Splogs: Plagiarizing for Money

Part II of Naming Names and Plagiarism in Criminal Defense Blogs

In Part I we covered lawyers who cut and paste news articles without attribution, and without any thought to the potential effects on some other criminal defense lawyer’s client.

Windy Pundit covered part II, sploggers, better than I could in a comment on a Simple Justice post. (But it wouldn’t be much of a post if I didn’t add some of my own thoughts anyway.)

A few background details. Blogging on Blogger is free. TypePad is cheap. And, aside from the hosting cost if you put it on a custom URL, WordPress is also free and it’s fancier than Blogger; but it requires a modicum of computer know how, in terms of installing the software, etc. (The use of the word ‘modicum’ is not meant in a derogatory fashion – I’ve never set up a WordPress blog, and I might or might not be able to do so easily.)

The point is, setting up a blog is somewhere between inexpensive and free.

Then we add internet juggernaut Google to the mix. Google makes the bulk of its money from the sponsored results section that appears above most internet searches. The advertising program is called AdWords. Every time someone googles a phrase and clicks on the sponsored result, Google gets paid. If there are multiple folks bidding for higher placement, Google gets paid even more.

To increase the number of people who are exposed to AdWords, Google implemented the AdSense program. Through AdSense, anyone can place AdWords on their site, and receive a portion of the click-through price from Google. (I think it’s 5 or 10%, but I don’t feel like looking it up.)

Google owns the Blogger platform – so it made it easy for users to place AdSense ads on that free platform.

The result was predictable. Folks from literally all over the world starting setting up blogs for the sole purpose of earning a small percentage of the advertising revenue. And a new word was born as well: splogs – short for spam blogs.

I am somewhat familiar with this phenomenon by chance. A large portion of my practice involves representing folks charged with DWI, and I practice in Austin, Texas. In September of 2006, a year and a half ago now, an article was written on a ‘how to make money by blogging’ blog, entitled, “Highest Paying Adsense Keyword: DWI Austin”.

At that time, advertisers in this market were bidding as high as $82.95 per click for anyone who was searching google with those two words. (Looks like it has since fallen to the uber-reasonable rate of merely $51.00, while the mesothelioma lawyers have taken over most of the top 20 spots.)

This all happened because a bidding war broke out between DWI lawyers in Austin who all decided to advertise on Google, roughly at about the same time. Then many of them decided they wanted to be number one. Simple economics tells us this drove the bidding price up, up and away.

Since I also author a ‘DWI Blog’ along with this one, sploggers started cutting and pasting my articles on their money making blogs. Didn’t matter that I don’t advertise; my site comes up pretty high for a variety of searches using the important (i.e., high paying) keywords.

Robert Guest, of the newly minted Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, ran across a blog that had copied some of my posts wholesale, and alerted me to it in the comment section of one of my posts. Nothing I can do about it.

Except call the sploggers what they are: plagiarists.

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Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer - March 11, 2008 10:49 AM
Houston defense attorney Mark Bennett is understandably outraged to see that fellow criminal law blogger David Finn has reproduced the Department of Justice’s press release about Mark’s client as his own work. Mark’s concern, as alway...
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Ricky - September 17, 2008 12:37 AM

I am somewhat familiar with this phenomenon by chance. A large portion of my practice involves representing folks charged with DWI, and I practice in Austin, Texas. In September of 2006, a year and a half ago now, an article was written on a ‘how to make money by blogging’ blog, entitled, “Highest Paying Adsense Keyword: DWI Austin”.

Ricky - September 17, 2008 12:38 AM

This all happened because a bidding war broke out between DWI lawyers in Austin who all decided to advertise on Google, roughly at about the same time. Then many of them decided they wanted to be number one. Simple economics tells us this drove the bidding price up, up and away.

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