Are YOU Using Other People's RSS Feeds Illegally?

36 replies
This is something I've wondered about for a while.

Say you have a niche where there are approximately 30 great sites, and all provide an RSS feed on their website.

You then publish a page on your own site where you display the latest headlines from the RSS feed of all 30 websites, calling it "latest _____ niche news". The headlines link back to the original site.

Do you consider this OK?

I see thousands of websites do this, or similar things.

But I highly doubt they've all asked or researched each individual site to see if it is OK to include that site's RSS feed on their own site like this.

What if 7 of the sites have in their terms of service something like "no content from our site can be displayed on another website"?

I would think that just because they have an RSS feed on their website it doesn't mean they allow you to display this feed in parts or whole all over the web?
#feed #illegally #people #rss
  • Profile picture of the author CyberSEO
    I would never use a 3rd-party feed w/o permission of its owner. It does not matter if you put a backlink to the source or not. Is you did not get a permission, or if such a right it's not explicitly granted in the site's TOS, you are stealing the content.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kurt
      Originally Posted by CyberSEO View Post

      I would never use a 3rd-party feed w/o permission of its owner. It does not matter if you put a backlink to the source or not. Is you did not get a permission, or if such a right it's not explicitly granted in the site's TOS, you are stealing the content.
      If someone posts a button saying "RSS", IMO they are giving permission.
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      • Profile picture of the author CyberSEO
        Originally Posted by Kurt View Post

        If someone posts a button saying "RSS", IMO they are giving permission.
        Even in this case, you still need to read the site's TOS about it. Perhaps the RSS is intended for RSS readers only, or it's not allowed to be syndicated on your type of site etc.

        Also there is another thing. There are autoblogging scripts that allow you to pull full articles from the shortened RSS feeds. For example, the RSS feed may contain only a title, a few-word description and a link to the full article. So they may allow you to syndicated their short teasers but not the full articles. Others may allow to syndicate even the full articles, but they do not allow to spin them etc.

        This is I always say: "do not steal". Read the site's TOS or better - contact its owner directly and find out what exactly you can do with the contents of RSS feed.
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        • Profile picture of the author SlicedGenius
          Indeed. The original poster described a scenario where just the headlines were being shown - and I would agree with others that this is fair use of RSS (even the intended use) and requires no permission. Just like Google doesn't need permission to index you. Your (unsecured) presence on the web implies permission to access your site - RSS feeds just make it easier.

          Of course, republishing full articles is much less OK. That gets into auto-content stealing.
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        • Profile picture of the author Kurt
          Originally Posted by CyberSEO View Post

          Even in this case, you still need to read the site's TOS about it. Perhaps the RSS is intended for RSS readers only, or it's not allowed to be syndicated on your type of site etc.
          In either case, the owner shouldn't use RSS and instead come up with a proprietary solution. RSS was invented to syndicate from site to site, readers came after.

          Also there is another thing. There are autoblogging scripts that allow you to pull full articles from the shortened RSS feeds. For example, the RSS feed may contain only a title, a few-word description and a link to the full article. So they may allow you to syndicated their short teasers but not the full articles. Others may allow to syndicate even the full articles, but they do not allow to spin them etc.
          Apples and oranges. These types of scripts use RSS to help scrape full page content. This is NOT OK. What is OK is using the content provided in the RSS pheed, nothing more. The pubisher has full control over what they place in their RSS pheed. But those that go beyond what is offered are stealing, I agree.

          This is I always say: "do not steal". Read the site's TOS or better - contact its owner directly and find out what exactly you can do with the contents of RSS feed.
          I don't want people to spend their time having to contact me to see if using my pheed is OK, or spend my time replying to them. That's why I display an RSS button, telling them that it's OK. That's the "simple" part of Really Simple Syndication.

          Plus, many people don't take RSS pheeds directly from a site. Instead, they use any of the many RSS diretories people submit their pheed to. IMO, it's up to the people that submit their pheeds to these directories to follow the TOS of each.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kurt
    One train of thought is that by having an RSS button on a site, it's "implied consent" to syndicate the content.

    This is how I feel and if I offer an RSS pheed/button, I want people to use my content on their sites, assuming they don't alter the content and include all links. If I don't want them to use my content, I don't offer an RSS button.

    BTW, RSS was created by Netscape for the purpose of syndicating content from one site to another.
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    • Profile picture of the author tpw
      Originally Posted by Kurt View Post

      One train of thought is that by having an RSS button on a site, it's "implied consent" to syndicate the content.

