UPDATE: Many years have passed since this article was published. Recently, Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today took a look back at the lessons learned from Bitacle and the battle so many bloggers fought against them. Google now works to prevent and stop such abuse. While the Bitacle model still works, because so many spoke out and Jonathan brought legal action against them for misuse of Google Ads, the money trail was stopped and the site closed. Fighting back against comment spam, scrapers, and copyright violators works. It takes time. It takes smart people. It works, if we all fight together. There are so many people and companies still following the Bitacle model, so the fight is not over. Thanks to people like Jonathan, we keep fighting on.
When bitacle.org hit the splogways last year, scrapping content through feeds to fill their “search engine database”, there was a minor flurry over it. Recently, after several top notch and big mouth bloggers discovered they were still at it, grabbing full content feeds from blogs and sticking ads into the content — trust me, hell hath no fury greater than a ripped off blogger.
When the crap hit the fan at the end of last week over bitacle’s continued content theft, I watched with a thrill as the blogosphere did what it does best. Instead of just sniping, the bloggers of the world united in an amazing sense of community and struck back with force.
I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say about bitacle and how to respond, but before I came up with anything concrete, Allan Jenkins found my voice in “Bitacle Splogger Scam Updated: Some Thoughts”. I hate being redundant, and since Jenkins put it so beautifully, I’ll let him make the key points for me.
Bitacle has become Public Enemy #1 this weekend in some parts of the blogosphere (Search Bitacle on Technorati for more details). As I reported earlier, the Spain-based splogger scrapes your content (your Creative Commons deed be damned), monetizes it, keeps the cash — and refuses to answer email complaints. I called them “thieves” in my first post, and I am repeating the charge here. Bitacle’s boss, the magnificently misnamed Jesus Angelo “But call me Ladrón, honey” Glez, is a thief.
…Bitacle, while not replying to anyone’s mails, as far as I can see, seems to be aware they are under attack. They’ve been down much of the weekend, and they have (today) started including the URL to the content they steal. Nevertheless, they are still ripping off and re-purposing content, without permission, for their own financial gain. Worse, they still encourage comments to the stolen blog posts on their site in an attempt to dupe readers into believing they are seeing a “real” blog.
Jenkins continues with copyright infringement myths to help you understand your rights, similar to those I outlined in “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content”. One of the key ones for me is:
Myth #3: RSS feeds are fresh content for the taking.
Larry Borsato exposed some (since defunct) scammers last year. RSS-feeds are publications, just like the magazine that comes through your door each month. See Myth #1.
SillyBilly #1: Publishing RSS feeds is like leaving your bike at the end of your driveway: You are asking for it to be stolen.
No, publishing RSS feeds is like publishing a book, or a magazine article, or making a radio show. Just as I don’t expect my magazine articles to be ripped off and republished — without attribution and without pay — I don’t expect my feed to be scraped. Theft is theft.
Sub-SillyBilly #1a: It’s your fault for publishing full feeds instead of excerpts.
How I publish is irrelevant.
Putting a Stop to Bitacle’s Scrapping of Blog Content
*UPDATE*: Plagiarism Today – Bitacle: A Plan for Action is a great step-by-step action plan for responding and fighting back against bitacle. Since bitacle is based in Spain, they have also provided a Spanish translation of the DMCA form letter to send to them in their own language.
One of our WordPress.com own has set up stopbitacleorg.wordpress.com with news and information on the latest battle against bitacle. They’ve even come up with some buttons to help warn others.
Another interesting angle on this is that all the ripped off bloggers who are blogging about this are seeing their posts appear in bitacle condemning the copyright violations and content theft and abuse by bitacle. That is getting right in the face of bitacle users.
There is a discussion about this issue on the WordPress.com forum that I encourage everyone to check in with to see what is going on to stop WordPress.com blogs from being ripped off by bitacle and other sploggers.
Lend your voice to the WordPress.com complaints, too. *UPDATE*: Voices have been heard. Thank you. WordPress.com has been working on putting a stop to bitacle, but it seems that bitacle figured out how to get past the first blockers. The awesome folks behind the scenes of WordPress.com are watching and changing tactics when bitacle changes theirs, keeping WordPress.com as safe as they can for us humble users. Thanks, WordPress.com!
