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Courtesy of FeedPass, I’ve Stolen Mike Arrington’s Feed

It’s a holiday weekend here in Canada.  While the coffee was making I started thinking about the whole FeedPass abuse theme I wondered about yesterday.  And then it clicked how easy it would be to cut the author of a blog out of the revenue stream on FeedPass.  Here’s what I did:

  1. I used my Feedburner account to create a new feed for TechCrunch.  Here’s the chicklet: 
  2. I used Feedpass to wrap that feed in advertising.  You can see it here:
  3. Then, I used FeedBurner’s Title/Description Burner feature to insert the FeedPass claim code. FeedPass accepted the modified header as real, and allowed me to claim TechCrunch.

By doing this, I get the 1/3 of Google revenues that FeedPass reserves for the creator of the feed, PLUS the 1/3 that FeedPass reserves for the owner of the feed.  Sorry Mike.  I guess I cut you out of the loop…

Having had the time to think through this issue over night, I’ve come to the conclusion that there really isn’t a legitimate reason for FeedPass to offer this feature.  Syndication of blog content should be done with the author’s consent, which I don’t believe would be unreasonably withheld in most cases.  Certainly, I’ve allowed my content to be commercially syndicated by a variety of different groups.  But commercial syndication of all my content (even just excerpts) without my consent crosses a line, in my mind.

Randy asked yesterday how this was different from Google, which of course, does exactly that — it commercially syndicates all of my content.  It does so, however, with my consent.  I could add a robots file, and they would honour that.  Opting out of FeedPass requires me to send email to Jim Woolley.  If FeedPass can automate claiming a blog, then they ought to also automate an opt-out.  Moreover, they ought to do a better job of ensuring that only the owner of a blog can claim the feed.

And in the meantime, sorry Mike… I am keeping all of the click revenue from your excellent work for myself!!!

UPDATE:  Jim from Feedpass tells me that they have disabled the FeedBurner link, and removed the advertising until they can figure out how to resolve these issues.  Kudos for being so responsive.

UPDATE:  Jim has now re-enabled all the features.  His reasoning?  Others do this already.  To me, this is sweeping the whole issue under the carpet.

{ 54 comments… add one }

  • Hope May 22, 2006, 5:32 am

    Wow, I really might look into using FeedPass to enrich myself at the expense of every prominent blogger and every major corporation that has blogs. I mean, who could reasonably object to the idea that I should enrich myself by stealing the content of others? And I didn’t even have to design the FeedPass software. What a deal. Thanks, FeedPass. You are breaking new ground for technologically talentless scalawags and forcing honest people to spend hours trying to fend us off. You are true pioneers on the RSS frontier.

    Hope

  • Michael Arrington May 22, 2006, 5:48 am

    lovely. I'm on the feed page, clicking ads like crazy so my lawyers can point to actual damages for the eventual lawsuit. :-)

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 6:11 am

    I think I'll go steal Scoble's next…

  • Matt May 22, 2006, 6:58 am

    Ok. this issue really urks me.

    If you don't want other people to "steal" your content without your "permission" then why do you or anyone else who is complaining about this put out an RSS Feed with FULL CONTENT or even at all. There has been a lot of talk about this issue recently and in the past and this is the one thing that I just don't understand about content providers (bloggers, podcasters, etc..). The whole point of RSS is making it easier for you to share your content with other people. It allows for discoverability and from my experience (I can only talk from my experience) readers of your content won't stop going to the primary source (your blog or web site). RSS is about sharing your content, not figuring out ways to make the most money for yourself (but if you can accomplish both, kudos to you).

  • Russ Campbell May 22, 2006, 6:58 am

    This is perfect! Folks have been plagerizing content since the Web began. Now, with just a little more effort, they can make a few bucks for themselves. All seems fair to me. Just because a person doesn't have the talent or the energy to produce their own content, doesn't mean they should have to do without. That's NOT the Canadian way. "You do the work, I get the gain." Now, that's the Canadian way!

    Thanks for the heads up on this latest scam.

