Occasionally we receive emails from clients letting us know that “This site has all of my titles” or “I just received this Google alert and it looks like they have EVERY ONE of my plug-ins“. These emails usually result in a flurry of activity on our part to address the leaks quickly, but oftentimes, due to a shady practice, the actual threat is minimal although the annoyance factor is high.
The reason is because these sites actually have NO CONTENT… pirated or otherwise.
Sites like this are sometimes called M.F.A. or “Made for Ad-Sense”. They incorporate snippets of code that grab the search query and auto-generate a page, sometimes a very legitimate looking one, that shows links to the results. These links are usually just black holes into a mess advertising, popups, spy-ware and redirects.
Here is one of my favorites:
So what can be done about these traffic traps? Actually, from a search-results perspective, quite a bit. Google hates these sites as they result in a “poor user experience” and they are usually discovered and punished with de-listing in short order. They even allow users to report them as Web Spam.
From a DMCA perspective our options are fewer, there isn’t actually any content to download, so a notification is an inefficient option. There are even those that argue that sites like this deter pirate activity because searchers get frustrated and may seek legitimate options, which is really a more involved question than I hoped to tackle in this blog.
So my advice when you get an alert, be it from Google or a concerned customer, is enter a search term or two to see what you’re actually up against. M.F.A.s are an annoying side effect of unscrupulous ecommerce, but the threat is minimal and options exist.