Do You Blog Or Just Copy?
Ever since blogging became the in-thing, everyone we know has jumped on the bandwagon at some time in time. What makes blogging even more attractive is the fact that you can make a lot of money just by tacking on some Google AdSense tags. Of course, you will have to attract people to your blog. If they like what they read, they will help support your efforts by clicking on those ads.
We are avid proponents of such ad-supported blogs (and websites) because it's a great way of keeping good blogs and websites in the black and free of external influence. However, even this system can be abused. Bloggers are no exception. Many bloggers have been quick to abuse the system. Just how do they do it?
Recently, we stumbled upon a blog hosted on Blogspot.com, a Google service. The blogger who ran the blog did nothing but post entire articles and guides from numerous tech websites. To the uninitiated, the blog would look like it was a melting pot of many knowledgeable tech writers giving their input. However, the blogger is nothing more than a lazy cheat who spends his/her time copying entire articles from other websites and posting them on the blog.
Take a look at these screenshots of the Hard Disk Drive Myths Debunked! article this "blogger" posted in his blog :
As you can see, the blogger posted our entire guide as if he/she had permission. Yes, the blogger did include a source, but that does not give him/her the right to post our article, especially in its entirety. That's intellectual theft, with or without the referral.
Now, if this was just another website, we would have no problem getting the webmaster to remove the stolen article. We just have to send cease and desist e-mails to the webmaster and the ISP. If the webmaster refuses to comply, we can at least count on the ISP to suspend the account. However, bloggers at Blogspot.com seem to be immune from such legal actions.
When we searched for the proper place at Blogspot.com to report the infringement, we were directed to this page at Google.com. It outlines the steps we would need to take to report a copyright infringement made by any blogger hosted by Google.
But anyone who reads through the page may be forgiven if they think the procedures are designed to obstruct, rather than facilitate the complainants. In fact, the page is laced with subtle (and not-so-subtle) warnings against reporting offences. It was as if Google didn't want anyone complaining about any copyright infringement by their bloggers, and they made it quite obvious. Here are some troubling parts :
- You must ONLY send the complaint in the form of a fax or regular mail. No e-mails allowed. Fascinating communication choices for a company formed on the backbone of the Internet.
- A warning that you will be liable for damages including costs and attorneys' fees, if you are found to be wrong. They even included an example of a company that reported an infringement that was finally determined to be protected by the fair use doctrine. The damage? $100,000. The insinuation? That could be YOU. So, think twice (nay, THRICE!) before you open your mouth and complain to us!
- You must include a statement that "I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed." Does that mean concerned Netizens cannot report an offender to Blogspot/Google?
- Many Google Services do not have account holders or subscribers. For Services that do, such as Blogger, Google will, in appropriate circumstances, terminate repeat infringers. Does that mean that offenders will not be terminated until they have been found to repeat their offences? And how many offences are we talking about? 2? 3? A hundred? A thousand?
Do they really have to make us jump through so many loops to get some justice? Why threaten us with costly legal fees if we are found to be wrong? Google/Blogspot can easily take the route of many websites and ISPs and send their subscribers a notice to remove the offending article. That would have taken much less time and effort on everyone's part.
IMHO, there's really no valid reason for Blogspot/Google to implement such a convoluted system, except to discourage complaints. This system not only takes a long time to settle the issue, it also offers the offending blogger an easy way out. While Blogspot/Google wait and take their time to "resolve" the issue, the blogger can easily move the stolen content to another blogging service and continue operation without missing a beat.
What Should Blogspot/Google Do?
As a company based entirely on the Internet, Google needs to adopt a fairer and faster copyright arbitration system. Insisting on snail mail and fax for official complaints is completely unnecessary. Major institutions like ISPs and even banks do not even require you to register your complaints by paper before they start taking action.
This is especially critical when it comes to online content. While Blogspot/Google ruminates on who's right and who's wrong, the thieves can continue to use the stolen content to generate traffic and money. By the time they decide the thieves are wrong, the content is already worthless. The thieves would have made all the money and traffic they wanted.
If Blogspot/Google is serious about upholding the integrity of their bloggers, they need to be stricter about copyright infringements. We are not saying that bloggers should be punished before they are proven guilty but it really isn't that hard to decide who's infringing who's material, especially if it involves written content already published on the official websites.
Blogspot/Google can easily check the official website and compare the materials. This is what ISPs and website editors do when confronted with allegations of copyright infringement. That would have taken only a day or two to resolve, saving everyone not only time but also money.
Blogspot/Google can also help improve the integrity of the system by not only terminating the blogging account of the offender, but also his/her AdSense account. After all, it's the advertisement money that drives their greed. If these thieves are threatened with the loss of their source of income, they will think twice about stealing other people's works and think seriously about creating their own content for once.
Questions & Comments
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