  • Jim May 22, 2006, 7:08 am

    Very interesting Alec. We weren't aware of this flaw in FeedBurner that allowed you to steal Michael Arrington's content in the first place. Shame on FeedBurner. Of course, we're a responsible group and have taken immediate action. Perhaps FeedBurner will do the same and make sure that other unscrupulous users, like you, don't rob people like Michael again. I know, you just did it to make a point, but now that you've exposed it, just imagine the theft that will begin to occur at FeedBurner.

    We've deleted the stolen feed, removed all TechCrunch feedpass pages, temporarily suspended advertising, and blocked all FeedBurner feeds from being used in our system to create new feedpass pages. We are however, still showing the most recent 4 story titles and a short excerpt. This is far from theft of content.

    We do intend to resume advertising and we hope that someday we'll be able to offer the ability for users to create new feedpass pages based on FeedBurner URL's. But if not, then we should keep in mind that of the 40+ million feeds tracked by Technorati.com, FeedBurner only manages less than 200,000. Pretty small in the big picture.

    As for Michael, at least Google has some processes in place to try to identify click behavior like his and hopefully keep him from racking up huge numbers to damage our company, the company who's ads he clicks, and Google too.

    Jim
    Feedpass

  • Jim May 22, 2006, 7:19 am

    Scoble is smart. He doesn't use FeedBurner, so you shouldn't be able to steal his feed. You could burn it to a FeedBurner URL without his consent. Then you'd be providing FULL feeds of his content to anyone who wants to pull up your URL. Now we've got a real problem.

    Of course, as of this AM, you can't even create a feedpass with a FeedBurner URL. So use FeedBurner to steal Scoble's content and anyone else's. Let's see what FeedBurner does to combat this type of theft.

    Jim
    Feedpass

  • Jim May 22, 2006, 7:29 am

    One final comment Alec. We are working on adding a Robots.txt process do disallow our user agent. But what about the millions of users who don't have the ability to modify a web server and just use an off-the-shelf commercial blogging tool? Robots.txt doesnt' help them.

    Technorati requires code pasted into a blog template to "claim" a blog. Is this undue effort for bloggers?

    Anyway, it's definitely something we're looking into.

    Jim
    Feedpass

  • /pd May 22, 2006, 8:02 am

    Good hack Alec – this exposed the flaws that are in occurance within all these burners /feeders etc.

  • Jim May 22, 2006, 8:04 am

    Clarification on one comment above: I wouldn't want you to actually steal anyone's content with FeedBurner. So when I said "use FeedBurner to steal Scoble's content", what I meant was, it's possible. Of course, I didn't know that until you actually stole TechCrunch content using FeedBurner.

    We don't advocate theft of any sort, no matter what tool you might use. At least now, we know you can't use Feedpass to further the theft of works using FeedBurner. If you find any other loopholes in the system, we hope you'll let us know so we can take rapid, appropriate action, just like we did with this situation.

    Thanks.

    Jim
    Feedpass

  • Randy Charles Morin May 22, 2006, 8:07 am

    Matt nails the real issue. You see, Alec's post uses Feedpass to render an RSS feed. I uses XSLT and ASPX. http://www.kbcafe.com/profiles.aspx/feeds.feedbur

    Technorati uses PHP http://www.technorati.com/blogs/saunderslog.com

    If you don't want to be a participating member of the blogosphere then go-way, shut your RSS down and stop being idiots. The flaw is in RSS not Feedpass or ASPX or XSLT or PHP. Anybody can monetize an RSS feed. If you couldn't, then FeedBurner wouldn't be in business, neither would Technorati or Feedster.

    This has turned into a bunch of bullies attacking the new kid in class. You should all be ashamed.

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 8:09 am

    Matt, I think the issue is more complicated than what RSS does or does not allow. RSS is a technology. What you need to look at are the rights that I, as the content creator, grant you. In my case, I grant full rights for non-commercial use. If you're going to use my stuff commercially, then I expect you to at least do me the courtesy of asking. That's all. The money is a secondary issue. Let's face it – it's a banner month for me when I make $100.

