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Google scandal in the Netherlands - again

Selling services based on stolen content

   
6:01 pm on Jan 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Last week I noticed my content was 'borrowed' by one of my competitors who cloaked it into Google. After asking the company to remove my copyrighted material from their site and from Google they answered that it was a mistake and that the content had already been removed (the content is still in Google though).

A few days later a post appeared in Voelspriet, a Dutch site about searching and search engines. I certainly wasn't the only one, a whole bunch of Dutch seo-sites had been ripped and fed into Googlebot!

So far, so good, until this morning when WebWereld (Dutch for WebWorld) placed a news article about it on their site. More publicity and more respondents. To my surprise most readers blame Google for letting this happen and only a few blame the company for stealing other site's content and cloaking.

The company responded with a special page on their web site offering a special discount for their method which "has now been cured of startup problems."

I almost feel ashamed to be a Dutch seo!

6:44 pm on Jan 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member googleguy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Are you willing to do a spam report with more details and your nick? I can't read Dutch, but I'd love to hear more about this.
8:03 pm on Jan 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

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This wasn't really Google's fault. I imagine they will try to remedy the problem.
8:26 pm on Jan 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Hi GG,

Thanks for your interest in this affair. Submitted a spam report with some translations and urls. What about a crash course Dutch? Come to Orlando, I'll teach you :)

Cheers,
HitProf

8:29 pm on Jan 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



my content was 'borrowed' by one of my competitors

I have confidence that Google will do what it can, but this points to a wider issue on which the search engines can presently - at best - only limit damage and even then only if they have the resources to devote to doing so.

I'd like to hear whether Google as the dominant search engine currently has any ideas of how to deter "those with little imagination" from believing that they can copy an original website wholesale and then pass it off as their own.

Any deterrent might be of help... and one endorsed by a major search engine like G might actually make a difference.

I've twice been a victim of this and it's my experience that cease and desist emails have little effect.

I never used to and I'm not happy about it but now I watermark every single image on my site. But how to watermark textual content?

8:44 pm on Jan 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



In my opinion it's not Google doing wrong in this case but the company providing the input. But Google being fooled by such companies over and over again is turning the public opinion against them.
Most likely it's done with freely available programs so Google has to take action as quick as they can, especially with the upcoming IPO.
1:25 am on Jan 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



I'd be very happy to see some sort of 'signature' technology developed which indicated to a searchbot that original content comes from a given domain. Then any domain and signature mismatch might put up a flag that the content has been nicked. Is there any chance of a search engine doing this though?

Giving searchers what they want is the first priority of an SE... there's nothing to show that either SEs or the searching public would give much of a flying one about copyright abuse.

1:49 am on Jan 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Odd thing... one of my sites was recently downloaded in it's entirety by an i.p. that traces via ripe back to the netherlands. Since my site involved only serves the U.S. market anyway... I am considering banning access from the 62.*.*.* ip block... I just hate to do stuff like that. I had a bad feeling seeing the logs that the pages could be cloaked and used to send business to affiliate pages of U.S. companies in the same trade arena. Also that would cause me to appear to have duplicate content to my own pages... Then I thought I was just being paranoid. :)
2:07 am on Jan 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Interesting, perhaps the bible code
thing makes sense here. If you can add hidden codes in an image to prove copyright, can you add additional words here and there, to create a unique signature that can be searched for,
this proving quickly someone is pinching content.

But then plagarism had always part of Internet Culture, it's OK if you credit who wrote it orginally.

2:24 am on Jan 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Put the text into a dutch to english translator... am a little put-off by some of the apparent tone:

"Thereby information of competitive sites is taken over to draw visitors."

and referred to as

"rather ingenious"

Is the translation right?

3:58 am on Jan 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



create a unique signature

I like it! You could do something like having the first sentence and the last sentence on every page containing no words with the letter 'e'.

I imagine the chance of having this configuration by accident is well-nigh impossible.

It doesn't allow you to avoid the legal hassles though, does it? It just puts you in a better position when it comes to the burden of proof.

4:09 am on Jan 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



What about small comments scattered unobtrusively in the text? Anyone copying <!-- signature -->your html wholesale probably wouldn't notice a few random letters in the middle of a paragraph.
4:20 am on Jan 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member crobb305 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Googleguy,

Do you want this reported in an actual Spam report or in an email to webmaster@google (with nick)?

Thanks

10:52 pm on Jan 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



@idoc

Yes, your translations are right.

@all others:
The first bit is part of the general introduction to the topic in the Webwerweld article.
"rather ingenious" is Henk's qualification of the tric, with a slightly negative undertone. (Henk is a journalist and founder of Voelspriet. He may be impressed by the technology used but is certainly not approving it).

2:36 am on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



HitProf,

Alot can get lost in translation, I am glad that the interviewer was overall negative on the end result. I did some more research into the site downloading incident... seems to be a very large corporation with banking etc. I am just going to keep an eye for duplicate content. Hopefully, they just liked something about the site or services and wanted it to reference. I never have had to block any of the netherlands from my servers... other parts of the ripe and apnic blocks yes. I am going to hold off that part. Some other sites I have get regular and good ecommerce orders from the netherlands. Thanks for the heads up.

