Reblogging on WordPress.com has a long and contentious history. When it was introduced in June 2010, there was a firestorm of protest by long-standing members of the community against what we felt was an usurpation of our copyrights. At every turn, WordPress.com Staff told us again and again how reblogging was a good thing and that Staff would not take down reblogged material or allow us to disable the Reblog button on our sites.
Fast forward to today, 3 1/2 years later, after the creation of who knows how many WordPress.com splogs whose only purpose was to reblog other people’s content (and maybe include a link to their real site) and we now have the ability to decide whether we wish to allow logged in WordPress.com members to reblog our content or not. Well, almost.
The ability to reblog directly from the WordPress.com Reader means that if you have disabled the Reblog button from appearing on your site, only people who follow your site will be able to reblog your content. Since the Reader is an exclusive to WordPress.com feature, I can only imagine that original content creators who have been the target of drive-by reblogs will be dismayed to know that as a result of this change, their Follower count may also become falsely inflated. And we do not yet have the ability to remove spam Followers.
On the other hand, one aspect of reblogging that has been addressed in the new Reblog is the duplicate content issue. In the comments to the official announcement, Joen A. noted:
A reblog is not a republished post, it’s an excerpt with loads of attribution and links to the original post, including a signal to search engines not to count it as belonging to anyone but the original author.
So that indeed is good news. If someone now reblogs a post from another site, they won’t be getting any search engine juice for it and the original author won’t be penalized.
Currently the Reblog feature appears to take a much larger chunk of text from the original site than it did previously. There was a glitch at the start that took nearly, if not the entire post from the original site, but that was quickly noted by community members and addressed by Staff and we are waiting to return to the shorter excerpt (the current Reblog is around 300 words).
While the new attribution may address the duplicate content issue, it may or may not address legitimate copyright concerns. To reiterate, the Fair Use provision of US Copyright law also states:
The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.
Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
As Joen A. also pointed out in his above comment:
So long as copy/paste exists, it’s impossible to prevent users from copying text.
That is so and I do sadly believe that anyone who has intent on reposting someone else’s content will do so, with or without the creator’s permission.
Changing the way Reblog works is a huge step in the right direction. So, while I applaud the move by WordPress.com to give content creators here some control over this built-in utility, what irks is the half-measure of still allowing reblogs from the Reader. If TPTB have already conceded that content creators have a right to control how their creations are used, then let it be done in full.