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 8:17 am

    Jim – thanks for responding so quickly. I don't know that robots.txt is the best way to opt-out, but in my opinion, if you are going to start from a commercial basis, you ought to start from the premise that publishers opt-in. If you could develop a piece of code to parse the CC license, and act appropriately based on that license you would resolve my issue. I would then, once again, be in control of my content.

    A

  • Randy Charles Morin May 22, 2006, 8:17 am

    Alec,
    It's not more complicated. Matt is correct. Did Technorati do you the courtesy of asking you? What's the user-agent you use to block Technorati in your robots.txt file? My understanding is that most blogosphere clients, don't respect robots.txt. Why does Feedpass have to? You guys are imposing rules on Feedpass that you've never asked of Technorati. You are being entirely unfair.

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 8:21 am

    Technorati may not be behaving appropriately, either Randy. I don't know. I currently choose to syndicate all my content to technorati by pinging and tagging every time I post. Maybe it is unequal treatment. Maybe it's time we had a discussion about this as a community.

  • /pd May 22, 2006, 8:41 am

    Randy Sez "… If you are gonna create one, then save yourself some time and use Feedpass. Jim Woolley of Feedpass was nice enough to create an RSS landing page for The RSS Blog. It's even featured on their homepage. Check it out! "

    So is this applicable Randy –given the facts above and the discourse of issue being addressed ??

  • /pd May 22, 2006, 9:02 am

    FYI.. on another channel we just coined the term :feednapping: for this type of hack :)-.

  • Randy Charles Morin May 22, 2006, 9:09 am

    Alec, So you guys are attacking Feedpass for something that you now agree is happening everywhere/everyday?

  • /pd May 22, 2006, 9:25 am

    Thats a strong word to use "attacking" — I dont think any one is attacking anyone or company. If there is a collision of differences– its healthy.

    What is happening here is that the monization of RSS efforts are flawed to a certain degree and this needs to be addressed /debated by the community and for community..

    ==>> "Technorati may not be behaving appropriately"
    ==>"At least now, we know you can’t use Feedpass to further the theft of works using FeedBurner."
    ==>"RSS is about sharing your content, not figuring out ways to make the most money for yourself (but if you can accomplish both, kudos to you). "

    Disclaimier : I may not very savvy with RSS technologies and the intricated nature of $$$ piggybacking on the RSS formats. But I do know that RSS is tehcnology which is here to stay. Having said that, its only fair that a good playing feed is established for all –existing Players of the rss landscape and new players in the RSS landscape.. !!

  • Jim May 22, 2006, 9:31 am

    Update: We have once again turned on support for FeedBurner URLs unless the specific URL has been blocked in our system. Ads are still off, but that will change in time.

    In the meantime, we believe that the user community should address the bigger issue here. FeedBurner has no protection mechanism in place to protect its users from a dupe like Alec pulled today. Not only that, but it get's worse. The TechCrunch feed on the FeedBurner landing page http://feeds.feedburner.com/kQNU shows full content…and lots of it. While we don't condone reburning FeedBurner feeds, it obviously is possible.

    This is exactly the kind of content theft that everyone is screaming about. Plug that same FeedBurner feed into Feedpass (of course we've blocked all TechCrunch still, so you'll have to use a differnt one), and you'll see just the last 4 posts, short excerpts, and links to the author. Big difference.

    So does it really just come down to the ads and who makes the money?

