If You See This, The Content Is Stolen
It was less than 3 months ago. I was on Skype with a friend. We were at our computers, discussing Internet issues and Technorati rankings, when he checked a backlink and found a blog by young man named Elliott Bäck. The content, however, was my friend’s work, complete with my friend’s copyright warning stating that
if you see this, the content is stolen.
That page is now a 404.
Elliott Bäck is the same guy who developed a plugin called HashCash to circumvent spammers.
So why would he develop Autoblog, a plugin that is a content scraper?
While I can perfectly understand Elliott’s motivation for writing this plugin (learning more about RSS) I think releasing it was a bad, bad, bad idea. I’m sure a plugin like this can have it’s legitimate merit’s but I personally feel it’s blatantly obvious that it’s number one use will be the thing we’ve all learned to hate: splogs on which we’re going to find OUR content with ads placed all around it. said Marco van Hylckama Vlieg, freelance developer & designer on his blog, The Net Is Dead, last July.
I’m a teacher. I can understand that learning is a great reason to develop the Autoblog plugin. I’m good at math too, but I can’t get to the calculation that explains why it is good for humanity to release it for use. Can you? What possible reasons could a guy have? Money? Ego? Am I missing something?
As a writer, I’ve always taken the idea of owning my work seriously. As a publisher, I’ve always understood that no one can copyright an idea. As blogger, I’m tired of seeing people steal what my friends and I have spent our time working on, tired of watching sploggers toss ads up alongside our work to make their money.
I’ve been hit by Autoblog sites more times than I can count. One site actually ran ads for Autoblog under a blogroll of more than 10 of my friends who were also being scraped. It took a front page post on my blog called, “Is This Guy Stealing Your Content Too?” to smoke out who was behind the scraper to get that blog closed down.
These days, the irony is that Elliott Bäck has his own problem.
To whom it may concern,
I act on behalf of myself, and am the exclusive owner of the copyright works in question, that is, all of the content and design of my website and blog network, found on elliottback.com and its subdomains. Browsing a server on your network, 126.96.36.199 and the URL www.hotblogstoday.com, I find unauthorized copies of the ElliottBack network material which infringes on my rights as copyright holder . . .
Every little kid knows, if you play with matches, you might get burned.
Liz Strauss writes at Successful-Blog where folks talk about the ethics of what we do.
Liz writes, speaks and works with businesses on how to make relationships the center of their strategy. Head and heart together are the approach and philosophy she uses to show clients how to make room for a community that loves what they do. Liz writes at Successful-Blog
Sorry, can’t hide my joy. I also have had more than one elliotback backlink. Nice call out Liz.
I only stated the facts and my experience of them. I think I did that. I appreciate your supportive comment. :)
Yes, I’m fed up with seeing sites that say: Written by Andy Merrett, software by Eliot Back.
Not knowing this, I actually contacted Eliot thinking that he was being ripped off in some way. More fool me.
What’s sad is that, in his apparent eagerness to release some scraping software (essentially, that’s what it is) his name is now emblazoned across every splog out there, often with the author who wrote the article and has been ripped off.
What a great legacy. It must be on hundreds of thousands of pages. And it will *never* go away.
What I can’t work out for now, is how you can get some kind of “if you see this” message on your feed so that only the sploggers pick it up. I can understand how to put it on your feed and not your web site, that’s easy, but then it would be displayed on every legitimate feed reader too. Am I missing something?
You make a great point about the legacy of having the name Elliott Back on splogg after splogg. It’s a harsh penalty for a mistake of whatever kind it is/was. A BIG one, and one it appears that is only now beginning to be understood by the guy who made it.
Well, Andy, my memory wasn’t exactly right. I just went to look it up. What he did was the reverse . . .
“If you are not reading this content in your news aggregator, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement.”
Sorry to have misled you.
Andy, you can obtain that Brendan’s sig2feed (server seems slow right atm, patience is a good virtue :) )
Oh I see, Liz. That makes sense.
I thought there was some wizzy way of coding it up – wouldn’t that be great!
That would be great. We should ask Feedburner to tackle the problem. :)
Nothing is ever black or white or as it seems – at least with me (as you probably already know) and I think I will have to play the advocate on this one.
I would NOT think to blame the software programmer for the misuses of evil people who misuse their work. I think that’s unfair to people who write plugins and other scripts (including Elliot Back) and is not giving the right feedback to some upcoming potential programmers, who could be chicken chit scared to create anything unique or new.
I myself have tried the autoblogging plugin but chose to use the FeedWordPress plugin instead – to aggregate all my feeds by channel within my own little network of sites … into one larger blog with a feed that I can distribute.
Am I a splogger then? Because sploggers use the same tools that I do? When uou start spreading rumours like that – (old new yaya) but people like me get burned by people like Technorati or anybody who listens to that crap and makes judgements without looking at the facts.
However – NO DOUGT .. YES! The irony is a little amusing that the writer of a script that others can steal content was used to steal his very own content. I had a big laugh when I first read that back in 2005
And another thing .. I can’t spell too good either, but I confess to that vice.
I take your point HART, and Eliot’s code is not the only code that can be used. I use CARP which can be used in much the same way.
Guess I’m at least partially a dissenting voice then. RSS was originally designed for syndication to publishers, not for personal feed readers. So I can understand why people use it for its original intended purpose, particularly if the feed contains extracts only, with links back to the original posts.
Having said that, if the links in the feed are removed or nullified, or if the feed owner makes it clear that they are providing the feed for feed readers only, then I’d regard that as unethical use.
Sorry, somehow I managed to submit the above without clicking the ‘notify me’ button. Darn!
One of the most powerful splog tools currently available? Google Reader
When I pointed out that there should be a “noshare” option in RSS feeds that would work with Google Reader, so content authors had a choice, my arguments were universally dismissed by the blogosphere.
All Elliot Back’s software does is create a very poor Technorati on a single topic. If you have some ranking ability, you are almost always going to outrank that content on Google, and the links actually help a little.
Being splogged partially counteracts all the various blogroll schemes to boost Technorati authority.
I have people who splog my full content – rarely do they have adverts, and I am sure I get most of the traffic – they do it legally because I publish everything under a GPL license.
I am happy for them to do it, and benefit from around 20 backlinks for every article they decide to use.
I rarely have problems with people using nofollow on the links.