Every Friday afternoon I take a few minutes to do a quick Technorati or Feedster search for our company name. It's the equivalent of doing a Google search on yourself, only in this case you discover what millions of bloggers are saying about you.
At first, it was a sort of guilty pleasure. There's that tingle of excitement when you discover a favorable mention in a blog. Sometimes of course it's criticism, which is slightly painful but always worth learning from.
But more recently I've begun to see an ugly trend emerging.
Bloggers have begun cutting and pasting the entire text of our articles in their blogs. Sometimes it appears as though they wrote the article, sometimes they give a little credit "from MarketingSherpa." Either way, I have to contact them with the following little cease-and-desist note or risk losing the intellectual property that our company is built on:
"I'm glad you like MarketingSherpa, but please remove this article from your Blog. By posting an entire article, you are breaking copyright law. You are essentially a thief, stealing content it cost us hundreds of dollars to create. You can certainly write your own commentary or summary of our article and link to our site for your visitors to see. Thank you."
I've noticed these thieves come in two distinct colors -- the first are genuine fans. They are so psyched about an article they decide to cut and paste it under the misconception than it's a "compliment" that a copyright owner won't mind.
I appreciate the compliment, but just because a product is an article rather than a shirt or widget, doesn't mean you can take it and give it away without the owner's permission.
The second group of thieves are profit-driven bloggers who are generally seeking Google AdSense revenue. They publish as many blogs as possible populated with lifted content and sit back to collect commission checks from Google on ad clicks. Some have created automated programs that suck up content from around the Web and post it without need for a human editor.
Worried publishers are forming task forces now to begin to address this threat. Ideas include limiting bots' site access and requiring registration. In the end, more walls go up around the Web and an atmosphere of distrust reigns. Too bad.
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