    Jim
    Feedpass

  • /pd May 22, 2006, 9:36 am

    Cetainly Jim– Thats exactly the point !! Ad's and who makes the money :)-

  • Dick Costolo May 22, 2006, 9:51 am

    Hello there, it is and always has been a violation of FeedBurner's TOS to burn a feed for which you don't have copy or distribution rights, and we pursue all requests to have unauthorized burned feeds removed from the system, regardless of whether those publishers use FeedBurner in any way. We have further offered for more than a year now the free ability for publishers to splice in machine readable Creative Commons licenses via our Creative Commons feed service. The creative commons goes further and reconciles different CC licenses between a photo feed and a text feed in a resultant spliced feed and manages the CC license to the item level. We also provide detailed "uncommon uses" to publishers for free so that you can see where your feed is being repurposed in ways you may or may not want to further investigate. We finally provide publishers with the ability to add FeedFlare copy notices to the footers of their feed elements so that in cases where the feed is repurposed by blog spam, there is a notice and pointer back to the proper author, the disabling of which provides further indication to the proper author that the repurposing is inappropriate if there is an according CC license present.

  • Jim May 22, 2006, 10:00 am

    Did I say "Alec's FeedBurner Feed"? Sorry, I meant to say Alec's stolen FeedBurner feed of the TechCrunch feed.

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 10:50 am

    I've been thinking through the Technorati example raised by several folks. For me, the difference between Technorati and FeedPass is simply this: Technorati exists to make blog content discoverable. They monetize their service with advertising under their control on their web site. FeedPass exists to make blog content monetizable, without any controls in lpace.

    I don't think FeedBurner is at fault here, save that their ability to burn a feed seems to have no safeguards except TOS. They provide all kinds of tools, plus they allow me to specify the licensing terms for my content. Nor do I think that T'rati is at fault, since monetizing a service via advertising seems to be one of the norms on the net today.

    I do think that FeedPass provides little beyond the ability to monetize, and insufficient safeguards to prevent that from being abused. Add more features (especially the holy grail of contextual ads within the feed!), and give me more protection against uses that I don't approve of, and I'll be on your side. Right now, though, I'm not.

  • Randy Charles Morin May 22, 2006, 11:45 am

    Alec,
    I have acknowledged the issues by pointing to countless other examples of the same, which we've all accepted, but somehow Feedpass doing the same is bad. By suggesting I haven't only proves your blindness. Look above!

    RSS landing pages are clearly a feature. That's why FeedBurner, IE7, Feedpass, subsolo, etc are trying to make a business of them. The only reason you won't acknowledge that as a feature, is because it destroys your entire argument.

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 12:00 pm

    Fine. Landing pages are a feature. So, now what?

  • Randy Charles Morin May 22, 2006, 12:05 pm

    The argument ends. Enjoy the fireworks in Ottawa.

  • /pd May 22, 2006, 12:14 pm

    FWIW – I already pointed to their TOS

    Randy, yes I maybe blind- but I ant stupid and just because a person has the freedom of speech does not make them intelligent . You have your opinion. The issue here is not about a person or even feedburner. Its about feed monization.

    I am sorry that you got me wrong in impliying that [you are] " somehow in league w/ Feedpass "–no I pointed out the post/fact that you said ""If you are gonna create one, then save yourself some time and use Feedpass" . With that in mind, I openly asked you a question which implies "is that still applicable" and do you still hold your former statement to be true ? That is, use feedpass as a landing zone- given the nature of issues being addresse.

    Please don't get me wrong Randy, you personally know that I have reached out to you when I seek valuable second opinion. Now, having said , I am still awaiting your reply to my question. Just say say or no – its simple — dont get into the big speech about being blind and all that yada yada stuff..

  • Randy Charles Morin May 22, 2006, 12:58 pm

    Sorry Peter. That was entirely my bad. I thought you were implying something else. I apologize.

    Yes, I thought Feedpass was the best landing page application. But things have changed. Jim has changed Feedpass in such a way that it was unusable this morning. Basically, by pandering to the mob, he's made it unusable. I told him so in an email. Hopefully he can find a happy balance of ease-of-use and pandering, but with a slant towards ease-of-use.

    I think his original design was brilliant and that all he needed to do was make the blog entry excerpts instead of full feeds copies.

    Again, sorry Peter.

  • Randy Charles Morin May 22, 2006, 1:46 pm

    That's good to hear Jim. Thanks!

