Write a blog that's well-trafficked enough, and you'll draw scrapers lie flies to roadkill. Every time we get a link from a big site — a BoingBoing or TechCrunch or something — I'm amazed how multiple identical pingbacks from scraper blogs pop up within a few hours, automatically generated as the scraper sites copy and republish the entire original posts with their links to us. Following the backlink leads to some junk site — designed to carry ads, or in a misguided effort to improve somebody's search engine position by link farming. Usually there's no easy remedy — the scraper's site has an anonymously registered domain, and may be hosted offshore.
This is not such a case.
Recently I noticed a series of very familiar pingbacks — very familiar because they appeared identical to pingbacks I'd already gotten from Kevin Underhill at the top-notch you-got-your-humor-in-my-law site Lowering the Bar.
I decided to investigate. Here's what I found.
1. The scraper site is calltothebar.com.
3. The scraper site copies the entire posts, links and all, and runs them with the (false and misleading) byline "by kszafarsk," with a link to the actual author site at the bottom. The scraper site has a header at top with what appears to be category or subject area links ("Attorney Humor | Politics | Professors Point of View | Law Practice Resources | Legal Careers") but are actually not hyperlinked.
4. The scraper site has tags that appear randomly generated from the text of the scraped posts. For instance, for both bot-weirdness and extra douchebag points, when the scraper site lifted Bitter Lawyer's entire very personal post "I Had To Put My Dog Down," it printed it with the tag "Down."
5. The scraper site does not allow comments and adds no commentary whatsoever to the posts it copies.
7. A WHOIS search reveals that calltothebar.com was registered by — wait for it — KM Sciences, Inc..
I wrote to KM Sciences last Thursday, sending the email to their sales and tech support addresses as well as the administrative and technical contact they listed when they registered calltothebar.com. I followed up when I didn't hear from them. Still no response.
So: it appears that software company KM Science is promoting itself — albeit extremely ineffectually (the calltothebar.com site had 22 hits today) — by stealing other people's work and slapping it on a shitty little site running one of their ads. Whoever is doing it lacks the slightest freaking clue of how to cover their tracks. Now, if I were representing them, I'd say the abject failure to exercise discretion about this shows lack of mental capacity to form bad intent, but here the scraping is just too painfully obvious to be defensible. Or maybe KM Sciences hired some marketeer who is doing all that, and utterly failed to supervise them — remember, when you outsource your marketing, you outsource your ethics and your reputation.
Either way, ask yourself this: would you install software these people coded on your computer?