Learn the Copyright Laws and Other Legal Aspects of RSS Feeds

Using content from RSS feeds may not be legal

RSS — Wooden Mannequin demonstrating this word

Kerrick / Getty Images

While once quite popular, RSS has lost quite a bit of usage over the years and many websites, like Facebook and Twitter, no longer offer this option on their sites. Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox both continue to offer support for RSS, but Google's Chrome browser has dropped that support.

The Legal Debate

There is some debate on the legality of using content submitted through RSS feeds on another website, related to the copyright of the feed contents.

As a general rule, reusing someone else's content is prohibited, because copyright laws attach to feeds. In most cases, the publisher of a commercial site owns the copyright. For personal websites or blogs, the author owns the rights. Unless you specifically give license to another site for your content, it cannot be replicated.

Some feeds distribute under various schemes, including Creative Commons licensing, with an intent to share and redistribute providing the sharer receives no monetary gain from the feed.

Does that mean that when you put the entire content of an article in an RSS feed that it cannot be republished? Technically, yes. Sending out text through a feed does not abrogate your intellectual-property rights to the article. That doesn't mean that someone won't redistribute it for their own profit, however. They shouldn't, but they certainly can with RSS.

Licensing Statement

Add a line in your XML code to remind others that you own the rights to the content.

My Blog
All the Stuff I Write
© 2022 Mary Smith, All rights reserved.

That one extra line in the XML feed data serves as a friendly reminder that copying content is both ethically and legally wrong. It may not reduce the theft of your content, but it'll make it harder to pretend that the theft was a mere accident.