Someone Else Is Stealing Your Content: URL Shorteners

This is why the DMCA makes zero sense for the creative community, yet perfect sense for everyone else.

Every other day it seems, there’s another gray area of content theft, and the idea that rights owners can police this activity with one-off takedown notices is simply ridiculous.

Take the pay-for-click space, a concept that pays users for directing others users to sought-after content.  MegaUpload wanted to legitimize the pay-for-click idea, and cut artists in on the action.  Ultimately, the music-focused Megabox never happened, for obvious reasons.  But the idea of paying for clicks remains alive-and-well, which means that someone – ie, not you – is making money off of links to your content on BitTorrent, file-hosting sites, whatever.

The latest scam is happening on a variant of url shorteners, which inject ads into the redirect experience.  So, instead of something mainstream like bit.ly of goo.gl, link shorteners like AdF.ly and adfoc.us create a stopover before the final redirect, and make money off the ads.

So, if bit.ly behaves like this:

…then AdF.ly behaves like this:

Which means that the middle step is where the cash is made.  And, to incentivize users to play along (and impose this extremely crappy experience upon others), players like AdF.ly offer a cut of the action.  That is, roughly $4 for 1,000 clicks (or $0.004 per click), or in the case of adfoc.us, $6.50 per 1,000 clicks.

This has legitimate uses, but the real ‘link bait’ involves all sorts of illegally-hosted and distributed content.  And herein lies the problem: AdF.ly actually has a DMCA section for logging abuses, but that assumes anyone actually knows the abuse is happening in the first place.  And even if you do, only the largest labels and studios have the manpower to address this level of enforcement.  It’s a system that works fantastically for the tech community and users, but is laughably ineffective for protecting user rights.

12 Responses

  1. Mark

    I’m beginning to really dislike the internet.

    • lifer

      The Internet simply shines a light on human behavior that has always existed. There have always been, and will always be, middlemen and women who are scheming and scamming their way to a piece of the pie–your pie. The Internet helps us see them. Just like the Internet has helped us see, up close and personal, the racism, religious bigotry against other religions, religious fanaticism in general, sexist attitudes and homphobic rants of so many of our fellow human beings.

      Don’t hate the messenger. Hate the message. Then do something about it.

      • david lowery

        Not really. Because in the past you could get arrested or fined for enabling illegal behavior on an industrial scale. Now it’s been cross-dressed as “internet freedom”.

        And the tech blogosphere has fooled many people into believing they are fighting for free speech when actually all they are doing is shilling for corporate profit.

        anyone who says there is nothing to be be done is morally and ethically bankrupt.

        • Emily White

          And anybody who thinks we’re ever returning to the glory days of $20 CDs is sticking their head in the sand.

      • SamR @ Projekt.com

        Lifer wrote: “There have always been, and will always be, middlemen and women who are scheming and scamming their way to a piece of the pie–your pie.”

        But you do realize that the content creator isn’t getting ANY piece of this pie.

  2. @whoisypp

    Click my bit.ly link to read about how URL shorteners are “stealing your content”

  3. Joda

    I’m glad someone sees what is happening. Good reporting Paul.

  4. @phonobase

    You can make more money here than with Spotify per play.