By on October 15, 2011

Here’s a simple truth. Virtually everything that I write online about cars gets ripped off. Whether I publish it here, at Cars In Depth, over at The Truth About Cars, or Left Lane News, I can go to sleep at night safe in the knowledge that I’m getting ripped off by other websites, usually single topic content aggregators. When the site operators are nice, they just excerpt the first paragraph and link back to the originating site. While that’s still a copyright violation (it’s not “fair use” because the excerpt isn’t used for the purpose of commentary or criticism), at least the original publisher gets some traffic out of the situation. Other site operators just go ahead and steal the entire post.

Take just about any post on TTAC, select and copy a complete sentence, drop that phrase in Google and you’ll probably find a plethora of purloining publishers. This site, copied Steve Lang’s post about repossessing cars verbatim. Another site, Edwards420.com, does nothing but publish content from TTAC, probably from our RSS feed.

It’s so commonplace that those of us who write for the site have a ho hum attitude about it because there really isn’t much that we can do about it.

Unfortunately, the only reason this can go on is because of Google and their AdSense and AdChoice programs. Were it not for Google paying those sites for ads that Google AdSense runs on those sites, they wouldn’t have a reason to exist and rip us off. AdSense specifically is based on site content, and those sites’ content is stolen. The theft is actually on two levels. First, there’s the basic copyright thievery. Then there’s the traffic and ad revenue we don’t get because readers find our content somewhere else. Google is the “fence” that pays for the stolen goods. To keep this in an automotive vein, Google is the chop shop that pays the car thief to steal your car.

Also, Google isn’t just paying websites to rip off high traffic sites like TTAC, which gets millions of pageviews every month. I’ve found content from my own site, Cars In Depth, all over the place, and CID gets a tiny fraction of TTAC’s traffic. The fact that Google is paying people who rip me off is all the more aggravating because AdSense keeps turning CID down. The bots that Google uses to evaluate AdSense applications aren’t very smart and apparently can’t navigate the site. Google won’t pay me any ad revenue for my original content but they’ll pay someone else to rip me off.

This doesn’t just harm the writers and publishers. It ultimately harms you, the reader, because if enough traffic and ad revenue is hijacked, the sites that you go to for original content may not thrive.

This is little more than a rant because, as I said, there’s nothing we can do about it. Google is about as unresponsive a company as exists today. If you think that the Detroit automakers were convinced of their own infallibility, the Big 3 were meek and humble compared to the magnitude of Google’s hubris.

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73 Comments on “Why Is Google Paying Websites To Rip Me Off?...”


  • avatar

    The problem with this is that Google doesn’t make enough money from individual sites to pay for customer service.

    If you have a problem with a car, the manufacturer has been paid enough to hire someone to listen to you and at least pretend to fix the problem.

    Google doesn’t have that luxury – it gets laughable revenues per site, gives you a modest split and aggregates hundreds of thousands of active accounts into billions. If it gave responsive customer support, it would go bust.

    Unfortunate, but true :(.

    D

  • avatar
    Spencer Williams

    Considering your third sentence, it seems you’re also posting your own content to multiple sites. Not that it compares in any way to the rampant co-opting of content by aggregator sites, but it does deflate your argument for site ownership of content a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      I see what you are saying Spencer, but you just don’t seem to understand that TTAC doesn’t feel a need to hold itself to the same high standards it expects of everyone else.

      It’s OK for Ronnie to screw up, but man, if anyone else on a competing website goofs up or makes a decision TTAC doesn’t agree with, that is just plain unacceptable. Poor editorial oversight is OK here, but it is lynch-mob worthy when it happens elsewhere. You’ve just got to accept that TTAC holds their colleagues to the highest standards imaginable, but when it comes to TTAC itself, poor quality is perfectly fine.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        How is posting his own content that he created in more that one forum equivalent to a company paying people and other corporations to plagiarize? If Radiohead posted a song on their site and their youtube channel, that would in no way stop the RIAA from crucifying someone for posting it on their website.

      • 0 avatar

        What colleagues? The folks at Jalopnik and Autoblog are colleagues. In contrast, the people who operate the websites under discussion in this post are thieves.

        How is our allegedly poor editorial oversight relevant to the issue of Google paying people to steal from us? You do think that stealing is wrong, don’t you?

    • 0 avatar

      You have grossly misunderstood what I wrote. Please reread it. Nowhere does it say that I publish the same work multiple times. It simply says that I work for more than one web site. Each individual piece that I write is published at one site, not at every site where I’m a contributor. I’m at a loss to understand how you could have interpreted what I wrote the way you did.

      Sometimes, inadvertently, things do get run twice but that’s not my intention. I try to avoid that.

      I think I once had to ask Ed to spike a piece of mine that he eventually ran that had been sitting around for a couple of weeks and I thought he wasn’t going to use it so I sold it to another site. Since there’s a copyright issue involved, it would be theft to sell the same piece to two sites.

      Ironically, after I wrote this very post about Google and copyright violators, I decided to publish it instead at Cars In Depth and rewrote it. However, I forgot to edit the status of the piece here at TTAC from submitted to draft, and Bertel ran it. That was not my intention, so I won’t be billing our corporate overlords for this post.

