The DMCA and Google

As blog plagiarism pushes the issue of content theft to the forefront of more Webmasters’ minds, a great deal of attention, both positive and negative, is being paid to the DMCA and its uses in dealing with copyright infringement on the Web.

While this attention is very welcome, many guides have been suggesting the use of DMCA notices sent to Google as a first line of handling such matters. While this might sound like a viable plan, considering Google’s reputation for adhering to such notices and control of nearly 60% the search engine market, it has several fatal flaws.

Furthermore, such a strategy often times fails to resolve the incident of plagiarism and can make the issue even more difficult to truly resolve. So, while it’s a viable option for some cases, it’s really a port of last resort for many very good reasons.

The idea of filing such a notice with Google is that, theoretically, removing them from the search engine will either A) Force the plagiarist to remove your work or B) Cripple their site’s ability to gain traffic.

However, while Google is definitely a force to be reckoned with on the Web, removal from their search engine, which isn’t even guaranteed with such a submission, is hardly a crippling. There are other search engines, other sources of traffic and other ways for a site to get by. Besides, many times Google only removes the specific infringing material from its database, not the entire site, making the effect negligible in cases where only parts of the site are infringing.

Furthermore, putting Google in the position of copyright police for the Web is a very dangerous proposition for many reasons. First off, Google is effectively a middleman. They have had no contact with the content thief, have never entered into a contract with them and never dealt with them directly. As such, though they do make a good faith effort to contact those accused of copyright infringement, there is no guarantee that they will succeed and your plagiarist could be completely oblivious to what has happened. Thus, your work remains plagiarized and only somewhat less popular in its stolen form.

Second, Google is a very large company and, though it’s definitely making a good effort to adhere to the DMCA, isn’t always able to move very quickly. In addition to the search engine, Google has to deal with plagiarism on Google Groups, Blogger, Blogspot and a bevy of other services. While Google does its best, it can take a long time for the wheels of justice to get up to speed.

Finally, consider the potential consequences of getting a plagiarist removed from Google. If their site is removed from the database and you use the search engine to search for copies of your work, any future infringement on that site will go undetected. Getting a plagiarist removed from the search engines effectively removes them from your personal radar and, unless you keep good notes, you may never find out what they’re up to in the future.

That’s why it’s much better, if at all possible, to deal with either the plagiarist or their host. The best tools you’ll carry in your anti-plagiarism toolbox aren’t DMCA notices designed for the various search engines, but rather, a good cease and desist letter and a DMCA notice for hosts.

Generally speaking, the resolution is much quicker, the work is removed from the Web permanently and brings a sense of finality to the case. While filing a notice with Google and the other search engines certainly can snap a plagiarist in line, there’s no guarantees and it’s much wiser to take the quicker, more direct route.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t times, especially with international cases, where Google’s DMCA policy isn’t useful, it’s just to say that making it the first step is a waste of time and effort, especially when other, more direct, solutions are available.

On that note though, I do want to say that reporting plagiarists to Google Adsense and other advertising programs is a very wise thing to do. Plagiarists who are profit-minded, or even profit-hopeful, are crushed when their revenue stream is ripped out from under them. Sites that are run purely for profit are shut down quickly and, since these accounts are tied to the person, aren’t likely to restart by popping up elsewhere. Furthermore, this can do a great deal to prevent other acts of copyright infringement as one Adsense account may be linked to multiple infringing sites.

Regardless though, making a DMCA notice to Google, or any of the other search engines for that matter, your first resort in matters of plagiarism is simply folly. It doesn’t guarantee anything but the probability of a long wait and unsatisfactory results. There are more direct paths to be tried first, you’d be wise to take them.

That is, unless you enjoy your content being misused on the Web.

Link: Stop Those Who Are Stealing Copyrighted Content – A very good guide to stopping plagiarism that doesn’t cave into the Google hype. In fact, very much like an abbreviated of my “Stop Internet Plagiarism” section. A great read.

[tags]Plagiarism, Content Theft, Google, DMCA, Copyright[/tags]

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