Could Google be Taking Plagiarism Lightly?

By Daniel Scocco

Sometime ago I published a post titled “Google’s Blogger Hosting Tons of Spam Blogs?,” where I described the findings of a WebmasterWorld study. The research concluded that almost 77% of the blogs hosted inside Blogger service were actually spam blogs.

Spam blogs, or splogs, usually recycle available content on the Internet with the purpose of making a couple of bucks via Adsense or other monetization methods. Some of them use public domain content or only snippets of text to avoid copyright infringement. Others, however, blatantly reproduce copyrighted material.

A couple of months ago I spotted one of such splogs ripping off content from Daily Blog Tips. The guy was copying our articles integrally and republishing them on a .blogspot.com blog with some Adsense units.

Obviously there was no contact details or any information about the author, therefore I decided to contact Google directly. On my email I included examples of the copyright infringement, details about where the content was coming from and the PUB number that was being used by the Adsense units on that site, in the hope that Google would at least turn the publisher down.

Last week I received an answer from Google, and frankly it disappointed me. First of all they said that in order to file a notice of copyright infringement I would need to send either a regular mail letter or a fax. Maybe this is standard practice, but it certainly hassles people that live outside the U.S.. If that is the case Google should also require a regular mail or a fax from people that want to open a splog, I mean a blog, with the Blogger service.

Anyway, this is not the worst part. Right after that Google’s email stated that I could become liable for damages if I could not prove afterwards that I do own the copyright for the material in question. The email even mentions a case where a company that was trying to notify a copyright infringement ended up paying $100,000 in attorney fees because the other part was making a fair use of the material.

I think it is fine if Google wants to illustrate all the legal implications related to the copyright infringement, but the impression that the email gave me was that they were actually trying to scare people away. Under the guidelines for the letter that you need to write they even ask you to make statements like “I swear, under penalty of perjury…”.

Put yourself in the shoes of a small blogger, located outside the U.S., that is seeing his content being ripped off by someone using the Blogger service. After reading a similar email I bet that he would think twice before proceeding with the copyright infringement notification.

Last but not least, Gmail tagged the incoming email from the Blogger Support team as spam… what a funny coincidence :).

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25 Responses to “Could Google be Taking Plagiarism Lightly?”

  • Rhys

    That’s horrible.

    You wonder if the day will ever come of a class action lawsuit against Google’s blogspot service as infringement of copyright. Maybe not today, but when bigger blogs begin to lose income, will they take action against them?

    Could be interesting if they do.

  • Daniel

    Yeah I wonder if that could happen, if you consider the whole blogspot service it might have enough mass to qualify.

  • Jeremy Steele

    I’m one of those believers in the idea that Google supports splogs because it brings a ton of cash in via adsense.

    Half the time you file a DMCA for blogger they don’t even do anything, and if I ever decided to take legal action over a blogger blog I would definitely be going after Google as well.

    What is even worse is when Google’s PR people say stuff like “we take spamming seriously” … yeah BS. They are absolutely full of crap if they think they are anti-spam.

  • Ryan Imel

    Unfortunately, it just sounds like the way any big company would respond to something like that. Brushing it aside for the most part, which is disappointing to see from Google, but they are still a big company.

    Getting (even) bigger, Google’s going to be more and more concerned their own interests rather than users, like yourself. It’s unfortunate, but it’s also the way of the corporation.

  • subnet_rx

    Hopefully Google will see this and reform that letter. As far as stopping copyright infringement, I doubt that will happen unless we cut off the U.S. from the rest of the world so you could actually prosecute these people. For now, they can move to a country without income tax and set up shop.

  • DjFlush

    That is truly horrible and not only in the case where Google has stopped responding to acts of plagiarism but in other cases also noticed that Google is acting very strange and is trying to prove that it is the Internet God.