      This is how I feel and if I offer an RSS pheed/button, I want people to use my content on their sites, assuming they don't alter the content and include all links. If I don't want them to use my content, I don't offer an RSS button.

      BTW, RSS was created by Netscape for the purpose of syndicating content from one site to another.

      Agree. The whole point and purpose of RSS feeds is "syndication", hence the meaning of RSS: Really Simple Syndication.

      If anyone has a problem with us publishing their links and headlines, then they should not be making a RSS Feed available at all.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kurt
        Originally Posted by tpw View Post

        Agree. The whole point and purpose of RSS feeds is "syndication", hence the meaning of RSS: Really Simple Syndication.

        If anyone has a problem with us publishing their links and headlines, then they should not be making a RSS Feed available at all.

        To me, to complain about someone using your RSS is like someone putting up a sign saying "Free Dirt", then claim tresspassing when they come on your property to get the free dirt.
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    • Profile picture of the author Karen Blundell
      Originally Posted by Kurt View Post

      One train of thought is that by having an RSS button on a site, it's "implied consent" to syndicate the content.

      This is how I feel and if I offer an RSS pheed/button, I want people to use my content on their sites, assuming they don't alter the content and include all links. If I don't want them to use my content, I don't offer an RSS button.

      BTW, RSS was created by Netscape for the purpose of syndicating content from one site to another.

      WordPress has plugins that specifically enable you to embed feeds from other blogs into your pages or posts. So yes, I agree that feeds are meant to be shared and syndicated.

      I'd be more inclined to add a feed from one of my own sites, or from one that actually publicly invites us to use the feed, by using the site's widget.
      There's a ton of free content out there that people can use if they take the time to actually look at terms of use.

      There are also plugins that one can use to place Copyright statements inside their feed if one is concerned about the "theft" of their feed.

      once again we are debating a very grey area of what constitutes theft of content. It's a very interesting debate and, as long as we can all continue to be civil, one that I'd be interested in reading lots of opinions about.
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      • Profile picture of the author Andyhenry
        Originally Posted by Karen Blundell View Post

        It's a very interesting debate and, as long as we can all continue to be civil, one that I'd be interested in reading lots of opinions about.
        That's a weird thing to say - why wouldn't we be civil ? I don't think the forum supports anti-social behaviour.
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        • Profile picture of the author Karen Blundell
          Originally Posted by Andyhenry View Post

          That's a weird thing to say - why wouldn't we be civil ? I don't think the forum supports anti-social behaviour.
          I said that because there has been some nastiness in other threads about theft of content, and a lack of respect for people's opinions.

          Threads like these which question the legality of stuff can and sometimes do degrade into personal attacks.

          I hope this one doesn't. That's all I meant.

          peace out...
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        • Profile picture of the author Bjarne Eldhuset
          While I don't disagree with why the format was invented, I'm not sure that just because you find an RSS button somewhere online, you can share that feed on your website.

          Let's take another example:

          Would you feel OK if someone did the following:

          1. Made a blog titled "Read John Doe Marketers E-mails Without Subscribing"

          2. Went to your newsletter archive page on aweber.com (where thousands of marketers archive their newsletters on a page that has a "Subscribe by RSS"-button.

          3. Displayed the feed in their blog, showing excerpts from your 10 latest e-mails, so that people don't have to subscribe to your e-mail list to read them.

          That is just one of the many possibilities of RSS, but I'm pretty sure it is not the intent of the person who wrote the newsletter.
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  • Profile picture of the author Andyhenry
    This is a tricky one because while I agree with Kurt - I have seen people shouting to high heaven about being 'abused' by people using their rss feed and claiming "the rss feed is there for my visitors to keep up with me - not for other people to publish my content".

    So there are clearly different perspectives on this and I'm not sure how you could convince someone who does not want their rss feed republished that they should change their mind.

    Andy
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    • Profile picture of the author Bjarne Eldhuset
      When it comes to the people Andy mentioned, I think a possible reason may be that many people who start a blog and have an RSS button on it don't have a clue what it is for or what content is actually included in their RSS feed.

      As for RSS feed directories, I would think that if you include your RSS feed in those, you'd want to share your feed.
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      • Profile picture of the author Andyhenry
        Originally Posted by Bjarne Eldhuset View Post

        When it comes to the people Andy mentioned, I think a possible reason may be that many people who start a blog and have an RSS button on it don't have a clue what it is for or what content is actually included in their RSS feed.

