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Affiliate link cloaking and lawsuits

Has anyone ever been threatened with a lawsuit for cloaking affiliate links

     
2:17 pm on Nov 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hey there,

I've been in AM for several years and I've never come across this. I cloaked an affiliate link to prevent hijackers and within a week got a call from my affiliate program saying I had 'stolen copyright material' and 'illegally ripped off' their website.

They threatened to have a lawyer on my doorstep within 24 hours if I did not contact them and take my entire website down. I'm very careful never to steal any copyrighted material so I was not only confused but extremely upset. Then I talked to them and found out they were referring to my cloaked affiliate link - not my entire website. Call me naive but I really had no idea this was wrong and no other affiliate program I am involved with has EVER done something this extreme.

(Of course I pointed out to the gentleman that you don't exactly encourage affiliate loyalty by threatening to sue your affiliates.)

Has anyone ever had anything like this happen? I'd appreciate some feedback.

hunderdown

3:21 pm on Nov 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I've never done any cloaking, but I have a question--did they give you any explanation as to WHY they were so heavy-handed?
3:54 pm on Nov 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

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It seems they've lost their coveted #1 spot on Google and they are blaming the affiliate links for it. Not sure if the affiliate links have anything to do with it since no one can control Google's every changing algorithm but who knows.
4:34 pm on Nov 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Wow thats incredibilly short sited of them. I cloak all my affiliate links to prevent identification by google and I have never been contacted.
4:53 pm on Nov 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I would drop them, they sound like a bunch of idiots.
5:08 pm on Nov 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

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This is a real problem, especially with respect to Google, but it sounds like they're kind of panicking at this moment.

You should make sure that such links cannot be crawled, by banning them in the robots.txt file. That way Google will never know what's on the other side of the redirect. Thus hijacking cannot happen. There's no reason for a spider to be crawling affiliate links anyways.

IMO that's a reasonable solution but it may not make the merchant happy. If not, well the customer is always right so in that case change the links or remove them.

7:40 pm on Nov 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the feedback guys - Good points to consider. Glad to know I wasn't off-base in thinking this was a bit extreme.
11:38 pm on Nov 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

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A bit extreme, yes, but like I said it's a serious problem. For some time now redirects have caused problems for Google. See the many threads in the Goole News forum regarding hijacking and canonical URL problems.

Imagine if every page on your site, every link to your site, was being credited to another domain. You'd go nuts too.

5:28 pm on Nov 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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How do you ban a link with robots.txt?
9:56 pm on Nov 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

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you do something like this:

LINK: ... href=/jump/jump.php?id=#*$!

jump.php just sends redirect headers to other URLs

and in robots.txt:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /jump/

3:43 am on Nov 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Would you mind telling us what affiliate company this is?

Thanks,

2:33 pm on Nov 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Did you talk to the AM or the lawyer?

It may be the legal department acted outside of the affiliate program. Many times companies have poor inter-company communication. The legal department may have thought you were someone breeching copyright without realizing you are actually advertising their product. It happens alot. Legal departments tend to shoot first ask questions later. Email your AM about it and ask them why it happened and if they were aware of it.

6:13 pm on Nov 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The affiliate program was a weight loss product but the next day after I posted here, I was sent a 'Cease and Desist' letter that basically said I couldn't even mention their brand name again or they'd sue me. Really upsetting.

The day before I had emailed the affiliate manager outlining what happened and I still got the letter so I'm guessing they knew all about it.

[edited by: eljefe3 at 1:20 am (utc) on Nov. 11, 2005]

8:39 am on Nov 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Speaking of hijacking affiliate links, are there any other threads that discuss this topic that anyone is aware of?