3:39 am on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



This same thing has happened to a colleague of mine and she can't seem to get to the bottom of the issue. She has contacted a lawyer at this point. Every time this company says they're removing the information (which of course remains in Google) she finds a new set with another company using her site name. This is in the US. If you look up her keywords you get these sites and they're not from little companies either. It's an SEO group that's doing it in this case as well and it's obviously one of their signature techniques for getting listings in Google. Obviously Google has nothing to do with this other than they've figure out how to fly under their radar.
4:02 am on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Jill,
I went through this nightmare recently. Twice a webmaster copied the entire content of my site, did a global search and replace to remove any reference to my domain, and posted the content on his site as his own. I had the content removed twice times on the first site by contacting the web host (actually the host of the hosting company). I finally tracked the guy down, phoned him at home and threatened him with a lawsuit.

I highly recommend that you document the infringement. This involves copying the entire content of the infringing site, and saving it. Let the infringer know that you did this.

Next, file a DMCA complaint with Google. Google will remove all the infringing pages from their index (it takes a few days... and if the site is taken down first, the pages don't get removed from the index, or the cache... which is annoying).

Do a WhoIs lookup to find the domain registrant.
If the domain is registered anonymously, you don't know who the infringer is... but you can still go after them.

Do a traceroute, or a DNS search, and find the IP address. Do a reverse IP lookup to find out who is hosting the site, or providing the Internet connection. Contact this company, and let them know their customer is infringing your copyrights. The DMCA provides web hosts and ISPs (and search engines) protection from copyright claims if they take reasonable steps to resolve the matter. Tell the ISP or web host that if they don't want to be sued for vicarious liability or contributory infringement, they need to take a look at the situation (compare the copied content with your original), contact their customer, or suspend the customer's Internet access immediately. Be aggressive in going to the right person, and letting them know you mean business. Some ISPs and web hosts are clueless about this at first, and you may have to educate them. I have found some to be familiar with this situation, and they take immediate action.

When my content was successfully taken off a US based webhost, only to appear a few days later on a server in China, it took a phone call to the infringer to let him know that I was going to take him to Federal court. Even though the infringer was in Canada, his domains were registered in the US, and domains are considered real property (they can be awarded in a judgement). Let the infringer know he stands to lose his domain or domains, and you may get his attention.

One more thing... if you actually file a copyright with the government, you can be awarded statutory damages, and not just actual damages.

4:19 am on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Just a couple ideas... often the nicked pages will point to a large company site that runs an affiliate type setup under a cloak or redirect scheme. Othertimes people use programs to download and splice say the top 5 pages for a term, homogenize the content and cloak it. You will recognize identical phrases from your pages, but not the pages themselves.

You can use whois to find the domain owner and contact them with a notice of copyright and notify them to remove the offending materials first. Then follow it up with a written notice, a lawyers letter hits harder. Then, if needed you should be able to document a DMCA notice to google and the web hosting company for the pages, and if they host their own then their telecom provider. You can likely get their site off the internet this way if better judgement doesn't tell them to mess with someone more passive in the meantime.

Best of luck.

8:34 am on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Hi everybody!

I guess there is nothing you can do against such a mass practice. But if you focus exclusively on your business and try to put out YOUR unfair competitor who stole YOUR content, then there are good chances to succeed one way or another. What is really important is the attitude. Your business depends first on you, not on Google or some other imminent impediments which are out of your control. The advises given by DVDBurning are of a real value. Let the Google do his job, do yours too. If Google caches stolen content, that's his business and his market will react sooner or latter. But if it's something you can do, than don't wait the big guys to solve your puzzle.

I personally interacted with such an awful situation and let me tell you that Google didn't help me at all even with an useful advice to my inquiry, not to say with some SERPs fittings. So I tried the hard way because there was no easy way.

The content patent still needs time to improve itself.

3:02 pm on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I would have to add... this is not a google problem at all. Their function is to index the web and return it to the searcher. To date they have been the most succesful at both, only recently has the search return part been questionable. I appreciate that, and have used google to search for unique strings from well performing pages with uncanny success at times. Also, google has no obligation to remove stolen content unless a dmca notice is documented. If it were too easy... most of the affiliate type pages and alot of competitive sectors on the internet would be at jeopardy from dishonest competitors. That used to happen with submissions anyway, a site would be submitted 300 times to AV to knock it out of the serps.
3:32 pm on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



It is a Google problem if the users blame it on Google and that was what this thread is/was about.

Of course Google can't help it if other companies steal content. But Google is supposed to deliver relevant search results and if it gets fooled by tricks it can't. In that way it's Google's problem.

3:56 pm on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I agree HitProf. I'm sure they view it as a problem too. They were contacted about this situation but it seems to keep reappearing. Same technique, same SEO company, different clients. I assume there's only so much Google can actually do about this.

