Player (as City Watch): “Looks to me like you [some thugs] are extorting money from this merchant.”
Reylene (merchant): “It’s quite acceptable, truly. I have to admit that I’ve been looking forward to this day.”
Player (as City Watch): “Um … you have?”
Reylene: “It means I’ve made it. After all, they wouldn’t be trying to take money from someone who was unsuccessful. I consider it a rite of passage.”
Neverwinter Nights 2
RSS feeds are a nice way to automatically get content from the sites you are interested it. You can even use it to get informed about new scientific articles. There are a couple of blogs I follow via RSS feeds, either in my mail program or in DEVONthink, and I have got a few subscribers myself (RSS Feed Link here). Unfortunately, some of these subscribers are Scrapper sites. They automatically copy entire postings and put them onto “their” sites.
These are not bloggers referring to this site — there are a few and it always brightens my day. It’s nice to be read and their blogs are usually also interesting. Which reminds me that I should create a page with links to blogs that refer to this site or its postings. (update: done)
But with scrapper sites, this is an automated process. The motivation is likely to get advertisement revenue this way. They automatically copy the entire content from different, often highly heterogeneous blogs.
Although they include a back-link to my posting, this makes me very angry. If I think about it, among others, for the following reasons:
- It’s a blind process: I want my work to be read — one reason why I write a blog or why my book is also available for free download as PDF (donationware). However, these scrapper sites leech onto my content automatically. There is no one reading there (which you notice when you look at special characters their software has problems with).
- Their interest is not in organizing creativity, it’s in making money with other people’s content: The content is used as “cheap” material to attract visitors — likely to make money via ads. The problems with special characters are especially hurtful — I know I make spelling mistakes and my grammar is not that … good, but still, the way it’s crippled hurts.
- They likely degrade my content with ads: I pay a few hundred bucks each year to keep my sites ad-free. I browse with an activated ad-blocker (which makes the Internet serenely peaceful), I would feel like a hypocrite if I would try to make money with ads. These sites likely use ads to make money — something I deliberately avoid.
So, essentially, this is automatic stealing.
Personally, I have used text from other sites, or even images on this site — to refer to these other sites (e.g., Coursera, or yesterday’s recommendation of Incidental Comics). The quotes/images (should) all have a source information below them. It’s usually only a small part, never a whole posting. In short it’s fair use.
These scrapper sites, however, use my RSS Feeds without my consent and without any adherence to fair use. Apparently it’s an old phenomenon and — unfortunately — my blog is (also) targeted. There is some interesting information about it available, e.g., this article about content scrapping from vocus.com.
Frankly, I don’t want to spend my time filling in takedown notices (and I have my own reservations when it comes to DMCA notices). Not to mention the negative effect is has on my motivation to write — I hate plagiarism! Still, whenever I see a blog automatically posting my entire blog entries and even hot-linking my photos/images, I’m taking action against them.
To facilitate this a little, I am changing the RSS Feed to partial content. At least this way the scrapper site cannot take it all (I hope). I’m sorry for those who use RSS Readers and have to visit this blog via their browser.
Man, this can really suck the fun out of blogging …
WordPress has reacted to the take-down notice (within approx. 5 hours, which is positive 🙂 ). They removed the posting with the usual: “If the publisher decides to submit a counter-notice you will be notified immediately.” Nice. Bring it on, baby! Strange thing is that while the my posting was removed, the rest of the “blog” is still online. It’s not only my posting that this person has copied. Why they don’t take down the whole blog is beyond me — do they really need “users” that desperately? Still waiting on Blogger …
Given that the ones who at least state the source seem to use the standard format: “Source: http://www.organizingcreativity.com/PAGELINK”, I did a search for “Source: http://www.organizingcreativity.com”. Shouldn’t have done it. 77 hits and almost all scrapper sites … I think I need a workflow for take-down notices. Worst thing is that most of them seem to be hosted on other sites than WordPress or Blogger, which means contacting individual providers. It was a good idea to remind me of the other bloggers who create interesting content of their own (and among others, refer to this blog, for which I am thankful). I need this now as a necessary counterweight against these scrapper blogs.