Content Theft Evolves: Be Less Like Salmon, More Like Monkeys

Content theft is evolving. The debate over content production and its use across the web is not going well. For every Online Publisher or Blogger out there, exists another opinion and preference on how they want (or don’t want) you to take and re-use their content.

The opinions vary from TechCrunch throwing a party when someone “steals” their content, to Newsosaurs mandating that their content is removed from one’s blog or dare face legal repercussions.

Who’s right, who’s wrong, and where do we go from here?

I think the only losers in this battle are the ones fighting it. We’ve reached a point where the speed of journalism through technological developments is making it 99.9% impossible for Publishers to win a fight against the growing number of internet users across the globe.

People are going to take your content whether you like it or not.

From copying and pasting, to scripts that aggregate and repost via your RSS feed, no matter how difficult you attempt to make it for them to steal it, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” The record industry has spent millions of dollars combating piracy of their albums and today they’re still left with an enormous issue on their hands.

Do these executives and lawyers risk spending the rest of their lives fighting content theft like Robert Kearns and his intermittent wiper patent? I hope not. So should industries like Music and Online Publishing just give up and accept it? No. It’s not time to give up and surrender; it’s time to get creative. Vevo on Youtube is a great example of just that.

Online Publishers don’t want you taking their content for the obvious reason that they spent time on or paid money to create it and feel it should not be read somewhere that does not financially benefit them. “Financially benefit” does not necessarily mean direct dollars through ad revenue or subscription payments; it can also be indirectly through SEO, PR, etc.

The reason TechCrunch is so willing to give up their content is that in return they expect to be credited for its use by receiving a link back. Link economy is not to be taken lightly. Chris Ahearn’s very famous article about why he believes in it has made its way around by now, and it’s a topic that should be involved in every conversation surrounding the debate over content use.

TechCrunch even feels this is a generous enough payment for use of their posts. It gets them notoriety, generates additional traffic through clicks, helps their SEO… what’s not to love about that? Well, some don’t care for the fact that their content is now competing against itself in search traffic on other websites. Searching for their topics and keywords may lead you to another site over theirs, and you may not wind up clicking through to the original article’s website.

Be Less Like Salmon, More Like Monkeys

Monkey LaptopPublishers need to make the easiest way for their readers to take their content the way that benefits them the most. Tynt has been around for sometime. They sneak a link back into one’s clipboard following the text they copied. This link can go unnoticed by the user, noticed but accepted and left in, or is deleted with a click.

Another option for an Online Publisher is Embed Article Technology. When Embed Article is enabled on a website it offers a unique code snippet to the user as an alternative to the text they just copied. This code snippet will render the copied text on the embedding website, along with a link back to the original article and an ad space. It does all this in JavaScript so the copied text will not be competing against the original article in page rank. Neither of these options completely prevent someone from taking the content directly without having a link back to the Publisher, but they’re offering an approved alternative to the user which is likely to have an impact.

The Publisher can take advantage of these developments in the industry and now encourage people to take and use their content rather than continuing to fight against the current like a salmon. They need to be more like the monkeys who work together so they can both enjoy some of the spoils.

Simple user experience = less user revolt

By spending more time and energy creating a friendly solution for people to use your content on their own blogs, the faster these issues are going to begin disappearing. Most bloggers do not operate their websites maliciously by intentionally stealing content without attribution for the purpose of monetizing it themselves. That number is small.

Most bloggers simply have no other method but to copy and paste and they do their best to give credit where credits due. Fair Use did nothing more than create confusion. “How much text can I copy? How much do I have to summarize myself? What is going on!?”

We all need to start playing for the big team for the big win. Get creative, get innovative, and make it simple for people to take your content in a way that gets your publication the benefits and credit it deserves.

Guest author Kris Minkstein is a full-time entrepreneur and part time blogger with a passion for the evolution of content production and usage across the web. Image by esuzf under CC. You can also write guest posts and share your blogging tips.

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About the Author: P Chandra is editor of QOT, one of India's earliest tech bloggers since 2004. A tech enthusiast with expertise in coding, WordPress, web tools, SEO and DIY hacks.