In our case it is an actual SEO company that is highjacking pages and content to get unrelated search results. They were contacted too, btw, and told us that we should be flattered. They only use the information and pages of companies they think are doing well. Such a comfort...

They are taking her information and using them to get results for competing companies. It's not a great feeling to do a test search and find your direct competitor coming up above or right below you for the same pages, especially when they're YOUR pages.

4:45 pm on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I would hope that Google is looking at the problem, and working to develop automated ways to detect stolen / duplicated content.

It is extremely frustrating to those who have worked for many months to develop unique and valuable content to see someone simply copy every bit of it word for word, posting it as their own. It is even more frustrating to see Google regard the copied version as the original, apparently applying a duplicate content penalty on the original pages. I can't be 100% certain that this is what happened in my case, but I saw my PR go from a 6 to a 3 (now back to a 4). I also saw the copied version of my pages show up higher in the SERPs for every single search.

It is easy for Google or anyone else to say that they are an innocent 3rd party to this ugly situation. Do they have any obligation to manually investigate and make a judgement as to who owns the content? Probably not. They are just a search engine, and they don't want to get embroiled in disputes between 2 different websites... even if one is clearly committing a criminal act.

From a business perspective, and a moral perspective, Google SHOULD take the time to look at these complaints, evaluate them on their merits, and make a determination. Google has old cached content from many sites, and could easily determine who posted the content first (in most cases). Anyone who took a look at my case, for instance, would easily see that the copied content included numerous references to my site, and even a press release about my site starting up! Google could have removed the offending site from their index, and given every page of the site a PR0. Even after DMCA complaints, the SERPs still showed every one of the 420 copied pages in the same place for the offending site.

It is also unfair if the original site receives an automated penalty (I can't prove this... but I'm fairly sure that this is the case). I feel that Google should set up some sort of special complaint system for these cases, and manually review and correct them.

5:01 pm on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I understand the frustration, and am sure google will do what they can, but still you need to follow the channels if you are serious about it. They can't have a forum or an informal mailform and remove someones content on that alone. As it stands, the dispute is between the copyright owner and the person who stole content. If google intervened improperly...then it would be their problem as well, they won't do that.

I have a handful of specific pages where direct content from them is now all over the internet. Funny thing in one instance in a page I used a comparison (item1) was (x times) as effective as compared to (item2)... I miskeyed by accident in the html adding an extra zero to the number and didn't catch to fix it for about a month. All that time I was #1 for (item1) on google. Well, a year later(item1) is now all the rage and I can still search for my sentence with the extra zero on the figure and it is all over the internet now along with the rest of the related pages content. Personally, I liken these folks to "human roaches" that bottom feed of others work. It stinks, but still I don't expect google to police the internet.

5:17 pm on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



idoc,

As long as (item 1) is also related to the other sites it's mostly a dispute between you and those other companies.

It becomes a search engine's problem when (item 1) has no relation with the stealing web site and is only used for cloaking to get higher rankings (on irrelevant terms). This is misleading the search engines users. Can you see the difference?

5:34 pm on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



HitProf,

Absolutely, cloaking is a major problem that google should care about becase it undermines the validity of their serps. Really there are two issues here, one the copyright issues and second the cloaking or spam report issue.

I think google could do better to devote more effort to removing cloaked redirect pages. Alot of the internet content now is this junk... so long that it is more cost effective than adwords or other ppc it will remain a problem. Maybe google could turn that carrot into a hammer?

8:52 pm on Jan 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I trust that this spam report that GG asks for will be treated with the same priority as all other spam reports.

I'm sure that the fact this has made the Newspapers will not influence matters.

1:29 am on Jan 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



If this happened to me I can imagine the hours away from tending my business that it would take to stop the offenders. Anybody's business would suffer.

This issue of stolen content seems to be growing more of a problem. Something needs to be done.

Is it feasible that we independent webmasters form some kind of group or association (or does one already exist) that would advance and protect our interests with respect to content? For example, would it be feasible that we each pay a reasonable membership fee that would finance the retainer of a web savvy attorney who, when one of the association is victimized, could immediately and agressively go after the offenders and shut them down? It appears hard for individual webmaster victims who get cut out of the herd to take on something like this.

Somebody educate me-- my proposal seems like a reasonable solution. If anybody knows of an existing alternative, let us know. And if anybody has a candidate attorney, let us know.

Does anybody want to run with this?

3:16 am on Jan 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Devalle - the same sort of idea occurred to me when my site was copied. I would think that a Webmaster's association could offer some sort of service that helped to copyright content, and defend the copyrights, and that the economies of scale from a team of lawyers dedicated to this cause would benefit everyone. If the organization was international, it would really be tremendous, and I can imagine the membership would include almost every large site.
4:43 am on Jan 31, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member googleguy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



DeValle, technically copyright infringement is something that would be handled by a DMCA complaint. I asked for more details in case there was some spamming involved. HitProf and I have had good discussions in the past, so I'm happy to check out his complaint at 9pm on a Friday night (I know, I know, I need a life). HitProf, I'm reading that complaint now--thanks.
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