Apparently the lawyers at MSNBC would rather copy Yahoo's "terms of use" for RSS than start from scratch. Jeff Boulter has the details. Jeff is an engineering manager for Yahoo News and one of the driving forces behind Y! News RSS.

I had a roommate in college who once tried to pass off a moderately complex Pascal program as his own. The trouble is that he copied mine made only minor changes to it. Too bad I noticed and pointed this out to someone in the Computer Science department. He changed majors shortly thereafter and never quite explained why.

(I wonder if he knew how they figured it out... If not, maybe he'll find out by reading this post.)

Posted by jzawodn at October 15, 2004 10:51 PM

Reader Comments
# BillSaysThis said:

Speaking of Yahoo! News, what happened to the sports scoreboard? I used to be able to select European football (soccer) teams to track but recently they just disappeared with no explanation. Grrr! Go Liverpool!

on October 16, 2004 08:39 AM
# OldTymeYahooEng said:

Dude, you turned in your own roomie in college?!?! Damn after that I would be checking for unine content in any beers poured for me at subsequent house keggers.

on October 16, 2004 10:35 AM
# Alex said:

So who'd Yahoo copy from (again)?

on October 16, 2004 11:30 AM
# Al said:

Wow. You finked on your roommate and continued to live with him?

on October 16, 2004 01:28 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Uh, he was stealing from *me*

Should I have just pretended it never happened?

on October 16, 2004 10:39 PM
# Al said:

What he did was wrong but it sounds like you never confronted him about it - instead went to the CompSci Dept. behind his back, got him kicked out, then continued to be roomies.

on October 17, 2004 12:23 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Al, what you've said is accurate. However there's a lot more to the story that I'm not going to put in public. Maybe someday, but not today.

on October 17, 2004 12:32 AM
# Bob Strellick said:

They're not the only ones. If you put Yahoo's RSS page into Copyscape you can find tons of other people who have done the same thing.

I guess this is just the way of the web...

on October 17, 2004 05:50 AM
# Don Park said:

Well, I think you underestimated people's reaction to how you handled that situation. Perhaps you should consider deleting this post because it doesn't reflect the best side of you. After all, this is your blog and you can do anything you want.

on October 17, 2004 06:25 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Don: are you kidding?

I don't care about how people react now to something that happened 10 years ago. I'm not running for President here. I'm simple re-telling a small piece of a story.

If I deleted everything from my weblog that didn't "reflects the best side" of me, there'd be about 8 posts left. :-)

on October 17, 2004 08:29 AM
# Randy H. said:

This is one of the dumbest posts I've ever read. I would expect more from professional in this industry. No one cares that your roommate *stole* your Pascal program. If we're at the point where a terms of use statement is so valuable as intellectual property that it is *wrong* to borrow from it and/or use portions of the text, I think we've gone nuts.

on October 17, 2004 10:29 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Randy, feel free to use the "unsubscribe" button in your aggregator.

I'm not sure where your expectation of professionalism came from. I do this for fun most of the time.

on October 17, 2004 10:47 AM
# BlahBlah said:

Stolen code or not, you don't rat out your own housemate man! If I was a third party in that house I would have happily helped toss your crap into the street. If the dude wants to fail out on his own, let him, but don't be the one to twist the knife. You were never in any danger, in the event you were accused of cheating, a ten minute discussion of the code in front of the prof would have indicated who actually wrote it and who copied it.

on October 17, 2004 01:00 PM
# Bill Seitz said:

I don't think we should feel too bad about anything that reduces legal feels for *someone*.

on October 17, 2004 01:04 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


I'm amazed and how much people like to judge my actions without any idea of the circumstances.

Actually, no. I'm not. These are weblogs.


Let's just say that it was not a decision I made on my own and that I was very likely doing the guy a favor.

on October 17, 2004 02:06 PM
# BlahBlah said:

>> I'm amazed and how much people like to judge my actions without any idea of the circumstances.

well, you haven't elaborated, so why shouldn't we just comment on what we know?

and whats with the "*sigh*"???, you posted this and invited comments.

on October 17, 2004 03:26 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

You must have missed the point of this post. It was not "how Jeremy turned in his college rommate" but in fact is about MSNBC and Yahoo! News.

Or was the title not clear enough?

on October 17, 2004 03:29 PM
# phil jones said:

"You must have missed the point of this post. It was not "how Jeremy turned in his college rommate" but in fact is about MSNBC and Yahoo! News."

And you must have missed the point of the internet. ;-)

The readership is in control. It's no good flapping about now, trying to impose what people should or shouldn't be interested by. A number of your readers think you acted wrongly and are criticising you for it.

And all your responses are from the old-media playbook : claim people don't know the full story; or that they should be interested in a different aspect; or appeal to intellectual property : "he was stealing from *me*" etc.

You would be better off either admitting you were wrong and being sorry for it; or if you want to defend your actions, making a case as to why they were justified : "the guy didn't ask permission but copied it off my machine when I wasn't around" or "I told him he could borrow from it if he made enough changes to disguise the fact, but the jerk couldn't even be bothered to do that" etc.

on October 17, 2004 04:34 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

I've always wondered if the Internet had a point! :-)

I don't have to either admit I was wrong or explain more of the back story, sorry. If you honestly believe that I did that just to be a dick, then so be it. You're free to believe whatever you'd like.

