Yesterday I replied to the arguments made by people who want to reprint blog posts or RSS feeds in full, often without proper credit.

Let me be clear: I have no problem with others excerpting or discussing my posts – I wholeheartedly encourage that. That’s part of the natural beauty of the blogosphere. My problem is with people who reprint the entire post and pass it off as their content, without my permission and without proper attribution and links, or who use my content without my permission to improve their own standing with their readers or with the search engines.

So what’s the right way to republish an RSS feed or blog post? I suggest four guidelines:

1) If you want to reprint an entire post on your site with the purpose of populating your domain with good articles or sharing an interesting or useful article with your readers, simply ask permission first and always include a link back to the original post when permission is granted. If you need good content and don’t want to ask permission, go to a free articles directory; don’t poach articles from blogs.

2) If you want to discuss or respond to a post in an original post of your own, feel free to cut and paste snippets here and there, or to summarize the post in your own words, and always include a link back to the original post. This is extremely common and encouraged in the blogosphere. You can find examples of how others have used my posts in this way at Philanthropy Journal’s Give and Take, which I approve of 100%.

3) If you want to excerpt a post without any original writing of your own, feel free to use the first paragraph (or a small amount of teaser text — usually not more than 50-100 words) and then include a link back to the full, original post. Again, this is extremely common and generally encouraged.

4) If you want to use RSS to automatically add content to your site, like many news aggregator sites do, set up your pages to take only headlines or a limited number of characters or words from the top of the article. And yes, always include a link back to the original post! This is what Ogilvy PR does with my feed and the feeds of many others in our sector.

I’m not suggesting we stifle conversation. I am suggesting that if you want an online presence, you do the work of content creation yourself and not rip off your digital neighbors.

Do these guidelines make sense to you? Leave a comment and let me know.

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