SQUARE Blog™: Featured
Beware the Cyber Ad-Squatters!
They may be stealing the value of your Domain Name, News Story, Trademark or Copyrighted Content
Pilfering others web promos, news, press and copyrighted content has become a wealth generating activity as Major Industry Leaders pay big bucks to plant their Cyber Ads on unsuspecting Domain Holders promotional content and search pages.
Once Upon a Time on Planet Earth...
Part One. In which, one day ABC Computer Company discovers that all the while as it has been widely promoting its website, issuing cyber press releases, developing it's trade names, being interviewed in the news and placing literature about its products, that the results are not what it expected. It discovers that a very large number of cyber-advertising companies have been selling advertisement space to ABC's competitors, and their Ads appear right in the middle of ABC's press releases, search engine content and other web pages about ABC. As a result, ABC discovers its largest competitors are able to leverage the web interest in ABC and its products and convert that almost immediately into a sale of the competitors' equivalent product. Not only has ABC no control over this anti-competitive phenomenon, it has no defense against the Ad Squatters, they are too numerous, serviced by automated aggregators, and they sell their ad space in bulk to the largest companies in ABC's industry, $60 Billion monsters like Krell Inc.. The Ad-Squatters seek out ABC's product announcements at cyber press agencies and off ABC's websites, then derive stories and place the releases on their web page, place the page in search engines to gather traffic, then offer the unused space on those pages to ABC's competition! Cyber Ad-Squatters, ranging from Search Engines to Bloggers to Press Sites to Portals to Ad Pages to Classified lists, it appears, are deliberately converting the public interest in ABC's products into sales for ABC's competitors. Some of them even placing phony ads for ABC in Search Engines then redirecting the public to web pages with competitors sales solicitations on them! The more ABC promotes, the more the largest companies in the computer industry benefit! Stunned, ABC, unable to compete with the assault, with its hundred million dollar a year price tag, concludes Government Intervention is vital to protect small business from large ones engaging in Cyber Ad-Squatting.
ABC Computer Company (a fictitious name) opened for work on Monday January 10th, 2006 at 7AM and it was like any other day at ABC. The President arrived at work at 11:00 AM and all was well, PCs were being built, Laptops ordered, and most of all, new operating system software was being readied for work. But by 11:30 AM all was no longer business as usual. For, much to ABC's shock and surprise, as a result of investigating alleged abuse of its trademarks, it had discovered every single search engine return resulting from consumers searching for its products, every single Press Release it had ever issued copes of which were on the Internet in most every journal and news publication, every white paper, news story and ever product review, had been plastered at its top, to the right and left, even inserted into the very middle of the publications by ABC, with advertisements by The Krell (a fictitious name), the largest computer company in the world and in ABC's industry.
There were Krell Laptop $500 Sales between the headlines and the copy text of ABC new laptop product ads, there were Krell Small Business Server Advertisements in the server press releases, there were Krell "word ads" in the sponsored ads over and to the right of the search returns (the returns from search expressions that brought up ABC's web pages and ABC related content), there were even Krell Banners and Color Glossy Photos all with links to the competing products at Krell.dom, the primary domain of Krell, inserted into and overwhelming the black and white copy describing the equivalent ABC's product in tiny text summarizing an ABC press release.
After about five hours of automated searching, ABC found nearly 150,000+ instances in which its press, ads, news stories and search engine return content had been usurped by paid Advertisements from Krell Inc., all of it modifying copyrighted text, or leveraging ABC's trademarks, and all of it indexed in the Search Engines, drowning out ABC's search presence. While ABC was clearly the draw in each case of an ABC related Search return or ABC web page return resulting from a consumer Search at the Engines such as Yahoo, Google, MSN or elsewhere, the consumer would naturally notice only the centered, in focus, color glossy, animated Krell Inc. advertisement, not the short news or other Search item that attracted them there about ABC: which had caused them to click the link in the first place. Clearly, ABC reasoned, every single aspect of public interest in ABC, was being redirected by CYBER AD SQUATTING to Krell. The law was being broken.
Clearly, Krell Inc had found a way to either bribe or coerce every single outpost on the Internet, even the very page ids returning from searches that bore links to ABC, to place one to five Krell Inc. ads of different forms, in what can only be called or what has been come to be known as a Cyber Ad-Squatter Blizzard, designed to CHILL ABC's ability to advertise. Having had Krell file predatory lawsuits in an effort to CHILL ABC's direct competition, ABC realized that the Trust was engaging in criminal harassment of ABC in a manner patented by the Trust Builders of Standard Oil, not surprising inasmuch as Krell was partially owned by Chevron and Chevron's part owners, the Rockefellers, were represented on its board by their Rockefeller Institute. "Another 'complication' of the oil industry?" the President remembered seeing Lawrence Raymond of Exxon questioned about during recent Oil price gouging hearings before the US Senate. But what to do?
ABC's President was outraged. Here he had spent the money on websites, Press Releases, White Papers, News Stories, Submissions, Development and even advertising only to find that all the Internet Advertising systems and Search Engines and Press Publications in the world, even the Blog sites, were Cyber Ad-Squatting Krell's, the largest company in the computer world, advertisements all over ABC's efforts. They weren't paying ABC a nickel for having used ABC to attract readership, but sold the economic benefit of ABC's interest to Krell Inc. A SCAM!
ABC contacted about 5% of the sites it found cases of Cyber Ad-Squatting perpetrated against ABCs content, and in each case was told the following: "the ad placement is up to the advertising customer, if you want to make a dent, you have to pay us to post your ads. if you have a legal complaint, take it up with the advertiser." Google Inc. began its lengthy reply "We do not arbitrate Trademark or Intellectual property disputes between Advertisers and those on whose sites or in whose content Google Adwords are placed..." and offered to do a 'limited investigation' if only ABC jumped through several tiny hoops at a distance of 1800 miles.
