Is it Illegal to Scrape RSS Feeds?

hackerUsing RSS feeds is a great way for people to promote their blogs and websites. However, some people are taking advantage of these feeds and using them to fill their own websites with content.

Bloggers and website owners want people to visit their websites, and they will use a number of different methods to get those visitors. One of the more popular ways to drive people to your site is by using an RSS feed. These feeds distribute your website’s content to anyone who wants to receive it. While this is certainly a great boost for getting your content in front of a larger audience, these feeds are also being used to steal content from websites for use on other sites. Many people are wondering if it is illegal to scrape RSS feeds since the owners have made their content so readily available. They also are curious if there is anything they can do to prevent content from getting harvested by scrapers.

RSS Defined

The letters “RSS” are an abbreviation for Really Simple Syndication. It is a program that helps to format parts or all of your website’s content so it can be shared on other websites, including social media sites. It can also be included in email letters and other online mass communication systems. There are various “readers” which make receiving and viewing RSS feeds much simpler, which makes it more convenient for others to look at a website’s content.

When a website or blog owner wants to promote his or her content, he or she can use various formats, but an RSS feed is one of the primary mechanisms available. Using an RSS feed is truly simple, requiring no specialized skills or programming knowledge. People who are using WordPress or similar blog and website formats can simply use a plug-in, enter their RSS feed address, activate the plug-in, and then watch the traffic increase.

RSS Scraping

With all of that convenience, it’s no wonder people all around the world are able to access your content. It’s also no wonder people are stealing content from those feeds and using it in their own websites. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if they were giving proper credit for the information from the blog, but many are stripping away the links and credits and calling it their own.

Many of these unscrupulous people are not only just stealing content, but they are also employing scraping bots that remove all your website’s content. So even if your RSS feed only sends a sample of your articles or blog posts, these bots are able to locate the original source of the information and copy it completely.

The question raised is, “When does this cross from sharing RSS content to plagiarism?” Here are some basic rules that can help define the difference between the two.

  • Full credit. If you are including all the information provided with the RSS feed, including links back to the original site and the author’s name, you should be able to use it on your website. However, if you remove the links and author’s name, you are implying that you wrote the article when, in truth, you did not.
  • Leave content intact. If you display the content from the feed exactly how it was sent, you can use the content. If you change anything in the content, you have crossed over into plagiarism.
  • Advertising. You really should not advertise on the same webpage as you are posting the syndicated content. By doing this, you are using the other person’s hard work to drive your sales.
  • Stop web searches. For those pages on which you are posting someone else’s feed, you should block search engine spiders and bots from crawling for content. These shared copies can be considered duplicate content by the search engine, which can harm the original author’s web site ranking.

Preventing Scraping

Finding ways to stop scrapers from stealing your content can be a challenge. There are many ways you can determine if your site is being scraped, but it is proving difficult to find a program that will effectively halt scraping. There are some manual methods which you can use to find websites that have used your content, but that is still not stopping it from happening and takes a lot of work to get the offending website to remove your content.

There are, however, services to manage and stop scraping of content. These services use a variety of techniques to end scraping before it harvests all your website’s content. They often employ a human element which can analyze the threat and quickly terminate it.

Using RSS feeds will continue to be a great way to send your content to customers around the globe. However, as long as there are people scraping your content, you need to take a proactive stance and protect your hard work and effort from being harvested by scraper bots.

If you have any questions, please ask below!