Unfortunately, this only adds to the evidence piling up that bitacle is determined to grab content without permission any way they can.
Bitacle Tries Covering Their Asses With a Copyright Protection Hold Harmless Claim
To try to get around the issue of copyright infringement, over the weekend, bitacle added “Articles are copyrighted by their respective authors” to their templates. Sorry, folks, this doesn’t work.
You put ads on full post contents with copyrights that clearly state “no commercial use, you are violating the copyright. White washing it with a copyright statement that they may think acts like a “hold harmless claim” only proves how stupid they are. Both the statement and the usage of the content violates copyrights, so who is fooling who. Don’t let it fool you.
To find out if your site has been ripped by bitacle, you could go to the front site of en.bitacle.org and chase your tail. It can be a long chase. I recommend you go to the search results in the Aggregates section for this blog and enter in your own search. Use the name or most popular keywords used on your blog to see if your blog is listed. Odd thing is that “Lorelle WordPress” turns up this blog, but “Lorelle on WordPress” returns a “not found”. So you might have to dig to find if your blog is there.
Once you’ve found your blog, click on the link and you will see the most recent post or more in the content area, with ads in and around the content. In the left sidebar, you will see a running column of all the post titles from your blog, from the most recent to the oldest they have scrapped. They have Digg buttons so you can dig your own post from their site – leading more users to read your content on bitacle instead of your own site. Below your post, there is a comment box, so people can ask questions and comment on your article even though you aren’t there to monitor the comments, lending even more visible evidence that they are using your content as theirs. Screams splog, doesn’t it?
If you are among those with content under abuse on bitacle, go to Stopbitacleorg and follow one or more of the instructions there to officially complain, which usually involves an email. The more voices, the better.
* UPDATE *
It’s September 9, 2006, and I just checked to see if bitacle had grabbed any more of my site’s content, and they haven’t. But they also haven’t removed the old posts. The comments were closed, though one person did get in a “thieves” comment before they were shut off. Good for them.
I also noticed something that really pisses me off. At the bottom of the page is a series of numbers. Click those numbers and you go back in time to other posts they’ve grabbed the content from via the feeds. The number also tells you how many posts they have of yours. Mine numbered 687. I have a lovely word for these folks that begins with an “F”. Want to guess what it is?
The Voice of the Blogosphere Speaks Loudly
The most exciting thing about the bitacle debacle is how the blogging community, representing millions of people blogging on thousands of different topics, have come together to do battle with bitacle. For the most part, bloggers have been working together to use their voices and creative energies to speak out and write WordPress Plugins and instructions on how to stop bitacle from ripping you off.
As blogs are specifically targeted, the blogging community spread the word and the word brought energy, enthusiasm, and a commitment to fight back against those who abuse our blogs. As Allan Jenkins so beautifully put it:
Can anyone explain to me why blogger content is supposedly “fair game,” while no one would dream of scraping the London Times, the Wall Street Journal and CNN and trying to repackage it as their own? I thought not. But, the fact is, Allan Jenkins has just as much right to control his content as the New York Times does theirs.
* UPDATE *
As part of the tremendous blogosphere response of bloggers to these sploggers, there are new tools you should serious consider adding to your arsenal to fight off those who steal your content.
- AntiLeech Splog Stopper: Fighting Back Against Content Thieves
- Digital Fingerprints WordPress Plugin Helps Track Blog Content Theft
And expand your range to hand out visible public notices to those who want to steal your content that it is not available for the taking with some Stop Content Theft Buttons and Badges.
- Splogs – The Dark Side of Blogging
- How To Spot a Splog
- Reporting Spam Blogs – Splogs
- Stop Content Theft Buttons and Badges
- Blogs That Look Like Blogs But Ain’t – Splogs
- Splogging or Clogging the Worst of the Worst of Blogging
- Splogs on the Rise on Blogspot
- Proud to Showcase YOUR Work: Sploggers Turn Dopplebloggers