        As for RSS feed directories, I would think that if you include your RSS feed in those, you'd want to share your feed.
        The other aspect of this is people who know what rss is - but then see someone else ranking above them for the terms they're focusing on - by using their rss as content and marketing their site better.
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      • Profile picture of the author mywebwork
        Originally Posted by Bjarne Eldhuset View Post

        When it comes to the people Andy mentioned, I think a possible reason may be that many people who start a blog and have an RSS button on it don't have a clue what it is for or what content is actually included in their RSS feed.
        I suspect you are correct Bjarne.

        But in this case who is at fault? If you build a website (or have one made for you) and place an RSS button on it without knowing what it does can you really blame someone from taking advantage of it? And why would any thinking person do that in the first place - put a button on their site without a clue as to what it does?

        Bottom line for me is still this - if you are making content available via a syndication protocol like RSS then you are syndicating it, whether you are aware of it or not. If you don't want it syndicated then stop doing it.

        Bill
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    • Profile picture of the author CyberSEO
      Originally Posted by Andyhenry View Post

      This is a tricky one because while I agree with Kurt - I have seen people shouting to high heaven about being 'abused' by people using their rss feed and claiming "the rss feed is there for my visitors to keep up with me - not for other people to publish my content".
      Correct. I know a lot of similar cases. A few ended up with site removal from Google SERP's.
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      • I think if websites have a RSS button, is logically they want people to use it.
        That is free advertising for them, getting their articles around.

        But like autoblogging, this is a thing we must accept.
        If we don't feel on the right side, is better to leave RSS Feeds where they are
        We will not find a solution to this.

        Thanks and see you soon,
        Alessandro
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  • Profile picture of the author mywebwork
    Of course it's just my own opinion but I'm in agreement with Kurt as well.

    RSS is an XML service specifically designed to permit content syndication. RSS readers are simply tools that display syndicated content.

    Also, wouldn't having your content syndicated on a niche-targeted site be somewhat beneficial in terms of SEO and traffic generation?

    Again, just my own opinion - for the record I've never setup this sort of site myself, but if I thought it would be worthwhile I wouldn't hesitate. And I'm not the sort who knowingly violates a TOS. I'm just saying "if you are willing to syndicate the content then I'm willing to consider using it".

    Bill
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    • Profile picture of the author Karen Blundell
      Originally Posted by mywebwork View Post

      Of course it's just my own opinion but I'm in agreement with Kurt as well.

      RSS is an XML service specifically designed to permit content syndication. RSS readers are simply tools that display syndicated content.

      Also, wouldn't having your content syndicated on a niche-targeted site be somewhat beneficial in terms of SEO and traffic generation?

      Again, just my own opinion - for the record I've never setup this sort of site myself, but if I thought it would be worthwhile I wouldn't hesitate. And I'm not the sort who knowingly violates a TOS. I'm just saying "if you are willing to syndicate the content then I'm willing to consider using it".

      Bill
      that's the thing, one of my sites' feeds is being syndicated on several other sites in that specific niche and that has resulted in more traffic to my site, more feed subscribers, and more Twitter followers They didn't ask my permission. They just did it, and I'm grateful for the free exposure.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kurt
        Originally Posted by Karen Blundell View Post

        that's the thing, one of my sites' feeds is being syndicated on several other sites in that specific niche and that has resulted in more traffic to my site, more feed subscribers, and more Twitter followers They didn't ask my permission. They just did it, and I'm grateful for the free exposure.
        Exactly. We hear so much about "article syndication" on this forum, and using RSS is the exact same thing: Getting your content on other sites.

        When someone submits an article to EZA, they are giving consent to have their article republished. I believe RSS gives the same consent and has many of the same benefits.
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  • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
    Originally Posted by Bjarne Eldhuset View Post

    I would think that just because they have an RSS feed on their website it doesn't mean they allow you to display this feed in parts or whole all over the web?
    There are two schools of thought on this.

    One says that the entire purpose of Really Simple Syndication (which is what RSS stands for) is for others to republish your content, and if they do not want those items republished, they should not be included in the feed.

    The other says that an RSS feed is primarily used by individual readers to read the content, regardless of what the standard was originally intended to provide, and making it available for reading does not imply making it available for republication.

    It is not entirely clear which one is correct. I am of the personal opinion that if the matter were to come before a court, they would side with the latter camp - just because you publish an RSS feed does not constitute a licence for others to republish that feed without your permission.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kurt
      Originally Posted by CDarklock View Post

      There are two schools of thought on this.

