DMCA – Effective Tool to Eliminate Competition?

Okay, we all know you shouldn’t be copying content from other websites, right?  But, after noticing an “interesting” use of DMCA complaints, I began to wonder if DMCA complaints are being used by some to eliminate competition from SERP’s?

I’ve noticed some DMCA removals within some personalized legal SERPS over the last few months.  Some lawyer related searches I performed displayed a notice that some results were removed because of  DMCA violations.

Here’s an example:

DMCA violation notice

Since this was only displayed in my personalized results (logged into Google+) I figured I must be “following” or connected to the “violator” in some way.  So, looking at the DMCA complaint I found that I was following 1 of the 4 listed violators

In this case, it was one of the large legal directories that I follow.  The specific page noted in the DMCA complaint was UGC from an attorney.  But, according to the publish date on the page it was “Posted over 3 years ago.”.

Which Site Has The Original Content?

That must mean that if the content was “copied” from the “original site” as claimed in the DMCA, then I should be able to find it in the web archive in 2010.   So, I did a search in the web archive for the specific page noted in the DMCA complaint, and it is not in the web archive.  Okay, so maybe they changed the url.  I began looking through the site that was archived in 2010 and could not find the content by browsing through the available links.

I checked 2011 and 2012 archives and still couldn’t find it…what gives?  Could the archive has missed this copyrighted material, or did the site make it so hard to find that I can’t locate it using the links on their archived pages?   I will note that the “claimed” original content is very easy to find using the sites “new”  layout…

Okay, so the “violator” that I’m following shows the content was on their site over 3 years ago, so I went to the archives to check that out.  I searched for the specific url listed in the DMCA complaint, and there it is in the archive dated April 10, 2010.  In addition, the archived page says “Posted 8 days ago.”   So, it seems this “violator” posted the content on April 2, 2010.

How Did Google Verify The DMCA Claimant Published The Content First?

We all know Google spiders crawl everything they can, so maybe they have archives showing that the “copyrighted” content was in fact posted on the DMCA claimant’s web site first.  But, I would have thought I could find it in the archive as well, since the site was being archived during the times in question.

Can DMCA Complaints Be An Effective Tool To Eliminate Competition?

The claimants site is maintained by a well known web design and SEO company that specializes in the legal field.  As you may or may not know, the legal field is HIGHLY competitive in terms of online marketing.  So, this made me wonder, is this an isolated case or are there more DMCA complaints like this from the same firm?  Well, as it turns out doing a search for this firms exact name pulls up 190 DMCA complaints starting in May of 2012. Some of the complaints I read noted violations by paragraph and even sentences, so we are not always talking situations where an entire page of content was copied.

It does seem that at least one marketing firm is using DMCA complaints to hit back at competitors that seem to be taking shortcuts in creating content.

Moral of the Story….

  1. Don’t copy content from another site.
  2. Don’t block your site from the Web Archive (user-agent:ia_archiver) unless you have a specific reason of course.  You may want to have a record of your original content in case you get a DMCA notice in your webmastertools….
  3. If you do find that a competitor has copied ANY original content from your site, then file a DMCA.  It seems to be an effective way to get that competitors infringing page/post removed from Google’s index….
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