In a recent post, Jason Calacanis went off on one about Newsgator’s ‘accidental’ and temporary placement of ads against some Weblogs Inc. feeds in the somewhat bizarrely titled – “Newsgator is not stealing our content“, in which he states:

Let me be clear to RSS reader companies: You have no right to make money off of our full-feeds. None. Any advertising against our full content is ours and it belongs to our bloggers and shareholders. If you want to make money off our full feeds you need to cut a deal with us–it’s called syndication and folks have been doing it for a long time.

Cue flurry of posts from blogosphere, some in favour (Duncan Riley) of JC’s stance (there’s a Monty Python sketch there somewhere),and some against (TechDirt, RSS Blog)
My initial reaction was anti-JC, then I stopped and wondered whether he had a point or not. Then I saw his note on the Newsgator response, which included this line:

Let’s face it, web-based RSS readers are–at the end of the day–web pages. As a publisher we can not let folks republish our content in any way they like, and we certainly can’t let folks republish our content with advertising against it! If you replace RSS reader with “web page” in this whole discussion it is clear that any company taking another companies IP without permission and putting ads againt it is wrong–no matter how much value they provide to the end users.

Hmm – so the distinction is all about whether the client is web based or not…that seems wrong – as does whether the content is represented as a “web page” or not.
For instance what would happen if the rendering was done via a flash applet, or an online flash app. What about something like Amphetadesk – a client-side aggregator that serves up local web pages ? Or pure client side aggregators like FeedDemon. Not to mention ad supported client applications – like Opera. What about an independent application (or a Firefox plugin) that just scans the content of whatever is in the main browser frame and displays relevant ads, or relevant links ? All of these, to me, work on the same principle as Newgator or Bloglines, so why penalise the web application ?
We can no longer can make an useful distinction between web and desktop applications in such instances. Doing so seems very arbitrary and out of touch. I think, eventually, JC will be forced to alter his position on this – and I don’t think it will do him or the Weblogs content any harm at all.
[tags]newsgator, ads, bloglines, aggregator, calacanis, weblogsinc, monetization[/tags]