  • Jim May 22, 2006, 1:57 pm

    Sorry, provided the wrong link to Alec’s FeedBurner feed:

    http://feeds.feedburner.com/feedburner/kQNU

  • Dick Costolo May 22, 2006, 2:00 pm

    Hello there, it is and always has been a violation of FeedBurner’s TOS to burn a feed for which you don’t have copy or distribution rights, and we pursue all requests to have unauthorized burned feeds removed from the system, regardless of whether those publishers use FeedBurner in any way. We have further offered for more than a year now the free ability for publishers to splice in machine readable Creative Commons licenses via our Creative Commons feed service. The creative commons goes further and reconciles different CC licenses between a photo feed and a text feed in a resultant spliced feed and manages the CC license to the item level. We also provide detailed “uncommon uses” to publishers for free so that you can see where your feed is being repurposed in ways you may or may not want to further investigate. We finally provide publishers with the ability to add FeedFlare copy notices to the footers of their feed elements so that in cases where the feed is repurposed by blog spam, there is a notice and pointer back to the proper author, the disabling of which provides further indication to the proper author at the repurposing is inappropriate if there is an according CC license present.

  • Jim May 22, 2006, 2:19 pm

    We've put the ads back up now too. Alec, we are continuing to research the issues mentioned, but felt that the situation you highlighted this morning truly was more of a weakness with FeedBurner than Feedpass. With that in mind, we're back up and rolling with ads and hope to continue to fine-tune this thing with feedback from users, including publishers.

    Since the practice of including a blog title, or item title, and short excerpt is clearly widely accepted on blogs everywhere that contain advertising, we don't feel that our service should be targeted negatively for doing the same. That being said, we are obviously very involved in this process and have been responsive to anyone who wants to discuss it. We'll watch it closely and we promise to take action as needed to insure that Feedpass continues to develop into a valuable service for our users.

    Jim
    Feedpass

  • /pd May 22, 2006, 2:30 pm

    Jim, tip of the hat to you for being proactive and addressing the issues here !!

    ==>"we don’t feel that our service should be targeted negatively for doing the same" . I whole heartly agree.

    I wish you and your team the best in this initative. May the God's look gracefully upon you :)-

  • Randy Charles Morin May 22, 2006, 3:02 pm

    Alec and Peter, you must be blind.

    Alec, the intent of Feedpass is to make an RSS landing page. That’s a feature. It facilitates subscribing.

    Peter, attacking is the right word. And trying to pretend I’m somehow in league w/ Feedpass because I blogged about it first and they point to my blog because of it is ridiculous. There’s nothing there. I don’t even use Feedpass. I use FeedBurner. In fact, Jim even asked if I wanted the link removed and I said no. Why? Because you have to stand up to bullies. You cannot back down. Mob mentally shows that you guys have no real opinion. You have the opinion of your all mighty leader and you’re prepared to say anything to back him.

    Clearly Feedpass is an RSS landing page, but Alec is so blinded by his devotion to Michael Arrington (please link to me) that he continues to ignore it and says that Feedpass has not purpose other than monetization. Whatever. You’re blind.

    And if I come off as a jerk or biased defending someone I don’t even know, then that’s because I have my own opinion, not Michael Arrington. Mike, tell them to go jump in a lake.

  • Michael Arrington May 22, 2006, 3:23 pm

    did you guys see this? http://www.kbcafe.com/rss/?guid=20060522103709

    amazing.

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 3:36 pm

    Randy, dude… you keep making this assertion that I am devoted to Arrington, which is totally baseless. Michael has never linked here. Not once! Moreover, you accuse me of not thinking for myself, which is also untrue. I spent a good chunk of last evening, and this morning forming my opinion and playing with FeedPass / FeedBurner. I was very excited when I read about how it could help me monetize my RSS feed, then disappointed when I discovered how little it did, and then upset when I discovered how easy it was for others to make money from my page. As for RSS landing pages –> I guess I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them, because they don’t seem that valuable to me. For me, RSS landing pages are a non-feature, whether they come from FeedBurner, IE 7, or FeedPass.