I'd be glad to fill you in over drinks someday, but I'm not going to broadcast it here, sorry. I could have linked to his web site and given his name and address. But there's a line here and I'm not crossing it.

My actions need only be justified to myself. Freedom is a powerful thing.

on October 17, 2004 04:57 PM
# Al said:

The guy has a web site? So he wasn't completely drummed out of the computer field?

on October 17, 2004 06:38 PM
# said:

Wow, you guys think loyalty to a ROOMMATE should override plagiarism? Plagiarism is THE sin of academia -- famous professors have lost their jobs over it, students have been expelled over it, lots of schools have honor codes requiring you to turn in anyone you know to have plagiarized on pain of facing disciplinary action yourself.

Don't give me that crap about how the guy just hurt himself. Number one, he put Jeremy in a position where Jeremy could have been accused of plagiarizing HIM -- should Jeremy have let that happen instead of getting in front of it? Number two, in any class that gets graded on a curve, the honest students would have suffered due to this guy cheating (if Jeremy's code was any good :-)). And number three, students don't get to unilaterally decide what constitutes fair "borrowing" and what doesn't, the school and the professor get to decide. If the professor had said, "Work together and turn your work in jointly", fine -- but I don't get the feeling that was the case here, and the default expectation at most colleges is that you will be judged on your own work as an individual.

When I was in college, one of my roommates stole my wallet -- and you can damn well believe I had her expelled from the dorm. How is this so different?

on October 17, 2004 06:47 PM
# Troutgirl said:

Sorry, something went wrong with Jeremy's 133t anti-spam plugin :-) and my name didn't show up. I posted comment 11995, and did not mean to do so anonymously.

on October 17, 2004 06:52 PM
# AT said:

Are you sure Yahoo created thouse terms first ?

Are you sure Yahoo laywer did not copied them from other website or very commonly used template nobody remember origin ?

Yep. There is little "Copyright 2004 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved." at .

But why Yahoo does not inforce it ?
If you are working for Yahoo - why the hell you posted this to blogs - not to

Daniel Dougherty
c/o Yahoo! Inc.
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
( ) ?

Are you willing to damage MSNBC brandname or you are willing to find out why this happend ??
Have you contacted Microsoft ? Why nope ?

Thanks for answers

on October 17, 2004 07:30 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Am I sure Yahoo created those terms first?

I find it hard to believe that MSNBC would have created their terms and service way before their feeds launched--and even before Yahoo's launched.

Did a Yahoo lawyer copy them?


Why did I post this?

Because I wanted to make sure people saw Jeff's blog entry. Was that not clear when I introduced his post and pointed you at it?

Personall, I believe that immitaion is a form of flattery. So MSNBC has paid Yahoo a nice compliment. :-)

on October 17, 2004 07:34 PM
# Al said:

Interesting that comment #11995 hides their identity. Maybe they plagiarized somebody else's comments?

I probably would've given the roomie a blanket party. I've known schools that are too scared to take any real action against anybody for anything. I knew one blatent plagiarist who was given a "D", simply because the professors, department, administration, etc. wanted everybody to pass. It was ridiculous.

Oh yeah, Jeremy never did say what grade he did get on the code.

on October 17, 2004 08:51 PM
# 75th Trombone said:


Interesting also that Comment #11996 offers explanation for 11995's anonymity. (Unless 11996 is a clever way of plagiarizing 11995. ;) )

For people who said this post was dumb: get a grip. Guy links to something. Guy gives brief explanation of link. Guy is reminded of personal anecdote; guy shares anecdote. This is the template for a good percentage of all blog posts. Come to terms with that before you read another blog post anywhere. You will be monitored for compliance.

For people who think Jeremy's a fink: Let me show some of your in-progress work to your boss and say it's mine. Let me get that job, or that promotion, or that raise. Do I hear you saying "That's different, that's the REAL world"?? Well I say "Kudos" to anyone who tries to make college more like the real world. The problem with colleges is that they're way more like high school than real life, which is why people try to pull crap like Jeremy's roomie did.

Kudos, Jeremy. :)

on October 18, 2004 01:20 AM
# said:

^ What he said.
^ Dittos.

on October 18, 2004 01:31 AM
# kasia said:

I have worked with those kids who cheated their way through college, I wish someone had finked on them and prevented the headache they cause their qualified coworkers later.

on October 18, 2004 07:10 AM
# Dave said:

How are cheaters able to get hired? How are they able to avoid getting fired? Why don't you fink on them at work? Seems much easier to do, unless of course it's the government, unions, or some other liberal organization.

on October 18, 2004 01:00 PM
# kasia said:

Dear Dave,

please take a job in a software company and find out for yourself.

Thank you.


Software developers

on October 18, 2004 09:08 PM
# 74th Trombone said:

greet handul!

on October 19, 2004 10:43 AM
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