A recent government hearing on intellectual property theft has shown just how far real-world law is lagging behind internet activities. The US Congress, which recently discussed the protection of legitimate commerce and intellectual property online, failed to provide any in-depth answers to what the search engines could be doing to fight property theft.
This outcome provokes quite a few questions. Should the search engines be doing anything about property theft? Whose responsibility is it to chase culprits? And what is the role of the average site owner in the process?
Intellectual property theft is becoming an increasingly important issue for site owners due to search engine optimisation. One major task for all those in SEO careers is the provision and reassessment of content. Original content has taken an ever more important place in search engine rankings, and this year, with Google vowing to crack down on duplicate content, some site owners have felt the pinch.
While the search engines appear to be developing harsher policies for content theft, there has yet to emerge any system for site owners to defend their property rights. At present, the original site may suffer the consequences of duplicate content once the content has been stolen. Site owners do, however, have the opportunity to contact Google to argue individual cases.
Ideally, the search engines would present site owners with a forum to challenge alleged content thieves. When governments are still struggling to catch up with internet developments, it seems that the search engines are the only sheriffs in town.