      • 0 avatar
        Spencer Williams

        It’s hard for me to tell which comment is a reply to which, so if I am off-base, I apologize.

        In the third sentence, it says basically, “whether I publish something here, or over at TTAC,” which leads me to believe that “here” is not referring to TTAC, and thus, you didn’t really write this piece to be posted on TTAC. I don’t know if it was posted at multiple sites, and am way too lazy to check, but I did find it a little bit funny to find that statement contained in a post about content being posted on sites where it doesn’t belong.

        Again, not a big deal, and in absolutely no way comparable to aggregator sites that just rip and run with others content. Just thought it was worthy of a half lol, or at least a chuckle. No harm done.

      • 0 avatar

        Spencer, I can see what you mean. The sentence could have been written more clearly.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    There must be some faults in Google’s algorithm if they reject the original site and allow the “fake” site into its ads program. Unless the fake site got more hits than the real site. I think that’s how they evaluate site, based on hits. Is it possible that the site that’s ripping your site off is actually getting more hits than your site?

  • avatar
    kkleinwi

    Why not file a DMCA takedown notice against the offending sites and their ISP’s?

  • avatar

    Reading the Google Adwords help pages, and implementing the recommendations is known to help. For instance, it absolutely doesn’t like redirects from carsindepth.com to rokemneedlearts.com ….

    • 0 avatar

      So I’m going to have to pay for dedicated domain space? Maybe I can get Hostrocket to change my primary domain name from one to the other, but that would probably create issues with the SQL databases for the blog.

      • 0 avatar
        dhanson865

        No, the server is behind an IP address and can accept traffic for multiple domains.

        You just need to own carsindepth.com and have your hosting setup to serve pages from carsindepth.com in addition to rokemneedlearts.com. A single server can easily serve multiple domains.

        There is no need to redirect from one to the other for all the content of carsindepth.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    While I like the aggregate sites for the convenience and commentary, I surely feel that the content originators should be at the top of the food (pay) chain. Radio and TV pull this trick too, quoting lots of sources, investigating little. I recall a bimbo-news-chick on the local rock station once admitted she didn’t know what the Dow Industrials (stock quote) meant. Her initials are T. D.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      @Detroit
      I quit listening to all-news radio a while back, except for weather and traffic while driving. It became obvious that they stopped writing original copy and were simply using AP wire service to read me the newspaper landing on my doorstep every day.

  • avatar
    spaceywilly

    I don’t understand the copyright infringement argument. I mean I understand why it’s copyright infringement, but I don’t understand why you would complain about it. When someone posts an article and says “source: TTAC” That is a free referral for you. The whole Google economy is based on referrals. The more sites that link to you, the higher your siterank will be and the more traffic Google will drive to your site. The more traffic you get, the more ad clicks you get, and the more money you make. Trying to get these websites taken down is just biting the hand that feeds you.

    I went to your “carsindepth.com” and it just redirected to another site. Google can’t put ads on a site that doesn’t exist. Companies pay Google to place their ads because they are confident it will deliver quality clicks. In order to give their clients (the companies placing ads are their clients, not you) confidence in their ad business, they need to enforce certain rules to prevent shady websites from scamming adsense. Redirecting a URL is a very shady practice and Google has good reason to throw a flag for it.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      When someone posts an article and says “source: TTAC” That is a free referral for you. The whole Google economy is based on referrals. The more sites that link to you, the higher your siterank will be and the more traffic Google will drive to your site.

      Exactly right. Mr. Schreibner’s piece gets it exactly backwards.

      According to Alexa, about 1/3rd of TTAC’s traffic comes from search engines. The content aggregators improve TTAC’s rankings in searches, which increases the likelihood of Google leading users to TTAC content.

      If anything, TTAC should be encouraging users to link to the site. Since the opening paragraphs of articles should be written as attention grabbers, any site that copies the opening paragraph and provides a link should be welcome.

      • 0 avatar

        But of course. How stupid of me! I should embrace the people who steal my content. They’re really helping me.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        How stupid of me!

        At last, a moment of clarity.

        Mr. Lang has a legitimate beef with his entire piece being lifted on the link provided above, particularly since there was no link back to TTAC. That sort of thing would be worth pursuing.

        But the edward420.com mirror site should be a benefit to TTAC. If anything, I would expect Vertical Scope to be the owner of it. (The domain ownership is anonymous, so you’ll have to contact them if you want to confirm or deny that.)

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Many of the sites don’t acknowledge the source at all. Does Google still know where it came from and give the true source credit in its algorithm?

    • 0 avatar

      So because I’m trying to save some bucks and use domain space I’m already paying for, I’m a “shady website” but the sites that steal from me and the other TTAC writers are perfectly acceptable to Google?

      Also, not all of those sites attribute a source.

      • 0 avatar
        dhanson865

        I don’t know how much money you’d get from Google but a domain name is only a few bucks a year (like $20 to $100 per year depending on how many variations you buy and if you add SSL certs)

        I can’t imagine your hosting provider charging you much more than the registrar/SSL costs to host an additional domain on the same server. Any money they get for that is pure profit since the content is already being served by that server.

