How agency used Google AdSense to take down story-lifting rival

The Central European News agency has hailed a victory over a rival website it claimed repeatedly lifted its stories.

Last autumn CEN discovered its content was being ‘copied wholesale’after it accepted a two-week trial with Alexa, a company that helps agencies find out where their material is being used.

On CEN’s Austrian Times website the agency’s owner Michael Leidig was quoted saying:

The service found hundreds of unauthorised usages of material that we had written and published. Most interesting was a Romanian website populated entirely by content lifted from the Austrian Times.

When we are chasing copyright abuse, we look to see whether the site has advertising and therefore is running as a commercial business, which was the case – and then we look to see how popular it is and how much traffic it is getting using the Alexa service. It’s not 100 percent, but it does give you an idea, and we found that they were actually attracting more readers with our material then we were.

There was no way of contacting the Romanian-based website, so CEN instead registered a complaint with Google AdSense, who hosted ads on the website.

Leidig added:

Google has a facility in place for complaints of this nature and to be fair to them they dealt with it pretty quickly. It looks like it was only a few days before the Romanian site had lost its AdSense account – because we could see that the space where they previously had adverts was empty.

The confirmation email never arrived and CEN ‘spent a pretty frustrating few months’chasing it up before receiving confirmation Google had acted on its complaint.

Anyone can report potential copyright infringements in regard to Google services, which Google claims acts as a ‘vital contribution to keep the Google display network an advertising ecosystem that does not tolerate abuses”.

CEN was given free legal advice throughout by copyright experts at the firm Lawhound.co.uk. Steph Barber, head of the firm’s intellectual property department, said:

This is very good news, copyright infringement is a global issue and for small businesses it can be exceptionally difficult to take action due to the costs involved.

It is not only important, as CEN have highlighted, to get the content removed, but also for the affected business to know action has been taken as a direct result of their complaint.

From the end of 2009 we have seen a steady increase in the number of these complaints and I have assisted a number of companies in cross border copyright issues.

Content costs businesses to produce and publish and we need prompt, robust and clear complaints systems which track activity taken by the publishers throughout the life of the complaint.

Currently businesses have to work through a maze of complaints systems, some very complex and expensive to commence. If quality content on the web is the end goal publishers need to adopt a centralised system accessible to all.

CEN has previously claim victory in a copyright dispute with the Huffington Post which it accused of using its stories without credit or consent.

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