just feeling nice this morning, but that sounds very flattering. 🙂  Have you emailed the blog owners individually?  If someone cites you with a link to this, some of the issues above could be solved.

  7. It would be more flattering if they were just taking my feed but they are taking the whole blogs.msdn feed. I’m not sure a copyright notice would stop many people either. But then I am not 100% sure why they are doing this in the first place.

  8. orcmid says:

    I am not going to comment on the ethical concerns.  However, it is blatant copyright infringement. (There is no action required to copyright this blog – it is born copyrighted.  Whether Microsoft or Alfred are the copyright holders is a matter for them to figure out, and it depends on the employment agreement.)

    So, in terms of education and promotion of correct scholarly behavior in using materials, I think it is good to resist those who republish your material without attribution and without permission.  It is arguably a form of plagiarism.  

    They are also getting search finds of their site via your content, and the site may or may not be malicious, it may be unsuitable for grandparents (someone is snagging my videos at such a place) and also young people.

  9. orcmid says:

    Oh, and visitors to the other folks are not seeing your posts’ comments and discussions.  That’s a bummer too.

  10. I’d go with the idea of trying to make each post a complete "packet" with links back to the original source, some idea of ownership/license, and even a link to the appropriate "comments" page.  This doesn’t have to be some huge footer at the bottom of each post.  Just a few links and a couple words the content.  For example ….

    Post from: _The_Computer_Science_Teacher_ (C) 2007 [_comments_] [_RSS_]

    Where the blog title, comments and rss are links back to the "correct" place.  That way your ideas, freely given (but protected), are put in context with a link "home".

  11. I actually had someone steal the content from my Diabetes blog using one of the feed readers.  I wasn’t the only one and the group of us ganged up on the guy.

    THEY were selling advertising, they were not linking back to our sites, not were they giving us credit.  And they were quoting us word for word.

    Very wrong.

    On the other hand if the author wants to do something like that, I don’t have a problem, but the author MUST opt in.  And there should be a link to the original site.

    Of course, the readers will miss the comments, etc.

  12. Doc DeVore says:

    I don’t think it’s stealing, because you use a standard that allows users to see you posts without going to your web site. It might possibly be copyright infringement, but you would have no damages to collect because you are certainly a proximate cause of the damage.

    That said, you will want to know I came to read this because of the compelling headline that caught my eye while browsing my feeds in Google Reader.

    In fact, I come to your page on a regular basis because the headlines intrique me, and the content is good enough that I know the side trip will likely be worth it.

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