      • 0 avatar

        I own the domain name. I’m just hosting the site on a subdirectory of my primary domain name at my hosting company and having the DNSs forward the url to the subdirectory. Once I figure out how to make the changes without messing up the SQL databases for the site, I’ll have my host switch carsindepth.com to the primary and stop forwarding.

  • avatar
    Hildy Johnson

    I understand the unhappiness with the situation, but it’s not Google’s job to police the internet. As DD said, they couldn’t afford to, even if they wanted.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    Ronnie J.

    Time to come up with another bong patent so you can stay in that luxurious mansion you live in.

    • 0 avatar

      Please explain how this comment is relevant to this thread.

      You have me at a disadvantage. I write under my real name. You post under an anonymous screen name. Obviously you are privy to my living situation but I know nothing about you or who you are.

      If you have something to say to me, my cell # is 248-632-6804. I’m usually up late.

      Now, do I expect that an anonymous internet coward will do something manly? I’m more likely to get lucky with my ex wife.

      What’s TTAC’s commenting policy?

      1. No flaming the website, its authors or fellow commentators. “Flaming” means personally insulting.

      • 0 avatar
        Spencer Williams

        Ronnie, if you actually patented an improvement to the typical bong setup, it may not be relevant to this post, but I am seriously impressed. The fact that I am impressed may not impress other readers, but seriously, I spend a good ten years building my own bongs, experimenting with basic ratios of water/air and circulation and such, but I never thought of anything worth patenting. But I did have fun. And again, I know the word “bong” is enough to make many people laugh, but I am not joking or condescending in any way.

        (For the record, I was also impressed that you are somehow related to Barry, the Continental owner you wrote about. That guy is a legend in The Car Lounge.)

      • 0 avatar

        The wackiness of this comment intrigued me so I did a quick bit of googling.

        There exists US utility patent #4253475 ( http://www.google.com/patents?id=IOIuAAAAEBAJ ) for “Water pipes or bongs” filed October 12, 1977 with the listed inventors of “Schreiber; Ronald J.” of Ann Arbor, MI.

        There is a youtube video posted by user “rokemronnie” that purports to show an embodiment of the invention claimed in 4253475. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZ7d0a67d2g

        This isn’t news, I suppose, as Mr. Schreiber has mentioned it on TTAC before, but I’d never followed any of those links.

        I guess he took offense at the mansion crack, as he has made no qualms about mentioning the bong before now.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m related to Barry Wolk by marriage on my mom’s side. I think that his wife is my mother’s first cousin once removed (her uncle’s granddaughter). Actually, I didn’t know that we were related until I started researching his Mark II convertible and saw that my sister was one of his Facebook friends.

        I just saw Barry and Glynette a couple of weeks ago at the Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti. They drove their 1933 Continental Flyer there.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        That patent was issued in 1981 so is expired (back then, they were good for 17 years)

      • 0 avatar
        BMWfan

        Ronnie, Ronnie Ronnie…. where shall I begin? I think it is relevant to mention that I don’t use drugs, never have, never will, and I don’t think very highly of those who do. One could infer from the evidence, that illegal substances were consumed during the “development” of your significant contribution to humanity, but I could be wrong.

        You had inquired as to the relevance of my post:

        “Please explain how this comment is relevant to this thread.”

        You complained in the article above how you were being ripped off by other websites. My suggestion was to augment your income by going back to something you had done previously, so you could continue to live in the style to which you have become accustomed. You consider that an insult. I do not.

        You quote TTAC’s flaming policy as ” No flaming the website, its authors or fellow commentators. Flaming” means personally insulting.” yet in the sentence right above that you call me an “anonymous internet coward ” You also insulted a relative of mine in another thread, when there was no reason to do so. Do you see the irony? Are you familiar with the word “hypocrite”.

        ” Now, do I expect that an anonymous internet coward will do something manly? I’m more likely to get lucky with my ex wife.”

        I have been happily married for 15 years. Perhaps there is a reason you are not getting lucky?

        I also wish to comment on the content of the original article, and not just on your overreaction to my original post.

        The vast majority of the writers here do have to worry about their content being unfairly ripped off because it is quality content, thoughtfully conceived, and brilliantly executed. In my opinion, you and the Booth Babe have nothing to worry about.

        I would also seriously suggest that you reconsider letting you mouth write checks that your body can’t cash, because I can GUARANTEE that if you were standing in front of me, you would not utter a word.

      • 0 avatar

        Ronnie, Ronnie Ronnie…. where shall I begin? I think it is relevant to mention that I don’t use drugs, never have, never will, and I don’t think very highly of those who do.

        I see. You mean you never use anesthesia, anti-depressants, alcohol, or caffeine? Pain killers are pain killers. Mood and mind altering substances are mood and mind altering substances. There are honest meth heads (well, maybe one or two) and evil teetotalers. I’d rather evaluate people on their character, not on what they put in their bodies. I don’t think the guy smoking a joint at lunch is much different than someone taking Zoloft or Prozac to get through the day. Those are psychoactive drugs too. Some folks self-medicate.

        One could infer from the evidence, that illegal substances were consumed during the “development” of your significant contribution to humanity, but I could be wrong.

        You can’t patent something illegal. It’s not illegal to smoke a pipe.

