Copyright Infringement, DMCA, Copyscape, Plagium and Google’s Panda Update

Copyright Infringement, DMCA, Copyscape, Plagium and Google’s Panda Update

by Dave Curtis on 09/15/2012

in copywriting,marketing,SEO,Tools

Many times an SEO requests content for a site and the client sends something copied from the internet verbatim. Even when that content is covered under a creative commons share and share alike agreement it’s poor policy to use it.

As an example of the kind of text I’m referring to I went to WikiPedia, copied a paragraph from the Van Gogh page and by running this through Plagium.com (a donations accepted alternative to Copyscape.com – nowhere near as thorough or advanced as Google’s duplicate copy detection software) and came up immediately with a fairly long list off 43 documents likely to have been influenced – 20 of them containing 98% to 100% identical “copy/paste” text.

I chose that text because it’s from WikiPedia under a Creative Commons Share Alike Unported License, which is ok from most copyright infringement issues – as long as it is attributed to WikiPedia. The majority of the copy-pastes aren’t, but the issue isn’t just legal, it’s “why do it if it won’t help take my site to number one by delivering unique, authoritative content site visitors will prefer above (in this case) WikiPedia?

You can scroll past the long list to the conclusions beneath if you like.

The tested text is as follows:

“Van Gogh began to draw as a child, and he continued to draw throughout the years that led up to his decision to become an artist. He did not begin painting until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works during the last two years of his life. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints. His work included self portraits, landscapes, still lifes of flowers, portraits and paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers.”

I have removed everything that was under 90% to keep this list short:

  • Vincent Van Gogh- YouTube
    Text found: portraits and paintings of cypresses…and he continued to draw throughout the years that led up to his decision to become an artist…Van Gogh began to draw as a child…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life
    youtube. com /watch?v=s-4n9kYUS7M
    46/4/4/2 – From: Google, Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • YouTube – Vincent van Gogh – YouTube
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life
    youtube. com /channel /HCRsNI8JbwchY
    29/3/3/2 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • Anjas’ Theme Of The Week
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life http://anjasthemeoftheweek.blogspot.com/ 29/3/3/6 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat Trivia, Facts, History, and …
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life http://www.juggle.com/self-portrait-with-grey-felt-hat-1 29/3/3/8 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • JKC/HW&E – Georgia Summitt 1 | Jonesboro Public Schools
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life http://www.jps.k12.ar.us/view/578 29/3/3/12 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • What If Wan Gogh Painted Famous Pop Culture Characters
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life http://www.wackyowl.com/wan-gogh-painted-famous-pop-culture-characters/ 29/3/3/13 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • Van Gogh : Oil Paintings Sale,Buy Oil Paintings, Oil Portrait …
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life http://www.vanoilpaintings.com/shop-by-artist-van-gogh-c-108_111.html 29/3/3/14 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • Vincent Van Gogh Archival Prints – 1000Museums.com
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life http://www.1000museums.com/search.php?af=vincent+van+gogh 29/3/3/16 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • ANTIQUE OIL ON CANVAS VINCENT VAN GOGH WITH ORIGINAL FRAME IN …
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life http://www.ebay.com/itm/ANTIQUE-OIL-ON-CANVAS-VINCENT-VAN-GOGH-WITH-ORIGINAL-FRAME-IN-GOLDEN-LEAF-NICE-/360451319025 24/2/2/11 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • Vincent Willem van Gogh 30 March 1853 29 July 1890 – YouTube
    Text found: portraits and paintings of cypresses…He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8spxVh3SC0c 19/3/3/3 – From: Google, Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 98%
  • Three Pair of Shoes by Vincent van Gogh … | Bear Tales
    Text found: His work included self portraits…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life http://beartales.me/2012/08/15/three-pair-of-shoes-by-vincent-van-gogh/ 20/2/2/15 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 98%
  • Vincent Van Gogh – Mountains at Saint-Rémy (Montagnes à …
    Text found: His work included self portraits…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life http://www.1000museums.com/enlarge/200256/ 20/2/2/17 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • Van Gogh – Android – Download thousands of Android apps from …
    Text found: His work included self portraits…completing many of his best known works during the last two years of his life http://www.androidzoom.com/android_applications/photography/van-gogh_ceqxb.html 20/2/2/18 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • 2012 Van Gogh Flowers, Irises, Sunflowers, Poppies Calendar …
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits http://www.zazzle.com/2012_van_gogh_flowers_irises_sunflowers_poppies_calendar-158070908579181420 14/2/2/3 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • 2012 Vincent van Gogh Seascapes Maritime Calendar from Zazzle.com
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits http://www.zazzle.com/2012_vincent_van_gogh_seascapes_maritime_calendar-158470398815048533 14/2/2/4 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • elt
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits http://kerimebuket-elt.blogspot.com/ 14/2/2/8 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • Corridor of Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Remy by Vincent Van …
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits http://www.jackygallery.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=4_31&products_id=435 14/2/2/30 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • Seascape at Saintes Maries de la Mer by Vincent Van Gogh for …
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits http://www.jackygallery.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=464 14/2/2/34 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • Vincent van Gogh – eNotes.com Reference
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits http://www.enotes.com/topic/Vincent_van_Gogh 14/2/2/36 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 100%
  • Van Gogh Painting Scarves – Squidoo : Welcome to Squidoo
    Text found: He did not begin painting until his late twenties…His work included self portraits http://www.squidoo.com/van-gogh-painting-scarves 14/2/2/39 – From: Yahoo – Status: checked – MATCHING TEXT = 98%

