By Kevin O'Keefe

Fair use or copyright violation?

Top Ten Sources, described by TechCrunch as a human edited blog aggregator, just raised $3.5 million in funding.

I wonder about business models that appear to be merely a display of RSS feed excerpts broken down by category surrounded by advertising. In the case of Top Ten Sources, even charging to access to the feeds at some point, as indicated in their FAQ’s. Is it permissible to use RSS feeds for commercial purposes without seeking permission of the blog publisher and/or paying the blog publishers a portion the ad revenue? I think it’s an open question.

Anything written, including copy distributed by RSS feeds, is copyright protected. ‘Fair Use’ allows for the use of portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism. A model like Top Ten Sources looks to go beyond fair use.

Better minds than me may have the answers. Perhaps Stephen Nipper, Martin Schwimmer, or Denise Howell, all excellent IP lawyers, would chime in.

I’d be interested in Ashton Peery’s, President of Top Ten Sources, take on using other people’s feeds for the company’s financial gain until the blog publisher requests to have their feeds removed.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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