        As for my most significant contribution to humanity, that would be my children. I hope that you are blessed with children that give you as much joy as my kids give me. If you’re lucky, they may even be as smart and as talented as mine.

        You quote TTAC’s flaming policy as ” No flaming the website, its authors or fellow commentators. Flaming” means personally insulting.” yet in the sentence right above that you call me an “anonymous internet coward ”

        Did I call you an internet coward? Read it again. Nowhere in my response did I explicitly say that you were the internet coward of which I spoke. I’m exceedingly careful with how I phrase things. That you thought that “anonymous internet coward” was a reference to yourself is rather telling. As Bob Marley sings, “who the cap fits, let dem wear it”.

        You also insulted a relative of mine in another thread, when there was no reason to do so.

        And what thread was that? Which relative of yours did I insult? I try not to insult people that don’t deserve it. I don’t recall insulting anyone, but perhaps they deserved it.

        Do you see the irony? Are you familiar with the word “hypocrite”.

        I’ll have to check the thread where you claim I insulted a relative of yours, but while I’m waiting for you to tell me which thread, I should point out that I was quoting TTAC’s FAQs about appropriate behavior on this site. Unless your supposedly insulted relative is a commentator on TTAC, your charge of hypocrisy is irrelevant to this discussion, just as your original comment was irrelevant and just an excuse to be insulting.

        ” Now, do I expect that an anonymous internet coward will do something manly? I’m more likely to get lucky with my ex wife.”

        I have been happily married for 15 years. Perhaps there is a reason you are not getting lucky?

        This may be a newsflash to you, but not everyone who has sex is married. Plenty of singles get way more action than married people. I’m sure that you’re completely happy with your sex life, that your red hot MILF of a wife greats you naked at the door when you get home from work and wakes you every day with a blow job, and that you never, ever check out porn sites. A veritable saint, I’m sure.

        Congratulations on your middling length marriage. Give it a few more years and you’ll be married as long as I was. Marriage is hard work. I do regard my divorce as one of my failures and I try to learn from it. I’m a flawed human being. Perhaps if I drove a BMW that would make me perfect.

        One thing I try not to do is make other people’s tragedies, even the self inflicted ones, a subject for mockery, but then I don’t think of myself as morally superior to others.

        I also wish to comment on the content of the original article, and not just on your overreaction to my original post.

        The vast majority of the writers here do have to worry about their content being unfairly ripped off because it is quality content, thoughtfully conceived, and brilliantly executed. In my opinion, you and the Booth Babe have nothing to worry about.

        Did you work hard on that? I will say that it shows some wit, about half the normal human allotment.

        I’ll just note a couple of things. Many of those thoughtful and brilliant writers say nice things about my work. The people whose work you like, like my work. Ed and Bertel publish my stuff, Steve, Murillee and Jack aren’t too embarrassed by my stuff since they’re my collaborators on Cars In Depth, and though David and I don’t see I too eye all the time, he’s had complimentary things to say about one or two of my posts. Michael asked me to write a guide to local spots of interest for guests to his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah celebration. So if you don’t like my writing, that’s okay, it’s a big world and not everyone has to like my work. As long as the editors and publishers who buy my writing think it’s worth the $, and that at least some readers find it informative, thought provoking, entertaining or otherwise worthwhile that’s the important thing.

        My opinion may not be worth much, only about 10 cents a word. Does anyone pay you to write?

        I would also seriously suggest that you reconsider letting you mouth write checks that your body can’t cash,

        Did I threaten you with violence? Are you saying that you would react to something that I posted herewith violence? Just what have I said that constitutes “fighting words”?

        I would seriously suggest that before you do anything rash, you should consider the old American aphorism, “God created man, Sam Colt made them equal.”

        because I can GUARANTEE that if you were standing in front of me, you would not utter a word.

        Says the man afraid to pick up a phone and press 10 buttons.

        Says the man afraid to back up his words with his own name.

      • 0 avatar
        BMWfan

        “Did I call you an internet coward? Read it again. Nowhere in my response did I explicitly say that you were the internet coward of which I spoke. I’m exceedingly careful with how I phrase things.”

        “I posted my phone number safe in the knowledge that the person who I was inviting to call me is too much of a coward to say stuff to me directly.”

        Perhaps short term memory loss?

        It’s been fun, but in a battle of the minds, I prefer my opponents to be armed.

      • 0 avatar

        Perhaps short term memory loss?

        Actually, it is you who forgot that we were talking about a specific comment:

        yet in the sentence right above that you call me an “anonymous internet coward ”

        Still waiting to know just which of your illustrious relatives it was that that I so needlessly insulted.

      • 0 avatar
        vaujot

        I am late to the party but I can’t help noticing that you, Mr Schreiber, are participating in most of the flaming matches on this site. I don’t know if “don’t feed the trolls” is part of the commenting policy but it should. I’m aware that I probably just broke that rule.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    Just to show you how mindless this is, edward420.com has republished this story!

    But I go back to the previous question, why not file a DMCA takedown notice? Wouldn’t a constant flow of those start making life pretty difficult for these aggregators?

