Ethics: Generating Ad Revenue from Stolen Content

copyrightA worrisome trend in humor sites, stealing content and not providing citations, has been extending more and more into the world of web comics. Because they’re just images, they are much easier to steal than videos and other dynamic content, and anyone with minimal Photoshop skills can remove identifying marks on these comics.

The extent of this trend came to my attention from a post on the blog for the web comic, The Oatmeal. A website called FunnyJunk.com is apparently hosting a lot of stolen content on it from popular comics across the web, and very few are properly attributed. What’s worse is that not only are these sites like FunnyJunk not giving credit where it’s due, they’re also using this stolen content to make a profit through advertising revenue.

To be fair, FunnyJunk has since addressed the issue (not necessarily in the most mature manner), but still not all of the stolen content has been taken down according to Matthew Inman who is responsible for The Oatmeal.

To get an idea of how much potential revenue (through ad impressions) these content-aggregating sites take away from the actual content creators, take a look at the unique visitor comparison chart below that includes two aggregators, FunnyJunk.com and DamnLOL.com, and two popular content creators, TheOatmeal.com and XKCD.com. The aggregators, even the relatively new DamnLOL, get significantly more unique visitors on a monthly basis than the content creators.

uvs aggregators vs creators

I’ve written about sites I like to go to when I want to waste time online before, and my favorites, like The Oatmeal and XKCD.com, tend to be content creators. I’d rather support the creators by visiting their own sites than feed the aggregating sites that don’t have anything original to contribute.

What do you think? Should sites like FunnyJunk be allowed to repost intellectual property from creators like The Oatmeal without proper attribution? Should there be legal consequences for FunnyJunk despite the fact that they claim that the stolen content was submitted by users?

About Jared DeLuca:
Jared is currently the Associate Digital Marketing Manager at Compete (Millward Brown Digital). He is a graduate of Northeastern University, having achieved his B.A. in Communication Studies. If you like what you read, you can connect with him on Google+, Twitter, or on LinkedIn.

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  1. Pingback: Ethics: Generating Ad Revenue from Stolen Content « Ethics Find

  2. Charlie Lunan

    The fact that this question is even being asked is disturbing. It provides further evidence of just how much the Internet has undermined not only copy rights but the way American’s think about copy rights. Why should web sites be exempt from copyright and trademark laws meant to protect authors? We may be at risk of creating a generation that equates cutting and pasting with the act of creation. The problem, of course, is that many folks don’t have the resources to enforce their copyright and must instead appeal to the public as The Oatmeal apparently did. I will certainly not knowingly patronize any of these other sites, but how can I distinquish between legitimate sites and those that rip-off the IP of others? Are there any certificatoin organizations that enable conscientious consumers to distinquish between legitimate sites that respect copyright and those that don’t?

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    • Jared DeLuca

      Great points, thanks for commenting. I agree, and I won’t knowingly go to the thieving sites either, but to my knowledge, there isn’t currently any way to tell between legitimate and stolen content unless the content creator used a watermark or some other difficult-to-remove marking.

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  4. Ramit

    Proper credit should be given if any content is “borrowed” . In a perfect world they should write a snippet on what the post is about and insert a link to the whole article on the original site. Like i sadi in a perfect world !

    Reply