Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Splogging --- a clear violation of copyright

You may or may not be aware of the leeches of the blogging world. These are websites, set up like a personal blogging site, that intentionally copy content from other blogs and republish it without permission and sometimes without even mentioning the source. This activity is called splogging (a contraction of spam and blogging) and it is clearly a violation of the U.S. Copyright Act. Some sploggers must think they are performing some kind of service by "promoting" other's blog posts, but their activities are highly destructive because the posts are reproduced in their entirety and therefore the splogger is stealing the primary blogger's traffic. Sploggers usually have a whole series of bogus sites, sometimes hundreds or thousands, hoping to get enough traffic to make money from advertising.

There is a dilemma in trying to stop the sploggers because if you give out their website address, you will be driving traffic to their site and doing exactly what they want. If you have even the slightest doubt that splogging violates the U.S. Copyright Law, and probably the law of dozens of other countries, all you have to do is read Circular 1, Copyright Basics from the U.S. Copyright Office. This free PDF download points out that copying any protected work, in whole or in part is a violation of copyright. To quote from the Circular: "It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright."

In addition, copying material over the Internet is also a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA). The splogger's use of a automatic copying program clearly violates Section 1201 of the DMCA. I does not matter that there is no copyright notice on the protected work, all works are protected regardless of whether or not there is a notice. This blog post is protected, just like any other on the web because it is an original work and I own the copyright.

Providing attribution or even including the original bloggers name or a link to the original site does not prevent or excuse the violation of the copyright act. If you are reading this entire post on a site that is not one of the two that I use, Genealogy's Star and TechTips, you are reading a splogged version of my blog posts. 

Is there any way to be more clear about this subject? Do I have to begin bringing the specter of lawsuits into the genealogy community to stop the practice? I am not so naive to think that my threat of getting involved will stop the practice, but you can be assured that if I do get involved any claims I make will include claims for substantial damages.


  1. As to your last paragraph: Me, too! I do not have scads of money, but I have determination and downright meanness when it comes to protecting me and mine. It is also why I have a rather detailed and draconian copyright statement on my blogs. Let's clean up this cesspool!

  2. This is a great article. I hate spam and sploggers. I send in complaints about some of them and my blog hasn't been copied yet that I've found.

    The only thing you didn't address is RSS news readers. One of those sploggers claimed that he was just being like Google Reader and offering people another way to read the blog posts. Obviously, it's not the same; his site was bogged down in ads.

    I've seen plenty of blogs that don't have a link to their RSS feed, but the feed still works.

    We allow people to read our blogs in the RSS readers, but can you think of a way to explain to someone that a real RSS reader is different than a splog that claims to be one?

  3. So another thing to worry about! How do you know if someone is splogging your material? A great post by the way.

  4. I do a variation on "splogging." And I know it is a copyright violation.

    It is valuable especially for articles from blogs/websites where they do not keep a permanent copy of their original article, often with interesting historical or other subject matter content, on line for more than a few months. I always make a link to the original article.

    I purposely have refused advertising to let the authors know that I am not making money off of their work.

    When the article comes from tiny blogs, unless it is particularly relevant to the subject of my small blog (100 readers per day) covering a small geographic area, I might just use "fair use", especially to avoid stealing readers from friends.

  5. Thank you. Every GeneBlogger should read that!
    - Brenda

  6. I learn so much on this site. I forwarded this post to a friend whose blog just got splogged !