    • 0 avatar

      I’d be spending more time sending out takedown notices than writing. There are so many sites copying content that you can’t find them all.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Just to show you how mindless this is, edward420.com has republished this story!

      The edward420.com site is driven by a WordPress plug-in that automatically grabs content. The product they are using is called “Push Button Cash Site.” Individuals purchase the product, then use it to automatically grab content for their own blogs. If it’s any consolation, there are posters in the company’s forums that complain they don’t get a lot of traffic to their robo-blogs.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    It’s amazing how many times I click on a site and get the exact same thing content wise for info that I’m looking for.

    For instance, researching a particular car review, I’ve found the exact same review printed on various sites, almost word for word, if not slightly modified (and some of those look to be similar to what I’ve read on Wikipedia).

  • avatar
    M.S. Smith

    I agree that Google could be more aggressive about keeping copyrighted content off their search results, but there is any easy way to get things taken down.

    https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-notice?pli=1&hl=en

    I’ve filed notices with Google after a blog started ripping off some of my content. Usually, the offending content is taken down within a day.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    And where did that “Chop Shop Found” image at the top of this story come from? Is it being used by permission of the copyright holder, which is likely Fresno TV channel 26?

    Pot, I would like to introduce you to kettle.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, I thought about that, but it seems to me that since I discussed chop shops in the article, used only a single frame, and indicated the source, that it probably falls under fair use of an excerpt. I agree that it’s a grey area. On Monday I’ll contact the station and ask for specific permission. If it’s not given, I’ll have Ed pull the photo.

      Still, I’m not aware of any tv station or network that has claimed copyright protection for a screen shot of a single frame.

      Actually, the fact that we are now discussing the image and whether or not its use constitutes fair use might itself make the use fair because of the commentary and criticism aspect. Boy, Fresno Channel 26 found a car that was certainly chopped. I’m so happy that Fresno Channel 26 showed us this car. They have such a fine news team.

      There, now it’s compliant. Happy?

      • 0 avatar
        Hildy Johnson

        “Boy, Fresno Channel 26 found a car that was certainly chopped. I’m so happy that Fresno Channel 26 showed us this car. They have such a fine news team.

        There, now it’s compliant. Happy?”

        I think you know the answer. If not, ask yourself: Would it make you happy if such commentary were automatically attached to each post scraped from your blog?

      • 0 avatar

        I think you know the answer. If not, ask yourself: Would it make you happy if such commentary were automatically attached to each post scraped from your blog?

        As long as it was an excerpt, not the entire post, I’d have no grounds to complain. If someone wants to excerpt my work under the simple comment, “Schreiber’s a fool”, that, too, would be fair use.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      My point is more general than this one specific image. TTAC grabs photos from all over the net and uses them with impunity. I’m told that is “standard practice” for blogs.

      • 0 avatar

        Depends on the blog. Aaron Severson is obsessive about getting clearances on the photos he uses on Ate Up With Motor.

        On Cars In Depth, most of our graphic content is original. When I do use others’ photos to illustrate a story, I try to find stuff that’s either Public Domain, publicity shots, or whose content owners haven’t reserved rights.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Google’s worst copyright offenses I think come at its Youtube division. It’s not uncommon for user-posted (without authorization) songs on youtube to have millions of hits. If there is any song that you are in the mood to hear, you can call it up on demand on Youtube. Contrast this to Pandora which pays royalties. Pandora is not allowed to stream songs on demand. Now some music companies have given up and posted official videos an Youtube, but under terms where they really had no opportunity to negotiate.

    • 0 avatar
      Adamatari

      This is also Youtube’s BEST feature, at least for anyone with an internet connection and curiosity. If you are interested in music, you can find nearly any genre. Even obscure artist’s works are on youtube. You can listen to things for free that you may or may not like that otherwise would be expensive or hard to get.

      Some people may not have the cash to pay for much of anything, and may be watching youtube at a public library or similar. They may live halfway around the world where the content is unavailable. Youtube makes the world better.

      Also, are you sure youtube pays no royalties?

      • 0 avatar
        Dynamic88

        Personally, I find the selection on Pandora better than Youtube, plus I can just listen to Pandora w/o having to see a video, which frees my screen for other things.

  • avatar
    etrnlrvr

    This article is just ridiculous both in tone and in content.

    Clearly you should just abstain from writing anything in digital form and just stand on the street corner selling printed copies of your work since the current model is so broken. Better yet DRM your printed copies with special ink so not only do people have to buy the printed copies only people that will have bought your special glasses will be able to read what you write. This way you can insure 99.99999999% of the global population will never read what you write so you can minimize as much as possible any exposure of your name and brand. No more adsense woes and your path to fame and fortune would all but be guaranteed right?

    What is a better question is why you were paid to write this for an automotive blog because it has nothing to do with cars and has nothing to do with writing about cars specifically since what you are complaining about is the equal playing field for all writing about anything for profit on the internet.

    Also hard to come off as rational or believable about you not having the time or energy to hassle with Google and DCMA’s when you post your cell phone on the internet in response to a blog comment. I mean clearly you have your priorities straight about how your time should be best spent and what costs you money when you invite the whole internet to call you up one at a time so you can rant at people that disagree with you.