ABC added up the costs of the 150,000+ sites times approximately $1000 a month, and calculated a pricetag of about $150 million dollars. "No wonder only Krell is capable of doing this, they are the largest computer company in the world, and spend $400 million on TV and Internet Advertising, now I know what they are spending it on - to link their ads to my internet traffic. What ever are we to do?"
ABC was further shocked to discover that one company, LinkSprayer and it's adware system LinkScammery, was even putting phony ABC.com ads into Google and Yahoo's search engine, and when you searched on "ABC productname" and noticed LinkSprayer content, apparently referring to ABC.com's new product, and then clicked on it, you were instantly taken to a LinkSprayer page instead of an ABC one, and there was an entire page of Krell Inc. advertisement links for competing products, the page only titled "GlobalNic".
"How are they getting away
with this?" asked ABC's president.
Another term: "instant traffic
conversion" - coined by a search engine some years ago, has an
interesting sidebar. Some years ago, a hacker found a way to
interfere with Domain Naming Servers and alter the URL for a
company, so he could intercept a company or government website and
redirect all traffic to one of his own where he could pull about
anything he wanted with unwary browsing visitors unaware of being on
a phony copy of the URL website they though they were going to.
He decided to try and sell products using several very popular
website belonging to others. He went to jail and had to pay a
very heavy fine. The term "instant traffic conversion" was
coined by a Search Engine owner who, questioned about the meaning of
this case, called him "the instant traffic conversion guru".
That search engine executive went on to found Gator, one of the
first and most dangerous Adware/Spyware companies in the entire
Internet, today called "Claria". ABC noted that in its search,
it found evidence that Krell was registering for "pay per
performance" ads with companies who were using Spyware software and
Adware software to highjack people's Personal Computers and take
them to Krell.dom's website.
Part Two. In our next episode, ABC meets with the Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, several state attorneys genera, Google, Yahoo, and the Securities and Exchange Commission to inquire about Cyber Ad-Squatting to find out if anyone is investigating what looks to ABC as a very illegal practice, one which insures that smaller competitors have absolutely no way to defend themselves against the largest businesses in their field in the ordinary course of business promotion. ABC's president concludes it would be like coming out one night driving down the street with a 'Krell Computers, 888-12KRELL" advertisement on his own Car, washing it off, and when he goes in the Men's Room at the Car Wash, finding "Buy a Krell Laptop $500: 888-12KRELL" sign painted on his own forehead. All parties agree that it may be a case where the largest companies in any one market may be engaging in Anti-Trust Violations, deceptive selling and predatory marketing practices, and that the parties extending the Cyber Ad-Squatting Services may be illegally profiting from redirecting the economic interests of the smaller companies whose release, page, or other content they plant competing ads on. But what to do to bring about a change that will prevent such consequences without harming the Advertising that is so critical to business survival on the Internet? "It may take a company at a time intervention, starting at the top of each industry" suggests one expert. As a result of a year long investigation ABC decides to investigate Krell to determine how it is equipped to undertake litigation, to ascertain who really owns the company, whether it is worth saving and to examine whether Krell should be prosecuted by the US Government, Civil Suits started, Civil Class Actions initiated to curb Krell's monopolistic attitudes or Congressional Legislation passed to prohibit the inherent hijacking of a company's very business promotion on the internet by Cyber Ad-Squatting.
For to ABC and likely to the Government, Krell is a classic example of the problem: a gigantic, wealthy, relatively young corporation with a clever TV advertising campaign, growth slowing, at the top of the field, slightly past the top of its form, with a massive investment in Cyber Ad-Squatting, some of it very, very wrong... most of it just plain dirty pool. Unlike Krell, ABC - a relatively austere little company with an enormous pool of capital hidden behind it from developing Hedge Funds and Government Securities in the 90's, did not succumb to the temptation to invest millions each day in Cyber Ad-Squatting Service Pools. And unlike Krell, ABC does not approve of the practice. "It's not a practical reality, its a form of parasitic marketing, like a time bomb ticking away waiting for the lawyers to realize exactly how vulnerable a Krell really is. It's only going to take one 3.5 billion dollar judgment against a company like Krell in favor of someone like us and the whole Cyber Ad-Squatting Pyramid is going to collapse on itself. It's either that or there will be a plague of lawsuits and the top companies in every industry who invest the hundreds of millions in Cyber Ad-Squatting will be rapidly entering Bankruptcy and maybe even going out of business to avoid the consequences. Cyber Ad Squatting is like a Bad Penny- it never pays off. It's the Lawyers who are trying to scare the public, Krell is just wealthy, but not really all that wealthy..." said ABC's President to a news reporter.
And ABC's President had every reason to believe that Krell and companies like it were vulnerable. After decades in the computer industry he'd seen companies come and go and schemes to unlawfully compete enter and leave. And in all that time, he'd come to know one thing about corporate life: when it came to the greed and the threats from their lawyers and the dirty pool infighting, every last one of those corporate executives lived in daily fear, fear for their jobs, fear for their lives, and fear for their futures. In a climate like that, all one had to do was set off a loud noise and scream "fire!. Usually, the stampede got them. "We'll have to judge them by their response to a legitimate demand to cease and desist." The expert commented: "You don't think a company like Krell will suddenly back down, do you?" ABC's President thought for a moment and then said: "If they had any idea what hung in the balance, their very existence, they would... if they stampede in our direction or in the opposite, then that's that. But if they sit still, don't deny what's obvious, undo the ads and act like good little boys and girls, then they get to live to compete another day...we shall see..."
PART THREE: coming soon!