      One says that the entire purpose of Really Simple Syndication (which is what RSS stands for) is for others to republish your content, and if they do not want those items republished, they should not be included in the feed.

      The other says that an RSS feed is primarily used by individual readers to read the content, regardless of what the standard was originally intended to provide, and making it available for reading does not imply making it available for republication.

      It is not entirely clear which one is correct. I am of the personal opinion that if the matter were to come before a court, they would side with the latter camp - just because you publish an RSS feed does not constitute a licence for others to republish that feed without your permission.
      And I would argue the opposite. I'd want proof that RSS is "primarily used by individual readers". Would this only be sites vs. desktop reader usage, or would all views of the pheeds on other sites be used?

      For example, I have use a certain RSS pheed on a site of mine. It gets 100 uniques per day. Would this count as 100 "readers"?

      And even if publlishing the content on another site was a "secondary" use of RSS, you'll still need to prove that this isn't fair use.

      I'd also want to know EXACTLY what point in time using RSS for syndication was no longer considered "fair use".

      For example, Netscape came out with RSS in 1997. Let's say I picked up someone's pheed in 1998 and have used it since. At what point EXACTLY did my use of this pheed become not fair use? I believe the burdon of proof for this would be on the plaintiff And I believe it would be impossible for the plantiff to give a specific time, assuming that it wasn't always fair use.
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      • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
        Originally Posted by Kurt View Post

        And I would argue the opposite.
        Which is rather amusing, considering your entire argument hinges on the idea that you don't have permission to republish.

        Fair use doctrine is for republication without permission.

        I've just argued that the existence of an RSS feed is not permission.

        So all your talk about fair use necessarily presumes that I'm correct, and you don't have permission to use an RSS feed simply because it exists.

        But please, let us know if you ever end up having to argue this in a court of law, because it's going to be hysterical reading the court records. You've got pretty much everything about fair use exactly backwards.
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        • Profile picture of the author Kurt
          Originally Posted by CDarklock View Post

          Which is rather amusing, considering your entire argument hinges on the idea that you don't have permission to republish.

          Fair use doctrine is for republication without permission.

          I've just argued that the existence of an RSS feed is not permission.

          So all your talk about fair use necessarily presumes that I'm correct, and you don't have permission to use an RSS feed simply because it exists.

          But please, let us know if you ever end up having to argue this in a court of law, because it's going to be hysterical reading the court records. You've got pretty much everything about fair use exactly backwards.
          If you find my argument "hysterical" and "amusing", I'd say that's more a case of a warped sense of humor than anything rational.

          The problem with forming opinions on forums is that people like you take each post individually, when a person's opinion is should really be judged by the entirety of all their comments.

          Since you missed it in my earlier posts, it's the RSS button displayed on the web page that makes it fair use. And it's this button that is giving permission.

          Here, I'll fix it for you. Here's what I said earlier in the thread:
          One train of thought is that by having an RSS button on a site, it's "implied consent" to syndicate the content.

          This is how I feel and if I offer an RSS pheed/button, I want people to use my content on their sites, assuming they don't alter the content and include all links. If I don't want them to use my content, I don't offer an RSS button.
          See how I included the publishing of an RSS button on the page? Again, IMO, this is giving consent, which would make it "fair use".

          You make statements such as "primarily use" and never back it up with anything other than your commentary. You even italicized primarily. Prove it, don't just say it.

          Now carry on with your uncontrollable, histerical creepy giggling...Glad I could entertain you. But I do hope you'd do better in a court of law, because you didn't address my points on the post I responded to you directly.
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  • Profile picture of the author thebitbotdotcom
    I stopped offering an RSS feed on my site. It was stripping away subscribers to my list.

    So I re-coded my site to turn off all forms of RSS and mysite.com/feed now redirects to an optin page. I have definitely seen an increase in the number of subscribers/week.

    Here is my recent rant on this subject that details how to do it if anybody is interested:

    Goodbye RSS And Good Riddance! | TheBitBot Small Business Web Development Newsletter
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  • Profile picture of the author agc
    There's a huge difference between a headline (or a snippet) and a link and republishing the entire article verbatim.

    The OP was talking about headlines and links.

    Call it a hunch, but the site owner who was whining about someone publishing page titles and a link was NOT also trying to get Google to stop displaying the same headline and a link. :rolleyes:
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  • Profile picture of the author marco005
    Hi,

    When every website owner use a rss button on his website or submit his own articles to ezine, ezinemark, ore whatever....

    He give them the right to reprint, copy, republish their content on your/other sites, so you give ezines,ezinemark and so on these rights to republish your article on their sites and they make money through adsense with your article or not?

