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Media Insider: Paying the Price for News

News agency Central European News (CEN Ltd) which supplies material for this site has won a victory against a rival news platform that populated its pages purely on lifted content.

CEN Ltd discovered that its material was being copied wholesale last autumn when the company accepted an offer of a two-week trial with a company that helps content providers to find out where their material is being used.

CEN owner Michael Leidig said: "The service found hundreds of unauthorised usages of material that we had written and published. Most interesting was a Romanian website http://www.austria.com.ro/ populated entirely by content lifted from the Austrian Times.

"When we are chasing copyright abuse, we look to see whether the site has advertising and therefore is running as a commercial business, which was the case – and then we look to see how popular it is and how much traffic it is getting using the Alexa service. It's not 100 percent, but it does give you an idea, and we found that they were actually attracting more readers with our material then we were."

But the website offered no possibilities to contact them and although in theory providers are supposed to offer the possibility to challenge copyright abuse, in the past the agency said the exercise had been pointless. Leidig said it usually takes months of bureaucracy and money, including providing sworn affidavits costing hundreds of pounds testifying that copyright had been abused.

This time round the agency which last year won a copyright battle with the Huffington Post decided to tackle the advertisers, and registered a complaint with Google AdSense.

Mike Leidig said: "Google has a facility in place for complaints of this nature and to be fair to them they dealt with it pretty quickly. It looks like it was only a few days before the Romanian site had lost its AdSense account – because we could see that the space where they previously had adverts was empty.

"But the confirmation e-mail never arrived for whatever reason and we spent a pretty frustrating few months after that chasing them just for the confirmation that they had indeed acted on our complaint."

The confirmation only arrived this week when Kay Oberbeck, Director of Communications & Public Affairs in Google Germany, Austria, and Switzerland wrote to the agency.

He said: "In regards to your request to stop ad serving on the url austria.com.ro/ we can confirm that our AdSense team had received your submission.

"Based on our AdSense program policies and Terms and conditions, our AdSense and Legal teams reviewed your submission and disabled ad-serving to the above-mentioned domain on Oct. 27, 2011, 2 p.m. (Pacific time). A response regarding the case was sent to the e-mail contact details that we received from you, respectively your network."

He said they could not provide further details on the case but added : "based on a DMCA process the form "removing content from Google" allows anybody to claim and report potential copyright infringements in regards to Google services. We are glad that you made use of the opportunity to report an infringement of our AdSense program policies. We believe that it is vital contribution to keep the Google display network an advertising ecosystem that does not tolerate abuses."

Leidig added that he had subsequently entered into a dialogue with Google about the need to provide better access to information in between making the complaint and getting a decision – especially when the decision itself never arrives.

He said: "If I send a registered letter I can track where it is but the frustrating thing about the Google procedure is that we were left in the dark for most of the process and never saw the final email."

Google replied that as a result the AdSense DMCA process was now considering e-mail tracking which "would indeed be very helpful as it would moreover facilitate our internal investigations".

CEN was given free legal advice throughout by copyright experts at the firm Lawhound.co.uk where lawyer Steph Barber, head of the firm's Intellectual Property Department, said ' this is very good news, copyright infringement is a global issue and for small businesses it can be exceptionally difficult to take action due to the costs involved.

"It is not only important, as CEN have highlighted, to get the content removed, but also for the affected business to know action has been taken as a direct result of their complaint. From the end of 2009 we have seen a steady increase in the number of these complaints and I have assisted a number of companies in cross border copyright issues. Content costs businesses to produce and publish and we need prompt, robust and clear complaints systems which track activity taken by the publishers throughout the life of the complaint.

"Currently businesses have to work through a maze of complaints systems, some very complex and expensive to commence. If quality content on the web is the end goal publishers need to adopt a centralised system accessible to all."

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