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.