    This is not illegal, you show the original source and give the author a link back from your site and you can put google adsense on this rss feed content, yes all article directories do this.

    But can I promotes this rss feed content on other sites like mine? Also on my squidoo lense or so???

    Get I a better faster ranking in google and become more google seo traffic?

    best wishes
    marco005
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  • Profile picture of the author Chris Worner
    I would like to hear from Kindsvater on this subject. Could make for some fascinating discussion.

    -Chris
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  • Profile picture of the author HeySal
    Since what I put on my RSS feed is also given to a few submission sites, I'm really not worried about the issue. I've found my feed on other sites - the links are in tact and I can click to my own site - and I didn't have to submit to an article directory to get the links out. Fine and dandy with me.

    Simply - if I don't want it republished - I don't put it on the RSS feed. Never even thought about RSS not being legal for others to use. I always assumed that was the purpose.
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Originally Posted by Bjarne Eldhuset View Post

      While I don't disagree with why the format was invented, I'm not sure that just because you find an RSS button somewhere online, you can share that feed on your website.

      Let's take another example:

      Would you feel OK if someone did the following:

      1. Made a blog titled "Read John Doe Marketers E-mails Without Subscribing"

      2. Went to your newsletter archive page on aweber.com (where thousands of marketers archive their newsletters on a page that has a "Subscribe by RSS"-button.

      3. Displayed the feed in their blog, showing excerpts from your 10 latest e-mails, so that people don't have to subscribe to your e-mail list to read them.

      That is just one of the many possibilities of RSS, but I'm pretty sure it is not the intent of the person who wrote the newsletter.
      Would I feel OK? No. If they did a reasonably classy job of it, I'd be over the moon happy about it.

      I don't build lists, newsletter or otherwise, to have a subscriber number I can brag about. I build lists to put my content and my offers in front of interested people.

      If someone finds one of my newsletters via those excerpts on the feed-driven blog, clicks through, and reads the newsletter, I'm accomplishing my objective. And if they are reading the newsletter archive, they will get plenty of chances to subscribe anyway, which I believe they are more likely to do having had a positive experience with my content. If they don't have a positive experience and click away never to be seen again, no harm, no foul.
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    • Profile picture of the author MisterE
      I want to revive this topic to ask Warriors their opinion on what "Fair Use" would be considering this typical fair use paragraph common to many different websites.

      Copy & Paste -----------

      Use of RSS Feeds:
      RSS is a free service offered by 'sample site' to individuals for private, non-commercial use. Any other uses, including without limitation the incorporation of advertising into or the placement of advertising associated with or targeted towards the RSS Content, are strictly prohibited. You must use the RSS feeds as provided by 'sample site', and you may not edit or modify the text, content or links supplied by 'sample site'. To request permission for a particular use not permitted by these Terms of Use.



      End Copy & Paste----------


      My interpretation and instinct tells me that fair use would not apply to any site that has any monetization whatsoever on it. For example AdSense or Banner ads.


      What is your opinion on this very typical Fair Use clause?


      Mark
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      • Profile picture of the author onSubie
        Originally Posted by MisterE View Post

        What is your opinion on this very typical Fair Use clause?
        My opinion is it would need to be tested in court.

        If I go to a site that collects RSS feeds, because they are public and designed for syndication, and choose an RSS feed from there, then I am never on the site with the ToS. I never see the ToS and I have no idea if the ToS applies to content that has been syndicated from an aggregate site that is not owned by the original author.

        If I go to Google Reader and grab his RSS feed from there, how would I see the ToS? If I am legally using the content and never on his site to read the ToS, am I in violation?

        Does the fact that his RSS content appears in Google and other aggregate readers all over the Internet that do not include his ToS undermine his ToS in the eyes of the law?

        Does that fact that he has other options than RSS but chooses to use RSS override his attempt to protect his public feeds?

        As I said, test it in court.

        Mahlon
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  • Profile picture of the author thekencook
    This topic has nearly been talked to death as they say. Here is what the attorney for the corporation I work for said - and keep in mind she is an IP attorney only. That's what she does, protect our Intellectual Property. This is not a quite it's paraphrased.

    If you want to constantly fight over your content put it in an RSS feed. If you want to risk running afoul of some ___hole use his RSS feed on your site.

    I have a tendency to listen to her. We don't offer an RSS feed. I do, however, have RSS feeds on all my personal sites and I hope people use my RSS feed! But I don't use anyone else's on my sites.
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