    • 0 avatar

      What is a better question is why you were paid to write this for an automotive blog because it has nothing to do with cars and has nothing to do with writing about cars specifically since what you are complaining about is the equal playing field for all writing about anything for profit on the internet.

      Didn’t you learn not to use run-on sentences in grade school?

      Actually, the post does have to do with cars and writing about them. The only reason why those sites exist is so they can get AdSense money for ads in the automotive sector. Cars are one of the few topics that they can reliably get paid for when scraping content. Google isn’t selling much ad space targeting folks interested in hammered dulcimers.

      More to the point of your comment, I don’t get to decide what gets published here. I saw a phrase that Steve Lang used that I thought was a movie quote and when I searched for it, I found all the sites that were copying and/or excerpting his work. It’s an issue that I’ve discussed with Ed Niedermeyer before, so I wrote this up and submitted it, figuring that if Ed & Bertel thought it was worthy of discussion, they’d run it.

      As for getting paid, as I explained earlier, I won’t be invoicing the publishers for this post.

      I posted my phone number safe in the knowledge that the person who I was inviting to call me is too much of a coward to say stuff to me directly.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        “…the person who I was inviting to call me…”

        So you WERE talking about the BMW guy.

        Not to say he was 100% right in his original post(*), but your later back-pedalling about “where did I say that was about YOU” came off as down-right weaselly, because it was pretty obvious that it WAS in fact about him.

        Just FYI.

        (*): Mainly because I can’t recall for sure. More than half right, though, AFAICR.

  • avatar

    Not that it will eliminate the problem, but Google is taking a more proactive approach to content ownership with their latest adjustments to their search algorithm. I’ll save the long-winded explanation, but sufficed to say that sites who publish topic-specific content (like TTAC) just need to make some minor modifications to their code (slightly different tags) so Google can verify the authorship of said content. This means that every other site that posts the same content will be penalized for duplicating it, thus taking the benefit out of doing it in the first place. Like I said, it’s not a silver bullet, but it’s nice to see Google taking a more active role in such things.

  • avatar
    eldard

    There is something you can do about it. Keep clicking those freeloaders’ Google ads. That’ll get their Adsense account blocked. Ooh, I love playing dirty!

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    Ronnie, you need to calm down. This is the internet. Your words are not sacred, and they will be ripped off. EVERYTHING is ripped off on the internet, it’s how it works. Whether it makes you angry or not will not change this.

    The second thing you need to realize is that this does not harm you. You post on a website that gets millions of hits, you make plenty of money (at least if the poster above it to be believed), and you are well known. There is no real doubt about who wrote the words, either. You aren’t and can’t be harmed by this, except by having your feelings hurt. Now, if you were unknown and somebody plagarized you to make a lot of money and build their own reputation, that would be a real harm. Realistically, that is not going to happen to you.

    Your words are not at all like a car; somebody can have a copy and you don’t lose yours. It is NOT like a chop shop. You don’t lose anything.

    Even before the internet, the mark of good ideas, good writing, and such was that other people ripped it off. Imitation is natural to human beings. They copy. You need to come to peace with this and learn to see when something is actually hurting you and when it is harmless to you.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    What ever the reasons why they exist I hate those content aggregators or what ever they call them selves. They only devalue the search results, and there fore Google.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    As far as I can make heads or tails out of this, here is the problem.

    1. Content is being stolen.

    This is true or not, depending on how one thinks “fair use” applies. Mr. Lang got ripped off completely. Edwards420 on the other hand seems to use excerpts and site the source. Since their source is always TTAC it shouldn’t take long for all 11 of that site’s regulars to simply bookmark TTAC.

    2. The theft is benefiting the victim, causing cognitive dissonance.

    I guess it comes down to money vs principles. The thieves are increasing your exposure, but if it’s not fair use, it’s wrong.

  • avatar
    don1967

    This has overtones of the whole MP3 file-sharing thing.

    The Madonna philosophy says “It’s my creation, therefore I get to control how it is enjoyed.” Other musicians say “Share my creation with all your friends so they will buy my concert tickets and t-shirts”.

    Both groups are right. It is clearly a rip-off of intellectual property when entire articles (or song files) are copied and pasted… particularly when they are copied for profit. But at the same time, information is cheap and getting cheaper all the time. Wordsmiths, songwriters and other generators of binary data will eventually have no choice but to adapt to this new reality.

    As for Google, it is about as responsible for theft of intellectual property as Smith & Wesson is responsible for armed robbery.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      This has overtones of the whole MP3 file-sharing thing.

      It doesn’t.

      The record industry makes money by selling songs and albums. No sale = no money.

      Internet websites are different. They prosper by attracting eyeballs. More traffic = more money.

      More links to TTAC content result in higher search rankings, which should increase TTAC traffic, which should make the site more valuable.

      To be fair, perhaps one should separate what is good for a website from what is good for those who produce content for a website. While a website may benefit from more traffic, those who create the content for it may not.

      In the old days, when media was more local, a writer, photographer, etc. could either sell a piece to a national publication for pretty decent money, or else resell the same piece to local outlets for modest sums that could add up due to the number of times that the piece was republished.

