Bitacle: What’s Next

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Bitacle is without an income.

As of last night, they had no ads anywhere on their site. This is likely due to the DMCA notice I filed with Google Adsense and received a response on earlier this week .

While this is a major victory, it is not the end of the Bitacle battle. The site is still up, it is still scraping content and the situation has not been resolved.

Though a major step has been taken, Bitacle is not down for the count. If Bitacle is going to be put down for good, it is going to take a renewed push by all of us and a new attack on different fronts.

Bitacle’s Future

To survive, Bitacle is going to have to find an income. It’s as simple as that. Though it can run for a time without any financial support, the site is too large and too complex to run for long without some kind of monetization.

In short, the simplicity of scraping belies the cost of indexing, housing and displaying so much content in an AJAX-y environment. There’s a reason that Bitacle’s site moves painfully slowly, it requires a great deal of resources to keep it going.

When you see that Bitacle’s site requires money, at some point, to survive, this leads to just three possibilities:

  1. Bitacle will shut down.
  2. Bitacle will find a new advertiser.
  3. Bitacle will find a new way to monetize their site.

One seems sadly unlikely at this time since they have come this far. Their actions indicate that they believe they have a right to be doing what they are doing, even if the law says otherwise, and it seems unlikely that they will simply walk away from all of their work due to a roadblock.

Three is unlikely because they aren’t large enough to forge partnerships with major companies and there are too many free alternatives out there for them to charge a subscription. Much larger sites have had great difficulty profiting from their traffic without plastering it with ads.

So, odds are that they will simply try to find a new advertiser or a new network. However, the challenges in doing that will likely be greater than they anticipate.

Advertising Woes

The problem for Bitacle is that major advertisers don’t want anything to do with Bitacle’s advertising strategy. Professional advertisers, who are the ones with the deep pockets, understand the value of reputation and won’t risk it by partnering up with a site like Bitacle.

The only advertisers likely to partner with Bitacle voluntarily are those that want a large volume of traffic cheap and don’t care how they get it.

In that regard, online casinos were my first guess, especially with Bitacle’s roots in Europe. However, that seems unlikely given the major hit Internet gambling took earlier this year. Though casinos may be drawn to the international nature of Bitacle and many have sketchy pasts when it comes to affiliates who scrape, they seem to be in survival mode more than anything right now. It’s unlikely that they will partner with any site in a meaningful way until after the dust settles.

Instead, Bitacle may have to turn to the more traditional scum of the Web. The same businesses that send you spam email and support traditional splogging would be natural allies for a cash-strapped scraper. Though less profitable than a major publisher, they might be enough to keep Bitacle profitable.

All of this is just a theory, but it seems likely that, if Bitacle is going to continue, that they need to buddy up with a more “friendly” advertiser. Google and others to the like will just be too hostile.

So What’s Next?

If Bitacle makes the foolish decision to switch to another advertising network, such as Yahoo, they will almost certainly be cut off again in short order. With thousands of angry bloggers looking to pounce, I can only imagine that they would not last long on any respectable network.

Still, Bitacle can last a very long time with a less than respectable backer. Sadly, there are a few of those floating around as your daily deluge of spam proves. The trick now is to ensure that Bitacle doesn’t find such backing.

I’ve already taken the radical step of resubmitting my DMCA notice from Hell, but in a different format and to Bitacle’s Web host. To aid in the process, I used Mafe Maria’s wonderful Spanish host contact letter.

I almost stopped myself from doing this since my Creative Commons License allows all non-commercial use of my work. Since they are no longer displaying ads, the use seems to be compliant. However, a quick check of Bitacle’s source code proved that they still had the code for at least one of their ads in place. Since they are still using the content with the intent of commercial gain, that alone is enough to report the violation (one doesn’t have to actually be successful in commercializing the work for the license to be broken, just intend to).

However, even with that information, contacting Bitacle’s host is something of a long shot. First, my personal understanding of Spanish is limited. I did my best to find an appropriate email address and contact them, but there is no guarantee that I have the right one. If anyone wants to search their host’s site and locate an abuse address, that would be a huge help and I would send out another notice immediately.

The biggest problem, however, is the lack of applicability of American law. Though Spain is a member of the EU and the EU does have an established notice and takedown procedure (one that is markedly easier than the U.S. version), I have never used it personally and do not know how well it will work when the complaining party has little means of filing suit against a company an ocean away.

I’ve had problems with EU countries in the past, Germany being one of the worst, but that was before the EU passed its notice and takedown provision. We will have to see if things have changed.

After that, the next step might be for bloggers that have had their material scraped and then reappear in Google to file DMCA notices with Google, the search engine. My content hasn’t been picked up yet in the main Google search engine, at least according my digital fingerprint information, However, given the fact that Bitacle has hundreds of thousands of pages indexed in Google, it seems almost certain that someone has.

In the meantime though, I am targeting Bitacle’s host in the hope that we can finally put this beast to bed. Though it is a long shot, it could put an end to the Bitacle problem and that alone makes it worthwhile.

Conclusions

The tide has turned against Bitacle but the war is not over. Now is the time for us to press our advantage and continue hitting at them until they fold. This battle can be won, but only if we press our advantage while we have it.

The time to strike is now, I look forward to seeing you on the battlefield.

Note: To those regular readers who are getting rather bored with the Bitacle saga, please be patient with me, I’m working on more traditional material for the site and I’m hoping that we can leave Bitacle behind sooner rather than later.

 

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