Jon Udell gets takedown request from This American Life

On his blog, Jon reports on a disturbing idea: that a producer of copyright content could demand you take down links pointing to their content. This is not duplication (strictly speaking, the “copy” part of copyright), just a link in the form of an RSS feed. There's no easy answer here. WBEZ and This American Life want you to download their MP3s, but from their site where they can nag you with NPR pledges (have your sent in that check yet?) and a chance to buy a TAL T-shirt of coffee mug. Fair enough. “Deep linking” is a discredited concept that your license to use a site (embodied in their Terms of Service or Copyright notice) could limit your use of their site. Is this infringement on fair use, or a legitimate restriction for folks producing media?

I like and support This American Life and NPR. I also see Jon is providing them a service by publishing a notification mechanism that new content is available for download. Does Jon cross a line by including links to that content in an enclosure tag? I don't think so. While he's not actually copying the content, he's redirecting the original source from the WBEZ web site to the consumer's aggregator without them “benefitting” from the commercial advertising on the site. Are users “stealing” the content by failing to read the ads? Not. Are listeners benefitting from the downloaded enclosures? Yes. Is WBEZ losing revenue? Maybe.

What WBEZ should be doing is asking Jon to show them how to set up an RSS feed on their site, so that they can include their enclosures and add enticements to visit the sites (“Enter our contests! Win a T-shirt! Read about TAR history! Visit our archives!”) in the feed as well. WBEZ: Join the audiocasting revolution. It's the new radio. Add a plug to your audio to send you money, sure. Get yourself listed everywhere. Listeners time-shifting and place-shifting and device-shifting your show means more listeners. Don't cut yourself off from the audience.

Aggregation and linkage is the point of the web. Don't fight it.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.