      Today, a lot of that is gone. Writers have rarely made much, but they make even less now than they did before — nobody pays what they used to, and the idea of reselling limited local rights to numerous outlets doesn’t make much sense when the internet is international.

      Then again, writers no longer seem to have editors who seem interested in fact checking their work and it doesn’t take much to get published, so content is more of a commodity than it once was. Meanwhile, most blogs would have a hard time existing if they didn’t routinely steal content, especially graphics and photos. The copyright laws don’t reflect the new reality.

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    As a fellow writer of automotive content from gas2.org, this brings up more than a few issues for me, as I use TTAC as a source of content on a regular basis. I do a morning news roundup and because I want other people to use this mecca of automotive knowledge like I do, I try to include a link or two back to TTAC on a regular basis.

    This post makes me not want to do this, even though I *always* source the original post. As was already mentioned, these links are major pageview drivers. How many of us came to TTAC from another website, a link, or a few copied paragraphs plus a URL? I know I did, and I’m here to stay.

    What should bother you, and certainly bothers me, is the lack of proper sourcing, or any sourcing at all. As long as I get a linkback, I don’t care what people do with content from Gas2.org. For the record I am the de facto editor Chris DeMorro. These days though it seems like standard practice to just source whoever, instead of going back to the original content writer. This leads to a game of telephone, especially when the information has come from a non-english website and been translated.

    I hired a young woman who is fluent in several languages, among them German and Japanese. Obviously this is *extremely* useful in getting content that the American auto media might have missed. But now that a few large websites have caught on, this young woman’s work is shamelessly copied and then the linkback is given to an untranslated website that, let’s be honest, most Americans can’t read without the imperfect Google translate.

    TTAC has done it at least once, and a certain AOL-backed green blog does it on an almost daily basis. Now I’m not raising the pitchfork, but I think you have to accept a certain level of non-professionalism in reporting these days, considering many bloggers have little to no background in actual journalism. I don’t use that as an excuse to not link back to relevant websites, because in the end we’re all paid for bringing eyeballs to our websites. And I think there are plenty of eyeballs to go around.

    I’m not saying Ronnie that you don’t have a right to be upset. You do, and I think most of your points are valid. On the same token, even the best websites make mistakes when it comes to attribution, and I doubt the amount of income being skimmed off the top by these aggregation is really costing TTAC all that much money. Just be happy you’re getting the links when you do…and when you don’t, well, just take warmth in the knowledge that any reader worth having can tell that the aggregator isn’t a serious source for real news.

    • 0 avatar

      Chris,

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      I agree with you about sourcing. While it’s nice to give a hat tip to the site where you found out about something, I prefer tracking down the original news article, press release or research paper. If I have a question about a new technology, I’ll send an email to the professor involved or make a call to a company’s media relations department.

      Regarding content scraping, I mostly wanted to start a conversation about this in the automotive writing community because the problem is so endemic.

      BTW, what would you do about the following situation?:

      A fairly popular car blog did a recent post about 3D photos of cars. They included one of mine and provided a credit and a link. So I’m happy. However, they cropped the photo, eliminating the copyright “bug” that I insert on all our original content. I sent them a cropped image with the copyright notice intact, asking them to replace the one on the site with it. We’ll see if they respond.

      • 0 avatar
        harshciygar

        In my humble opinion, a link is a link. I’ve actually done a similar thing, cropping out a water mark and then providing a link in its place. I can understand why it might upset some photographers, but to date I’ve not received a single complaint regarding such an issue.

        I really think it is up to the individuals in question. I’m pretty much the world’s most average photographer, and I only use pictures to supplement my stories. I don’t get paid for pictures…therefore, to me, I’m not so bothered by the use.

        I think the real issue with content scraping is that real stories end up going un or underreported in lieu of something easy. All too often that means the same bit of false information can be spread around indefinitely, serving no one in the end game.

        I think TTAC is one of the few bastions of genuine automotive reporting left. That’s not to say you guys are perfect…only that you are an example to those of us who want to do things “right.”

        There will always be those writers and websites who opt for the easy way out. Don’t let them get to you.

    • 0 avatar

      Calling it a “shameless copy” if someone goes to the original source instead of crediting Gas2.0 for something Gas2.0 learned from a foreign pare is a very generous interpretation of intellectual property. There is nothing proprietary in reading a foreign paper. You may think you are the only one who knows German or Japanese, but others beg to differ. In this business, where facts get distorted faster than in a game of telephone, going as far back to the source as possible is not a sin, it is a moral obligation.

      Today, I have (so far) quoted The Nikkei, and two German papers. I will not be upset when others do the same. In the case of the German papers, I had to trace back (in Germany, and in German) to the paper that originally broke the story.

      Again, if someone lifts your story verbatim, it is a copyright violation. If you find something in the Yomiuri Shimbun, and someone else reads the story in the same paper, and writes about it, tough.

      Remember: An idea is not copyrightable, only the expression or manifestation is. To protect an idea, you need a patent I doubt that a “method of obtaining information from foreign newspapers” will be successful with the patent examiner.

      I will not cry if tonight, someone else quotes the Nikkei, the FAZ, and the Handelsblatt.

      • 0 avatar
        harshciygar

        I didn’t cry when it happened, and I am not crying now either. Merely using it as an example of the sorts of things all of us writers deal with on a daily basis.

