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RSS content theft and how to prevent it

There are concerns among RSS publishers that their RSS content is being stolen or used without consent. The content is then being displayed on other websites surrounded by ads with no accreditation to the author.

To prevent RSS content theft there are several methods that you can use. The first method and the method that I advocate is only publish partial content in your feed. This is where you would publish just the first paragraph or snippet of the full article. Now I know there are some who will not subscribe to summary only feeds. While I strongly disagree with this view I accept everyone has the right to choose.

RSS is a publishing format for site summaries, this I believe is what it was originally intended for and what it is best used for. By publishing a summary you are giving the reader a choice as to whether they want to read the entire article. If they find the article interesting then they will click through to the site that hosts the article. This benefits the reader as they do not have to download entire articles that they may not want to read.

If the publisher chooses to publish only summaries in their feeds then they will benefit as the user will click through to their site. In this case you know that the user is interested in what you are saying and possibly may be interested in related information displayed on that page. This means it could result in the reader buying your products or services or clicking on a related ad.

Publishing summaries will deter content thieves from stealing your RSS content because they will only have a summary. To read the content the reader has to click through to your site.

You may wish to publish full articles in your feed. In this case you can help prevent content theft by adding a copyright and terms of use notice at the bottom of each feed item that you publish. I have seen this used a few times and it seems to deter those using automated feed scrapers.

Taking a step further for those persistent RSS content thieves you can additionally try blocking their scrapers by setting up your server to refuse to serve the scrapers content. You can contact the offenders directly to let them know that what they are doing is unacceptable. As a last resort you can contact their advertisers and explain the situation to them.

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