Industry Study Finds Blogs Not Responsible For 90% Of Content Theft

A study published by the Fair Syndication Consortium, an industry body backed by major media outlets in the United States, has found that blogs aren’t primarily responsible for content theft.

The study found that blogs account for less than 10% of “reusing” sites online (that is, sites republishing media content without permission), which the report notes is despite blogs “often [being] cited as having the most reused content.”

The published version of the study (pdf) reads more like an executive summary and doesn’t break down methodology, nor indicate the types of sites that are engaging in wholesale content theft. However the finding on blogs will be a huge blow to those in heritage media that argue that blogs don’t create original content, and likewise are mostly engaged in wholesale content theft.

One interesting aspect of the report, misrepresented in some media outlets, is the role Google (and others such as Yahoo) plays in content theft. Take for example the normally excellent Paid Content, who headlines “Fair Syndication Consortium: Google Responsible For Over Half Of Unlicensed Newspaper Articles” and states that “the FSC’s study finds that the biggest single offender was Google, which the group says was responsible for running more than half the unlicensed newspaper content” and that “the FSC said that Yahoo and Google together account for nearly three-quarters of total unlicensed reuse.”

The report doesn’t actually say Google is responsible for “running” the unlicensed content, only that Google monetizes more than half of the unlicensed content. It’s an important distinction, but one that should be made.

Given the lack of data on what types of sites are stealing content, it’s hard to draw an overall conclusion on Google’s role, but as we pointed out last week, Google turns a blind eye to splogs that do reuse content, with the very same splogs nearly universally running Google Adsense ads. That’s not helpful to anyone, no matter what side of the broader new media, old media debate you sit on. Google should start enforcing its own terms of use, and start taking down ads on sites that engage in nothing more than wholesale content theft.