Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Companies I Love: The Case of the Stolen Apple

Just over a week ago, I posted an article to this blog called Companies I Love: Apple. The article was about why I, as a PC user, love Apple. In a nutshell, I detest Apple products, but I love the fact that Apple competes with PCs. On the basis of that competition, I get a better product at a lower price, and I don't have to buy an Apple. In my less-than-objective opinion, it was an interesting and engaging article.

As I was proud of the article, I wanted to shout from the rooftops, "Hey computer users, read this article. It might make you smile!" So, here's what I did. I used the social news network site http://www.digg.com/. I signed up for an account and I "dugg" my article on Apple, placing it squarely in the Technology News -- Apple category. This is shameless promotion, but I want people to read my stuff.

On Wednesday last week, I checked on how well my shouting from the rooftops worked by conducting a Google search for the phrase, "Companies I Love: Apple." The first hit on this search is to a website called Palluxo. I had never heard of them. Initially, I thought they had linked to me, exposing my blog to a much wider audience. This would have been wonderful. I was excited to reach a wider audience. But, when I clicked on the link to their website, what I saw angered me.

As you can see from the website, Palluxo posted the full content of my blog post. They only things they changed are the title (they added the "Inc.") and they deleted the italicized comments that tell readers that they can find other posts like this one in a series called "Companies I Love" on my blog. In other words, they just took what was valuable to them and posted it where they could profit from it. In addition, they did not link to my site, so it looks like I am some Palluxo staff writer. In fact, they stripped the only information from my post that suggests I write on other topics.

Lest you think they are just Apple nerds who like to share quirky Apple articles, look at their site. They have three Google AdSense ad units on that page alone. In addition, the article comes up with all of the valuable words highlighted. If you put the cursor over a word like "Microsoft," you're directed to a related advertisement (I got a Verizon advertisement). They are clearly trying to make money from this article.

Further investigation shows the extent to which Palluxo is trying to sap my article for money. Conduct the search for "'Companies I Love: Apple Inc.' + Palluxo." When you do, you see that there are 41 hits (or more). There are possibly some duplicates, but each of these 41 hits is a profit-maximizing attempt to direct readers to Palluxo. And, I see none of that profit because Palluxo stole my article and is using it for their own use!

I wanted to contact Palluxo to inform them of their violation of Copyright law. My plan was to tell Palluxo the following (if you work for Palluxo, this is for you):
Dear Palluxo Management,

I saw that you found my article interesting enough to place on your website. Given that it looks like I am a guest writer for your website, I am only to assume that you meant to contract me at my usual consulting rate. I charge $75 per guest post on an external website, unless I have worked out a different compensation scheme in advance of the writing.

I appreciate doing business with you, and next time, I hope you contact me in advance so neither one of us misses any future opportunity.

Tony Cookson
My only problem with doing this? I could not find a viable way to contact Palluxo. Look on their website. They have no Internet contact whatsoever, which is entirely unprofessional and underhanded. It makes me think that they pick on new bloggers who have good ideas. They take these people's work without attribution, and they profit from it.

I looked into who Palluxo is using a WhoIs domain search. Over the last year, Palluxo averaged 5600 unique visitors each month (I have had 255 unique visitors so far). Palluxo is based in Vancouver, BC, and the contact information they have for their web domain is management@palluxomedia.com. I tried e-mailing them the respectful note you see above, but it came back as undeliverable. The only contact information on their website is a physical address, which given that everything else seems to be rigged, I don't think it is worth the stamp.

Some of you out there may say, "Why do you care? They put your name on the article. You still get recognition, don't you?" To see why I care, go back to the Google search I conducted. Palluxo flooded Google with so many hits and self-referencing links that my article did not show up as a hit on Google at all. That's no longer the case because I found another blogger who posted my words without my permission. After I convinced him to link to me instead of just copying the text, my page shows up in the search results.

I have the screenshots to prove it. Here is before I contacted the other blogger:

In this search, the first hit is Palluxo's stolen version. The third hit was someone Twittering about my post, and the fifth hit is (finally) my blog... but not the "Apple" article; it was a silly post I wrote about why Melissa Rycroft is famous. In that search, Google did not return a single direct link to my "Apple" article! Believe me, I looked through all 75 of them including the omitted results. I don't blame Google at all: this lack of exposure is all because Palluxo took my content.

After getting the other blogger to link to me, my site shows up in the search results (see below), but it still is not first hit. This is because Palluxo is gaming Google's search algorithm. No matter how you look at it, Palluxo is stealing eyes from my web page and profiting from it.

Those of you economists out there are probably wondering about my incentives, so I'll tell you. I wrote the article to

...draw attention to my blog. If this article can direct some eyes to my blog, those eyes might see what other topics interest me. New users might click on some of those other articles. They might like other articles I write.

...express my opinion and hear what others have to say. I really enjoyed writing this article. I was also looking forward to seeing what Mac users and PC users would say in response to the article in the comments.

...earn money. Do you see those ads on the side of the blog? Google pays me for them. More people coming to my blog means more money. Honestly, it is not that much money at this point, but it is also not my reason for writing and promoting my blog. The point is that I have a good incentive to let people know what I am writing about.

Given these objectives, what did Palluxo do to me that was so wrong? They diverted attention from my blog. They subsumed my opinion into their own profit-maximizing system, suppressing other people's comments from ever getting to me (unless I conducted Google searches), and they took money from me by taking viewers from looking at my page. No matter how you slice it, Palluxo is in the wrong.

I suspect that Palluxo thought they could get away with this because I am the little guy. Clearly, my blog is relatively new and I'm still learning the ropes. It costs me more and benefits me less than the big guys (i.e., Freakonomics) to protect my original content. Hey, I might be naive enough to think that this is actually how things work.

This last paragraph should infuriate you. If a sixth-grader steals some second grader's lunch money, we should look down on that. Stealing from the little guy is not a reasonable thing to do (even if you are rather small yourself). The fact that the little guy is more vulnerable makes this violation all the more offensive. My message to Palluxo: create your own content. If you don't, you still need to compensate those who write what you publish.

Please let your friends and family know about this. Content stealing is wrong and it is easy to recognize that what Palluxo did is illegal. With enough attention, we can set the example that content stealing does not pay, either!

What do you think my next step should be? I'm interested in hearing your comments. I don't usually write negative posts. Check out my other work for something more representative.


  1. You I'd send the letter anyway. If it comes back then you've got great ammo to have their domain name yanked (and save others all sorts of trouble).

    False or intentionally incorrect contact information in a domain name is considered Bad Faith in the registration. I believe that GoDaddy (the domain registrar they're using) is required to make them correct it.

  2. Complain on their Google ads and complain to the domain registrar and Godaddy abuse.

    To anonymously submit your notification of a Google Adsense terms of use violation (e.g. content theft) simply click on the “Ads by Google” on any of the sites’ adverts, then click “Report a violation” (along the bottom)

    If the offending site’s Adsense account is suspended, they are out of business.


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