Cynic in Spain

Real Life on the Costa del Sol

Repelling the Pirates

I’ve just spent the weekend fighting off pirates, well to be concise, a pirate. Not on the high seas somewhere off the coast of Somalia as you might suspect from recent news media reports but on the even more uncharted, unregulated and tempestuous waters of the internet.

As a computer systems designer /developer and regular contributor to numerous periodicals in my pre-retirement days software piracy, plagiarism and copyright infringement were an unfortunate daily bane. Everyone knew it was happening but, without a specific institution or individual to target, one could do very little about it.

Believe me, there is nothing more likely to set your blood boiling than to see the results of your hard work misappropriated and either passed off as the efforts of another or, perhaps even worse, used in such a way as to line the pockets of the miscreant.

I will not bore you with the details of what transpired when I detected that one of my articles from this blog had been copied and published elsewhere without attribution or acknowledgement of the author/source (i.e. me/here) only to say that the particular piece has now been removed but without a word of apology or apparent remorse on the part of the perpetrator. In fact he went as far as to imply, in one of his emails, that he was doing me some kind of favour ‘A win-win situation´ to quote his exact words. Duh?

No, what I would like to do here is to look at the whys and wherefores of the situation. In order to cover myself I would like make emphatically clear that what follows is my personal take on the situation and that I in no way wish to imply that these were the motivations of Mr. Wolfgang Brand. The reader may, of course, draw their own conclusions.

The gentleman in question describes his profession as ‘online marketing’ and he hosts a number of blog sites some of which are set up to be, ostensibly, informational guides but are actually thinly veiled, in one case transparently so, portals to the many real estate agents in the area. In itself not necessarily a bad thing, many of the real estate companies offer much more information on their websites than mere housing no doubt to the benefit of their clients, prospective or otherwise.

What I think is going on here is something a little more insidious, bear with me while I digress for a moment.

Internet search engines, of which Google is possibly the best known, are constantly striving to present to their users the most relevant and meaningful web pages for any given search criteria. Until recently, in the case of Google, one of the highest of these criteria was the links to a particular web page from highly ranked external sources. This bred the development of link farms and link swapping by web masters in order to boost their own page rankings and thus placement in the Google results window. Google, clever chaps that they are, now rate page content, especially original and relevant content, more highly. This, in turn, presents a dilemma to those whose sites actual content may be no more than a list of addresses with the same estate agent speak descriptions attached to each and every one. After all how original can you be when describing an apartment for sale which is also advertised for sale by countless of your competition. And so content has become king, he who can offer the search engines the best content will be top of the page and so, in theory at least, generate the most traffic to their site.

And thus we come to the use of blog sites as a portal, the content can be garnered, free of charge, from the general public in the form of, for example, comments about their favourite or least favourite bar or restaurant, this will be original and relevant and so score highly within the search engines. If the ultimate owner of such a site is an estate agent that happens to sell bars and restaurants they’re quids in traffic wise. In fact by actively soliciting or plagiarising contributions, such as pieces like my own, from unsuspecting Joe Bloggs (no pun intended) the marketers are not only filling their pockets but those of their clients in one fell swoop. Clever marketing indeed Herr Brand. And bear in mind there is no cost involved in setting up a blog, indeed this one is totally free of charge from WordPress and so I am left to wonder whether anybody monitors the blog sites and their activities set up under the auspices of what are, I am sure, relatively well meaning organisations or whether they too are too busy counting their advertising revenue.

In conclusion, you will notice that I have taken active steps to protect my copyright and would stongly advise anyone in a similar situation to do the same. But for this once I will make an exception;

Herr Brand, if you are reading this, I hereby give you permission to copy and paste this article, in its entirety, to any and all of your commercial blog sites. Much good may it do you.

© Cynic in Spain. All Rights Reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

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