I wish I knew how to say that in Spanish because I’d like to say it to the people at Bitacle.org. In case you haven’t encountered it yet, Bitacle is a Spanish website that copies your blog posts wholesale, inserts Google ads, and republishes them on their website. They also provide a comment box and a feed of your content from their server (which is no doubt rife with ads as well) so that readers will never have to visit your blog (though they can if they click on the post title). They call this a service. I call this… well, nevermind what I call it, but it is known as a splog or a scraper, though it sort of transcends both in its sophistication and profitability. Let’s just say it’s the newest internet parasite on the block.
Naturally I complained, and received a response (canned, as it turns out) in Spanish. Ha! It just so happens I know enough Spanish to respond to their B.S. The last e-mail I got told me that it’s a question of whether the glass is half empty or half full, that this is the information age, and that the world just keeps on turning. I have to give them credit for not pretending to be professionals, like, say, the phone company always does when it is stealing from you.
Their excuse for why they are allowed to use my (and everyone else’s) copyrighted material to make money from Google ads is that I publish a feed. That’s like saying that if I publish a book then they have the right to reprint the whole thing with ads inserted into the text (quick, tell Google Book Search!). I’m not buying it.
So, what to do? WordPress people apparently have a way to block Bitacle from their blog. How nice for them. It seems all the rest of us can do is complain. I’ve complained to Typepad (my host), Google AdSense, Google Gmail (since Bitacle uses Gmail (if there are any spambots out there, the addresses are email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com)), as well as the Public Interest Registry (they’re in charge of .org domains, which are supposed to be for non-profits).
Some people have taken it further and submitted formal legal complaints, or written bandwidth-sucking (using Bitacle graphics) anti-Bitacle posts, which were, or course, promptly scraped and published on Bitacle. Heh. I myself left a few, uh, helpful suggestions in the comment section of “my” posts on Bitacle. One blogger has even created a blog to centralize the campaign against them called StopBitacle.org.
There is one more thing we can do to stop Bitacle from cashing in on our content: stop publishing full-post feeds. Obviously this is an unsatisfactory solution, but after thinking about it for a while I’ve decided to try it. When it comes down to it, I don’t blog so that people can anonymously read my posts from their aggregator and never visit my blog or (gasp!) leave a comment. I blog to engage in a conversation, not to lecture to a passive audience. I have over 40 subscribers in Bloglines (big whoop, I know), but who are they? I haven’t a clue. I only get a handful of non-google hits a day. If I publish only excerpts and the mystery readers unsubscribe in disgust, what difference does that make? I’d rather have 5 regular commenters than 50 lurkers.
One of the nifty things about Typepad is that I can write my own feed excerpt, separate from the blog post, so you might see something in your aggregator that looks like “In which Sylvia rhapsodizes tediously about Wagner.” Perhaps if I have some fun with it you all will forgive me for making you come here to read my posts. If not, let me know!
UPDATE: I can’t seem to access my material on Bitacle any more. I don’t know if they’ve locked out my IP address or if a miracle occurred and they removed my content. Would someone out there please go to http://en.bitacle.org/blogs/viewblog/h8ihh0ls0/42 and tell me what is there? Thanks!
UPDATE II: Well well, it seems Bitacle has done something right for a change. I just looked at my posts and they have taken out all the advertising that they inserted into the text. There is still advertising above and below, but no advertising within the posts. ¡Es un milagro! It’s a miracle! Actually, they just got caught in a lie, since they claimed to just post feeds exactly as they come, when they in fact were cutting them up and re-publishing them with advertising included in the text. They are still caught in a lie, though, because they have removed the links from image links, so once again they are “editing” the feed. Strangely enough, the haven’t posted the feed for this post yet…
UPDATE III: I think we’ve got them on the ropes now. Today I noticed that they have removed images from my posts and other posts I checked. That’s great because it means they’re not draining my bandwidth any more. They also seem to have stopped republishing my feed. I don’t know if that’s because of my complaints or because they don’t like excerpts (they seem to prey only on full-post feeds). They still have 43 of my posts archived on their site, but I think it’s safe to say that the bloggers have won this battle!