I'm somewhat disturbed but still ambivalent about the large number of scraper sites - sites with little or no original content that just reprint articles taken from other sites. There can be value to such sites in the sense that they consolidate information in specific subject areas, but what disturbs me is that often the original source isn't immediately apparent.
For example, take a look at
(link dead, sorry)
The Linux World Learns How Larry Ellison Does Business. Until you click on the "Continue" link, it
isn't at all obvious that this content is actually taken from
another site. There's no indication that this is a quote - in
fact, it definitely isn't a quote. I'm not convinced this
extract would qualify as "fair use" either: the copyright rules for fair use seem to imply that
there has to be more than just the other person's content:
.. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
More recently I changed my Copyright Policy. Please read that before taking any content.
But never mind that. Let's say a site does crib my content along with others and fairly presents it with no attempt at obfuscating the original source. Does that have value? Maybe, but this is where I get really wishy-washy. In theory, such an accumulation of knowledge in a particular subject area could be of value to someone wanting that area. That's particularly true when Google fails to deliver good results, either through having search terms with too many alternate meanings or because there is too much "garbage" to sift through: a human editor can do far better than Google in those circumstances.
But that sort of thing could be done just as well with links. Why is it necessary to duplicate the actual content? The answer is plain: it's necessary because that's the only way search engines will see the site as authoritative. So, as much as we (the original authors) may dislike it, we probably aren't going to stop it unless we prohibit re-use of our material outright.
And that is something I do not want to do, both on moral and practical grounds. Morally, I prefer to share, and practically I can't prevent it and actually do benefit from it (for example, I get a lot of traffic from WebProNews, a regular regurgitator of my content). I also recognize that even I use consolidation sites more than I use original source sites: it's just easier to find the things I am looking for (however, I do quote the original source if I quote anything at all).
It still annoys me greatly when something I wrote and first published here turns up in search engine results at some other site. Damn it, *I* wrote it, they didn't. The search engines should be sending the traffic to me, not to them.
I'd like to propose a solution: a simple tag system
that search engines could recognize which would attribute the
original source. We content authors could make inclusion
of that tag a condition for republication on the web and search engines
could cooperate by recognizing that tag and properly attributing the
source. For example, it might be as simple as an href with
Original source https://aplawrence.com/Web/web_scrapers.html - this hyperlink must be included to republish this article on the Web.
If search engines understood the meaning of that, and would redirect subsequent traffic to the real source, I'd be a lot happier. Understand that I'm not talking about using this for "fair use" quoting, and also that I'd expect search engines to show both sources. For example, if I wrote an article about widgets that was picked up by the Widgets Today site, a search engine that had indexed that for certain terms could display both the Widgets Today link and an "Original Source" link back here. That would give full and proper credit and also give searchers a choice as to what they wished to read.
If you know of any efforts in this regard or have other ideas, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below - thanks!
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2012-07-19 Anthony Lawrence