July 24, 2008, 5:34 PM — One of the most frustrating experiences for Internet publishers is discovering that copied articles are appearing on AdSense farms. These "farms" are blogs which steal content from other sites, in order to capture search traffic and register advertising hits for Google's AdSense. Legitimate blogs and message boards that republish content without permission usually have a writer or webmaster who can be notified, but not so with the anonymous owners of AdSense farms, who usually use free blogging tools to post AdSense blocks around scraped content.
The problem has been going on for years, and is a violation of Google's AdSense policy, which clearly forbids the unauthorized use of copyrighted material on pages containing Google ads. There's even a Web form which allows people to report copyright and other AdSense violations. But don't expect Google to do anything about it -- such as reviewing the infringing site or AdSense account in question. No, that would require human intervention, which goes against the automated spirit of Google's DIY AdSense service.
Rather, a submission to Google's form generates an email, telling the submitter to use technology from the last millennium -- fax, or snail mail -- to report the copyright infringement. And, if that's not enough of a barrier, there's an additional set of legal warnings:
"To file a notice of infringement with us, you must provide a written communication (by fax or regular mail, not by email) that sets forth the items specified below. Please note that pursuant to that Act, you may be liable to the alleged infringer for damages (including costs and attorneys' fees) if you materially misrepresent that you own an item when you in fact do not. Accordingly, if you are not sure whether you have the right to request removal from our service, we suggest that you first contact an attorney."
How many bloggers or mainstream publishers do you think will print out a letter and mail it to Google, or contact an attorney with copyright expertise, in order to shut down an anonymous Wordpress site that scraped their content? None that I know of.
Who is the big winner in this situation? Well, besides the legions of AdSense scamsters who continue to hijack other people's content and gum up search engines and email inboxes with spam, there's Google itself, which continues to receive a cut of the earnings on the bogus AdSense farms. And, with advertising generating nearly all of Google's revenue, there's little chance that the company will crack down on the AdSense scammers -- or make life easier for legitimate publishers who identify the problem AdSense accounts.