Yes, online ripoffs are rife. So now what?

New report from Attributor finds that viewership of online content is 1.5 times bigger on sites that repost without permission.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
2 min read
Amazing what you can find searching the Internet.

An article that I had authored on CNET more than a year ago turned up as the lead item on a Web site that--until then--I never knew existed. What's more, the site had reproduced the entire text--sans byline or attribution.


Par for the course these days.

In fact, a new report by Attributor finds that online content ripoffs are rife.

"The study tracked online content from more than 100 publishers in a broad range of categories, including entertainment, sports, technology, politics, health, travel and automotive, scanning for proliferation across 30 billion Web pages during the month of September. The results indicate that the average publisher is missing out on more than $150K per year driven by the audience viewing their articles on other sites."

That's a lot of money. Indeed, Rich Pearson, Attributor's vice president of marketing, said a typical piece of content repurposed without permission was likely to be viewed 1.5 times more than it was on the original site. Here's the category breakdown:

•  Auto--nearly 7x

•  Travel--more than 5x

•  Movie reviews--nearly 5x

•  Entertainment--nearly 4x

•  Sports, Technology--more than 2x

•  Advice, Environment, Health--nearly 2x

•  Politics--nearly 1.5x

At this point, it's tempting to bitch about bottom-dwelling parasites exploiting the labor of others. But what's the point? That boat has long sailed. In fact, Pearson correctly noted that "content proliferating" is taking place so quickly that any attempt by publishers to rein in the practice would be akin to playing Whac-A-Mole.

Publishers can debate the ethics of unauthorized repurposing at at the next Web 2.0 conference. But if Attributor's methodology is sound, the takeaway is that there's a bigger audience viewing your content off your site than on it.

In the meantime, what to do? Publishers face the reality that their content is going to wind up generating significant dollars on other Web sites--all without permission. The challenge will be to figure out a syndication deal that works for all concerned. In this matter, debating right from wrong, I'm afraid, simply is a waste of time.