When Will Websites Stop Ripping Each Other Off Online?

We've used plenty of The Oatmeal's funny comics in the past, here on Giz. But that's always been with artist Matthew Inman's permission, full attribution and a link back to the site. Some websites aren't so generous.

Case in point: Funnyjunk.com. I'm not going to link to them because I don't want to increase their page ranking nor traffic, but The Oatmeal has published a post drawing attention to their thieving ways. Currently, they're hosting almost 1000 comics from The Oatmeal on the site (plus thousands more from other artists), without any link or attribution. In fact, they've gone as far as stripping the credit off the bottom of each comic, like you see here.

Even worse, Funnyjunk.com's website is actually plastered with advertising, meaning they're actually making money off their devious "work." I know crime pays and all, but it's particularly galling for Inman, who makes a living off his work.

This kind of evil treatment is by no means confined to comic creators. Fashion bloggers have a hell of a time protecting their own brands and identities, with UK blogger Amber McNaught battling people who rip off her site's name, pose as her on forums, or even steal her entire blog network's content.

Now, she isn't alone in battling the splogs, which exist purely to scrape content from sites that are actually publishing original content. We come across sites that steal our feeds almost daily, but thankfully have a legal team in place to deal with such complaints. It's harder when you're just an individual, and when you don't have the time nor finances to hire a fancy lawyer to whip up a cease and desist letter for you.

In The Oatmeal's case, Inman contacted FunnyJunk.com last year with the same complaint, but apparently they passed the thievery off by saying something to the effect of "it was our users who uploaded your photos! We had nothing to do with it! We're innocent!" They took down the comics which had originated from The Oatmeal, but now a year later, almost all of Inman's creations are hosted on there, without any attribution or way of directing viewers to his own site.

Unfortunately, this kind of activity will likely always exist online. There's not much that can be done, apart from staying vigilant if you're a content-creator, and contacting the offending site's hosting provider in the hopes they'll take the site down. Sometimes the site will simply change hosting providers, which turns it into a cat-and-mouse game. Until these scraper sites stop making money from their plagiaristic activities, we're not likely to stop hearing of honest, hard-working bloggers and artists being targeted, almost like victims of their own success. [The Oatmeal]



    You could concider adopting silverlight to help protect your content. Scraping would be impossible, though taking a screen cap then cropping is still possible but far more labour intensive.. something of a practical deterrant.

    These sites only exist because people use them, if people stop visiting them the advertising revenue dries up and the hosting bills can't be paid, no matter what content is sitting on their servers. People who know sites like this rip-off others should make sure others are aware of it, a point them in the right directions. Things like search engines should have feedback methods so people can flag these sites and search engines can simply remove them from their results. This is a fairly common problem across a lot of different subjects, just look at some of the tech sites out there that do nothing more then wrap forum posts in a banner ad, yet still these parasitic sites are among the top results in Google searches, even after directly complaining and submitting spam reports about them.

    @Andrew, How's the weather in Redmond today?


      Not to mention you could also do the same with Flash. There are flash haters, but I'd say it's more popular than silverlight.

    Yeah Silverlight would be best. But most people tend to brush off MSFT products because they're from MSFT.

    No doubt, because I don't have Silverlight installed and quite frankly I don't want it. There are plenty of javascript based copy-protection methods you can use.

    Though that doesn't stop the problem, a cease and desist won't either and neither will demanding the hosting company cut of support.

    It's time to regulate internet advertising in a way that sees unscrupulous web-masters stripped of their advertising and blacklisted. Suddenly domain squatting and content stealing becomes far less profitable.

    Silverlight isn't the answer if you want you content to be accessible to everyone. Besides, screen cap isn't that hard and people will still do it.

    Especially if they are already taking the time to strip copyright information.

    Thanks for writing about this, Kat: it's becoming a huge issue for us, and I know many other website owners are in the same position. I think part of the problem is that there are so many sites now which legitimise stealing by calling it "sharing". For instance, just yesterday I came across a large fashion site (a legit one, not one of the Chinese scrapers we've been dealing with lately: this is a new business which has clearly had a lot of thought put into it) which exists to give its users a venue on which to "share" items they've found. All well and good, but one of those users has "shared" around 50 articles from my website by copying and pasting them in their entirety, complete with the copyright notice at the bottom of each post, and now the stolen content is ranking higher than my original posts (Thanks, Google!). The thing is, this girl won't even realise there's an issue with that: sites like Tumblr, with its "reblog" feature have encouraged people to think that recycling content like this is perfectly OK, and I feel like we're going to end up with an internet where everyone's just recycling and repositing the same content over and over: very depressing.

    Re: Silverlight etc. What we've found is that if people want to steal the content they will do it regardless of how you try to stop them. We've found that most hosts will respond to DMCA requests (as will Google, who will remove infringing domains from their index), but we're sill spending a lot of time tracking down hosts and filing these forms, and it can sometimes take a few days and multiple approaches to get a response. And then, of course, a few days later the person just pops up with a different domain and hosting account!

    "organisations" like Anonymous should be all over this instead of the shenanigans they usually get up to, although it'd probably only take a couple of members to mess their shit up.

    The Oatmeal ftw.

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