As you can see there are TWENTY sites with 98% to 100% identical content, more if a deeper search is performed. That’s insane – it pretty much says that those pages are spammy looking junk to Google’s 800 pound gorilla algorithm, and when there are enough of them the whole site is ranked junk! Avoid doing this entirely.

Google’s new rules (the Panda Update which began in March of 2011 with many updates and iterations since): Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results? (those Panda rules are from a list by Amit Singhal, Google’s head of search, published a blog post on the Google … this post provides a list of how to build quality content – and what to avoid doing) That article (above) is mentioned by Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Web Spam team (his video on Panda below):

The Panda Update is also looking at things like likeability and trust and usability of design – which means that testing must be done to see what performs best – SEO is now Web Strategy and A/B testing has got to be performed, website experience feedback forms need to be used. then there is the actual physical site testing where you hire 10 to 30 people who have never been to your site (preferably not people you know who might only tell you what they think you want to hear) to visit the site and give an honest evaluation answering specific questions e.g. “What is this site about?” and watching them click through to various pages and asking yourself why they clicked there and not to another page, maybe one you wanted them to click to because it sells a product, for instance). Ideally you should video what they’re doing on the site so you can analyze it better later. There is no “magic bullet” without user feedback and public opinion. Public opinion is one reason why social media is so important, because likes on Facebook and re-tweets on Twitter provide indications about the likeability, trust and strength of a site and its content.

A few great Sybex books and authors on this topic that I use are (Amazon affiliate links) :

  1. A/B Always Be Testing by Eisenberg, Quarto-VonTivadar
  2. Web Analytics an Hour a Day by Avinash Kaushik
  3. Web Analytics 2.0 by by Avinash Kaushik

Next for an informative White Board Friday video from 2011 by Rand Fishkin on the Navneet Panda machine learning algorithm change (aka the Panda update):

Wistia

If you, as an SEO, have professional SEO information about what to avoid doing and don’t tell your client then you’re guilty of negligence at best, malpractice at worst. I know other people do it, but it’s definitely not good practice at all, and it’s a really bad idea to allow clients to think it is – they must be convinced that they should never, ever copy and paste anything that isn’t strictly boiler-plate stuff (product descriptions on a buy now page for instance).

Stealing copy is an easy way to fill up a web site super fast, but it’s really, really bad . We need to rewrite everything, preferably by combining 2 or 3 pieces on the same topic, and where it will help provide references to the original works, particularly where direct quotes are unavoidable. The problem that though is that you’re going to be giving away way too much juice to the other sites which you link to by citing them as the authority rather than becoming your own authority and getting recognition for it. If Google sees your site as unique, authoritative, and providing original, fair research – and is trusted to enough by visitors for them to pull out credit cards and make a purchases then it ranks higher. (Hence my insistence on trust policy issues wherever possible – return policy, shipping policy, product guarantees, business phone number and address etc).

At the very least you never want to copy/paste 100% of anything, and always try to switch orders (“hot and soapy” becomes “soapy and hot” for instance… or better yet “hot, sudsy and full of lather” if it fits)… switch paragraph orders… …do something because if not your site is being checked by your competitors and the higher you rank the more closely it will be checked – and they will file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) report on you for copyright infringement and have your business earnings punished by reducing the rankings. It may also be checked by Google Quality Checkers, particularly if you’re in one of those hard to rank for niches and you’re site suddenly (after years of hard work and money spent) finds itself up there with the big boys. Change EVERYTHING – which really begs the question: “Why waste so much effort cheating when you can actually write something new?”

The more ways your competitors can hurt you by turning you in the better for them and the worse for you. Bad SEOs don’t care and let their client’s sites take a hit because they’re lazy, stupid or just want to keep agreeing with the boss for a paycheck because they’re afraid to speak up every time the issue arises. Don’t make it easy for Google, the 800 pound gorilla, to jump all over your birthday cake and ruin your party; do it right, do it once, and keep Google on your side. More on the DMCA is written here by Jill Whalen, one of the quiet heavy hitting SEOs I’ve followed on Twitter for the past 5 year.

A Word to the Wise:

SEO is about long term strategy. Quick fix tactics hurt in the short run, compound themselves each time another quick fix is added, and definitely hurt in the long run. The SEO game ace in the hole for years hasn’t been keyword stuffing, but “Content is King”  and with Panda, Google has just crowned it Emperor. Forget the get rich quick cheap easy fixes – they don’t exist.

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