    Why not acknowledge the issues raised, instead of ridiculing the people raising them?

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 4:09 pm

    Cheers buddy!

  • /pd May 22, 2006, 4:19 pm

    oh that ?? yeah Mike we seen that… The point is that you are being called a "bully" :)- but a smily is a smily in my books :)-

    But dont go gung ho on me , just beause I track conversations :)-

  • Michael Arrington May 22, 2006, 5:05 pm

    Somebody recently suggested that I molest farm animals in a comment on my blog. I can live with being called a bully.

  • Michael Arrington May 22, 2006, 5:07 pm

    And Peter, thanks for your post on Meckler. I wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 5:16 pm

    'course we did Mike. I've been arm-wrestling Randy all afternoon… I think he thinks we might be gay lovers… or at least very close :)

  • Michael Arrington May 22, 2006, 5:20 pm

    this is fun. what was the original conversation about? :-)

    (disclaimer: smily face suggests sarcasm, irony or an otherwise non-serious comment and in no way is to be construed as a legal or other threat of any kind)

  • Jim May 22, 2006, 5:22 pm

    Randy,

    Yes. I did “pander to the mob” briefly. But no longer. The only remnant of pandering left is the fact that the AdSense ads aren’t showing up for now. And I did make it impossible for anyone to create a feed using any feed from the TechCrunch domain. That won’t stop people from repurposing FeedBurner, but that’s not my problem. That’s something for FeedBurner to deal with.

    Otherwise, thanks for your comment saying “his original design was brilliant.” The pages do only display titles and excerpts. The feedpass creation process works just like it did for the last few days. There are a handfull of blocked URLs from shortsighted individuals and banned content, but that’s it.

    So consider the slant heavily back towards ease of use. We’ll deal with the mob without pandering from here on out.

    Jim
    Feedpass

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 5:28 pm

    Jim,

    I recommend that you revisit this with some strong legal counsel. My opinion? What you're doing may not constitute fair use. The fact that you're exerpting my works for commercial gain may not protect you under the doctrine of fair use. Certainly it upsets me. You can find out more here at Bitlaw: http://www.bitlaw.com/copyright/fair_use.html. Again, my opinion, but you should be respecting the CC license which I have placed on all my feeds and content. I am not going to go after you (got better things to do with my time), but you're not making yourself into a hero by running roughshod over my rights.

    A

  • Jim May 22, 2006, 5:29 pm

    Clarification: While the problem of people re-burning FeedBurner feeds isn’t our problem, if anyone points out a repurposed FeedBurner feed being used on a Feedpass page, we will investigate, delete it if the claim is valid, and also notify FeedBurner of the violation of their TOS for that feed.

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 5:29 pm

    F u Mike! i am filing a suit… 😉

  • Michael Arrington May 22, 2006, 6:17 pm

    where? canada? heh.

  • Michael Arrington May 22, 2006, 6:18 pm

    by the way, I've been clicking on your adsense ads all night.

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 6:22 pm

    huh? no… california…

    thx fer the cliks. RIGHTEOUS!

    G'night. 'nuff silliness for one day.

  • Randy Charles Morin May 22, 2006, 9:08 pm

    Oops, I lost a couple characters to the escaping gods. Let me repeat, before I get hung.

    Lovers? maybe. Gay? maybe. But, if you’re gonna get married, then do so before Harper sets things straight (pun) :-) (smiley)

  • Alec May 22, 2006, 10:25 pm

    ya know, that’s all I need… some high profile lawyer committing click-fraud on my site. Go somewhere else! Go click some other poor sods ads!!!

  • Randy Charles Morin May 23, 2006, 1:06 am

    Lovers? maybe. Gay? maybe. But, if you’re gonna get married, then do so before Harper sets things straight

  • mr.denali June 17, 2006, 7:02 pm

    Hey and I *stole your feeds too, you get credit on all of them, a link to your site, and the second segment of my growing network. I like your stuff, you in? You can email if you like, to work out a $ arrangement. If not, I will kindly remove them.

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