        The problem I have in this specific case of translated sources is that, let’s be honest, most people rely on Google translate…where the details can get a little mixed or messed up. Now, if you have someone who can ACTUALLY read German, and pick out the nuances that Google misses, you can have a much more accurate story, and prevent a game of telephone.

        Producing original content these days is tricky, especially if you don’t have a bloated budget like I’m SURE TTAC has ;) This was one of those ways we hoped to get a leg up on the competition, and this is more than just re-wording a press release, as I am sure you know. I’m not saying she is an infallible translator either…but so far she has been better than Google, and she can write up stories that have left me scratching my head.

        Over the last few months though a certain website that never checked out these sites before is consistently taking this young woman’s work, copying the details and tone, and posting the information with a link back to the foriegn website as if our dear readers are all fluent in German or Japanese. While it is not out and out, verbatim plagerism, it is DAMN close.

        Of course as you say, there is no way to prove that this writer isn’t simply going to the exact same websites within hours of each other and reading the same stories and writing it in the same way, short of confiscating his computer or hacking his history logs.

        But when it happens on a daily basis, when it is blatant and unrepentant…well there still isn’t a whole lot I can do about it, except sigh, shrug my shoulders, and keep pressing on trying to separate ourselves from the crowd with superior content. And as you guys know, that is not easy.

        That is my whole argument summed up. It sucks, but even if you can prove it, there is not a whole hell of a lot you can do about it, is there? So just keep pushing forward, and hope the unwashed masses will eventually make their way to the real content producers…

      • 0 avatar

        If it’s as bad as you say, then I would for one time blatantly translate it the wrong way – especially a Japanese or Chinese source that doesn’t lend itself well to Google translate. Translate it so that it says the opposite. If you do it in a smart way, even a crosscheck with Google translate won’t find it.

        When they run into the trap, take a screenshot and blast the hell out of them. Don’t forget to correct your copy.

        If you exposed them that way, I think they’ll never ever do it again.

  • avatar

    I’ve been blogging for about 5 years, and the traffic went from 5 people a day, to 2500. The content went from 8 posts to 8200. The beginning was just posting for my own enjoyment of publishing, and now I both enjoy publishing, and informing and giving my readers and followers (338) something to enjoy each day.

    All this growth was found by about 40 scraper site so far… that I’m aware of. I doubt they are making any money off my content, because I make nothing at all. Hopefully the joke is on them, not me. I’ve found that the only way to enjoy their rip offs is that I have so many cross indexed posts that people who are looking to follow the thread of info in a post will click on the links and end up at my blog to read the rest of the info I had to include.

    It’s ridiculous that Google has nothing to do with supporting the Blog framework they share. It’s unfeasible that any company could afford to hire enough customer support techs with enough savvy to actually deal with the problems that have grown with Googles many tech innovations… and yet, if you build a thing, let others use it, and they tell you it has design flaws, aren’t you inherently interested in improving your product? I do.

    As to linking to the sources, I’ve been doing it for years, and not 100%, because I’m lazy too, but linking is a nice hat tip of respect to the place you found the info or photo, and though I pricipally link, I’m not fanatic enough to post that I found it here, but it was originated from there. Lazy gets in the way, and I want to respect my source more than I want to take the enormous time to surf to the source, everytime.

    I spend anout 50 hours a week at work, and about 50 posting. How the hell would I have time for those priorities if I spent more time getting to the bottom of each credit I give with higher accuracy I’ve no concept.

    Similarly, I appreciate that I’m credited as the place people find things, and not bypassed since some things I wasn ‘t the original creator of, but a middleman spreading the appreciation of it.

    Not a simple problem to solve, but a complex blend or ethics, morals, and free time to either spend posting, or making a accurate bibliography.

    Appreciate your posting about the scraping Ronnie. Good on you for hitting the topic with a gusto

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    Ronnie-thanks for opening up this debate even though you’ve faced some heat. This was a very informative and open discussion for me and the byproduct of any good discussion is education.

    Thanks as well to some of the posters for being part of the educational process.

    Some of our stuff ends up on other sites too and this really shed some much appreciated light on the subject.

    Thanks again guys for this excellent debate. This is when a forum shines-that’s rare.

  • avatar
    LessRantingPls

    I registered to comment on this. As a minor content creator myself, I’d hate if someone copied my stuff and made money on it- It’s damn hard to make money; it’s harder when you see someone else stealing your stuff and making money on it!

    A suggestion for TTAC: there is an opportunity to reduce content stealing. Most full content thieves are likely siphoning articles as they appear. Therefore, it is automated, and TTAC could utilize a wordpress plugin that can recognize blacklisted slurpbots and change the article while it is being served to the bot. The article could be changed to remove all vowels, insert “this article stolen from TTAC” every few sentences, etc.

    How to recognize and blacklist slurpbots? You need an automated task that Googles for each [new] article’s text; stores the thief’s site name and IP in a database; then checks the TTAC site logs for that article, and attempts to locate the slurper. Once located, blacklist the IP or bot.

    It’s not a perfect idea, but you might embarrass a site with a cleverly changed article that is gibberish but still is good English.


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