The problem with web log syndication formats is that they are rarely used for syndication. When a friend of mine first attempted to sell blogging to me his sales pitch included a description of RSS XML feeds. The analogy he used was that of the Associated Press news wire. He said that just like the news wire other blog writers can use the RSS feeds of other blogs to bolster their blog's content. It turns out that although this may theoretically be technical possible and simple it is not a common practice. Rather most amateur online publishers (bloggers) simply link to other online publications.
When I took the time to analyze RSS in order to make an XML schema (XSD) it became quite clear that RSS, like its sibling formats, definitely has the capacity to allow syndicators to take the entire item element and all of its children elements and syndicate it in their own blog and provide a credit to the source. To date the only way that this takes place is through conventionally linking to the article of interest. This is made moderately more interesting by informing the source author through the use of track backs. Trackback functionality allows a writer to place the link to a blog article in their blog and have their blog service ping the track back service of the source blog entry. The source blog entry then stores that this link has been made and the source author can easily see all of the publications that refer to their blog. In essence this is just a link awareness mechanism it's not really a syndication mechanism. It is almost like creating a reverse bibliography. Ideally the way syndication would work would be that you would identify an article/posting in a blog from which you would want to syndicate a particular article or all articles. Once you've done this you would tell your blog to syndicate either the article or all articles from that feed. In the case of a single article your blog would effectively copy and paste the entire article content of the item from the RSS feed into your blog system's store. When that blog entry is posted in your blog it would clearly identifying the author and the source website such that users could track the originating story or even access the source. The track back mechanism would remain the same. Your blog would send a ping to the track back service of the source blog letting them know that you had linked to their article. This scenario plays out very much the same way for syndicating an entire blog. The only difference is that it would occur on a frequent basis whereby your blog would poll the source blog continually to see if and when a new blog entry had been posted and syndicate it to your blog.
When I first discovered that this was a rarely used feature of real simple syndication (RSS) I was a bit bewildered. I remembered that early blog sales pitch and it struck me that the most compelling aspect of the logs was not that users can easily post information to a running journal-like application, but that other users could take the thoughts of others and merge them with their own all while easily citing the source author. This seemed much closer to the original idea of the hyperlinked web where authors and researchers could easily discovered other's thoughts and ideas, reference them, and allow readers to easily transition from one author's content to another's via hyperlinks. For that matter this seemed to represent the most intellectual property shift embodied in blogs: the ability to publish other writers' content. With the syndication model not only could an author slowly post their thoughts to a web site and grow their readership but they can also leverage the postings of others to enhance the discussion they have with their readers. To a certain extent hyperlinks accomplish this however real simple syndication and blogs allow the potential for the intellectual American dream to occur: any individual bloger's posting would be picked up by a slightly larger more popular blog and published, that more popular blog's publishing of the article causes a mainstream media outlet to pick up the story and publish it. Any attorney reading this is probably struggling to determine what potential intellectual property misuses could occur out of this. The reality is that there are probably many situations where this could be abused but none of these situations is a new. The RSS specification provides for copyright information and potential syndicators could easily determine whether are not content was available for such publishing or who to contact if they're interested in doing such if it is not freely allowed. This brings me to an important point about intellectual property reuse. Much of the controversy around intellectual property involving music, software, written works deals directly with the premise that intellectual property has value, specifically monetary value derived from the reproduction and distribution of that property. In the case of ideas the value seems to principally come from simply associating the idea with the author. In the case of articles, so long as the article is always replicated with the source author's name and publication intact this value is not diminished by syndication.
I charge blog system designers to enable this usage scenario to encourage this type of reuse. Furthermore, this will enable the elegant continual growth of the amateur online publishing space. For instance, as we see the emergence of audio and video blogging, linking no longer suffices. A blog author must provide the entire article and multimedia enclosure information from the source posting in order to allow media devices to synchronize this content offline.