    Some of the advertisers on my blogs asked me to remove their site-wide link from my blog and on my query about the problem they told me that Google is de-valuing or in other words negating the publicity of those sites which have site-wide links on blogs that is because it tells Google that it is a paid link.

    I wonder why Google is trying to act as if it is the Internet God here.

  • Nirmal

    This is really one of the bad things about Google especially for people outside US, sending a mail or fax is difficult. Gmail classifying the mail as spam was really funny.

  • Daniel

    Yeah and now that I think about it there is the whole “Do no evil” hype.

  • Vijay

    I really wonder what they were thinking doing this. If it was any other blog, self hosted, you could have contacted the hosting service I guess. But this is just plain awful

  • The Buxr Widget

    Do no evil went out the window when they went public. Unfortunately splogs bring in millions for Google.

  • Jason

    Lazy bastards…

    That’s what I think anyway.

    My content is getting ripped off on a daily basis, through feeds, publishing my articles, etc. That’s one of the small reasons I’ve started podcasting.

    What sucks is when your URL goes into the supplemental results when the splogger’s gets indexed.

    It’s also easy to “redate” your posts so that it looks like it was published before someone else’s.

    Tough break. Sorry to hear that.

  • Robert Irizarry

    I’m really sorry to hear this but I don’t think that its going to get any easier for us going forward. I went through three distinct instances of content theft in my blog’s first year. Fortunately, I was able to resolve them with some help. However, one of those instances included a blog dealing with Godaddy and they were about as dismissive and discouraging as Google has been in this case.

    Two great resources for helping the blogger deal with content theft are Lorelle on WordPress and Plagiarism Today. Their writings formed my approach to dealing with sploggers.

    I wish you luck in dealing with these thieves. I’d hate to see anything negatively impact your blog.

  • Nekonron

    Will you be pursuing the matter? I’d love to hear if there are any further development on this matter.

  • Daniel

    Yeah I think I will send them a fax for filing a copyright infringement notification, I will keep you guys updated.

  • Matt Keegan

    Google is a major disappointment when it comes to copyright protection. One wonders (yeah, not really) if they see splogs as a way to make money off of AdSense.

    Their “do no evil” policy must have died when the company went public. Otherwise, they’d do a better job at keeping their part of the internet clean, namely Blogger.

  • Jonathan Bailey

    This is not a matter of Google being lazy or taking things lightly, this is Google following the law in the United States.

    While I grant that Google is unique in that it requires a fax or a postal letter (more on that in a moment), it is merely following the requirements of the DMCA in America with its wording.

    If you feel that your work is being infringed on Blogspot, simply file a DMCA notice with Google at their email address amac@google.com. I have stock letters on my site if needed.

    The secret to getting around their requirement is to scan a copy of your signature in and place it in a PDF of the DMCA notice. You can do that easily in OpenOffice.

    They will act on that, I have done it in the past.

    If you have any questions, feelf ree to email me or swing by my site. I’ll help any way that I can!

  • Doreen Joyner

    I’ve just discovered that some one has copied and pasted two pages from my site onto theirs. I have emailed them, their hosting company and their registrant asking that they remove the pages. So far I’ve heard nothing. What on earth do I have to do to safeguard my content?

  • Scary Gary

    On the flip side of the coin google is deterring sue happy people looking for small excuses to potentially win a case and protecting the privacy of its publishers. The best thing to do is make an attempt to contact the person infringing personally or cease and desist letter first. Then if it’s really bad do the google dance. And if its REALLY REALLY bad like some person is costing you thousands in revenue daily subpoena them.

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  • Robomaster

    Honestly, Google doesn’t care about Copyright. It’s way too much work for them to sort through everything, and I really don’t think they mind paying a few hundred thousand to whoever complains, thus shutting them up, in essence. Guess it’s the way it works for now…

  • Rio Guzman

    I guess we have to start looking for alternatives. I sent them the fax they requested with all the necessary information (check my blog) and they still didn’t take action. I guess we should just stop doing business with them (as much as we can).

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