November 13, 2008

Steal my content? I’ll kill your Adsense!

by Brian Turner

Content theft is an annoyance at best, but it’s especially frustrating when people still your content and then place Adsense all over it.

Often it’s automated, but sometimes it looks stolen by human users.

Either way, it’s not invited, it’s unwelcome, it’s illegal, and I’ll get you back for it.

Dealing with stolen content

Sure, I can run through the DNS records, contact the hosting company, and hope that resolves it.

With content spammers machine generating multitudes of pages, it rarely works – they try and cover their tracks with custom nameservers, hidden registration details, false emails, etc, and generally make themselves uncontactable.

I’m under the impression you can’t even file a DMCA because you don’t even know who you are contacting – they’ve hidden their own details well – and it’s a prerequisite in a DMCA that you state you have tried to contact the offender.

But a simpler, quicker, cleaner way – is to file a TOU violation via Adsense.

How to file a Google Adsense TOU Violation

Yep, everytime someone steals my content and pastes Adsense around it, I click that Google logo for the feedback form, and file a TOU violation on the site.

- When you see Adsense around your stolen content, click on the Google logo in the ads.

- Then at the bottom of the Adsense landing page, click on “Send Google your thoughts on the site or the ads you just saw”.

- This opens up a new section below: “Tell Google What You Think” – and ignore section 1: “How relevant were the ads to the page you saw them on?”.

- Instead, just go to section 2: “How useful was the site to you?” and check the first option: “Not useful at all”.

- Then click the link “Also Report a Violation?”.

A new selection box opens – just select “the website” and more options.

Don’t bother checking box 3, “The site is hosting/distributing my copyrighted content”, to state your content is being stolen – all Google will do is send you an automated reply about filing a DMCA.

It’s frustrating, but you can appreciate Google’s difficult position on content theft, determining rightful owner, etc.

Instead, just select section 5: “The site violates AdSense policies in other ways”.

Then add something in the box “Add additional information here:”

I usually type something to the effect that the site is machine generating content, usually by scraping or stealing material from other websites. I don’t claim it’s my own – I just state the obvious, hoping someone at least a little web savvy will read it.

Then click “Submit feedback to Google”.

What happens next?

I’ve tried this on a number of sites, many of which soon disappear. I’ve seen some stay up and running, but usually without their Adsense.

I can’t be sure that my reports are solely responsible – I’m sure where a single site is scraping content from multiple authors, then I won’t be the only one to complain.

However, it is kind of funny seeing a site running Adsense later to be running some crappy third-tier affiliate program – presumably because they were banned from Adsense – and are now trying their hardest to monetise the content with lowest paying ads.

I’ve been on different sides of the same fence – I’ve had material stolen, I’ve had one of my freelancers steal content and get me into a load of trouble, and I’ve had people threaten DMCA’s because they are stupid. I can really appreciate Google’s caution regarding DMCA filings.

Even still, I like to think that Google is looking after its users, and has the same disdain for machine-generated content that is just stealing from third-parties as those stolen from do – especially when these sites are usually pretty clear they are machine generated.

Despite all this, I don’t think trying to get people’s Adsense accounts banned will properly deter the thieves – but if acted upon, it can only make it feel far less worthwhile.

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