WATCH THY NEIGHBOR
VC Brad Feld posted on a new service called BuzzBoost launched by Feedburner that could exacerbate the blog plagiarism I posted on yesterday. While the service has obvious convenience features for bloggers managing multiple blogs, it also potentially makes it much easier to do what Fred Wilson and Jason Calcanis describe as the latest scourge of the Internet: Really Simple Stealing (RSS's evil twin...I'm calling it RSS-ET in this post). Fred has rightfully added RSS-ET to his aptly-named Internet Axis of Evil list.
The "good" RSS has tremendous promise for fundamentally changing the web for the better, making possible all sorts of new content services. But as is usual with ground-breaking technology, there are evil ways it can be put to use, and RSS-ET is a prime suspect.
So the BIG QUESTION is, what can be done about RSS-ET? The obvious answers are:
- Nothing...the genie is out of the bottle.
- Technology solutions might be possible.
- Regulatory solutions might be the answer.
I'll provide my two cents on each possible path.
1. DO NOTHING: The argument here would be that it's just another fact of life with a new technology. The "crime" is too low-level on the cost/benefit curve to warrant extensive effort to police it.
While this may be true at today's penny ante, individual, personal blogger level, it is not true if blogging is to become a larger, self-sustaining business, whether in the form of text, audio and/or video. I would think Jason Calcanis, who runs Weblogsinc, one of the larger blog media aggregators, would agree.
Also, as mainstream magazine and newspaper companies like Businessweek's Blogspotting and SiliconBeat embrace/allow blogging for their journalists, they will likely insist on content protection mechanisms for their content. (Incidentally, the Wall Street Journal has a good article on this trend, registration required).
2. TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS: We may not see much innovation here until RSS-ET becomes a much bigger problem. The solutions may range anywhere from some sort of digital watermarks on individual posts, to full-fledged Digital Rights Management (DRM)-type solutions the traditional content companies are espousing, nay insisting upon. This mostly, would be a bad thing, in my view, but potentially inevitable.
3. REGULATORY SOLUTIONS: Government regulation would not likely be a good thing here in the long run. A better, more likely approach may be some sort of industry self-regulatory action that may develop as the industry becomes big enough financially.
In the mean-time, at the individual blog level, a better solution might be a more grass-roots effort by both the producers and consumers of blogs to watch out for and call out plagiarism when they see it...essentially a "watch-out for your neighbor" type of effort.
A variation of a non-profit, Wikipedia type of entity could potentially be formed, where obvious infractions could be posted, reviewed, rated, ranked, and voted on by the user community at large, in an eBay-type ranking system.
This data-base could then be useful for the advertising community to use in their advertising programs, if they so choose.
I've probably missed a number of other approaches, perhaps combining both technological and regulatory elements, as long-term solutions to this problem.
Also, as the major portals and technology/media companies like Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, AOL, et al make RSS more mainstream, they might individually, or collectively come up with some blended solution to this problem.
This post is merely a starting point for me as I think about this issue. Any additional thoughts/suggestions/comments would be welcome.