The lack of regulation in the online poker industry has left it rife with problems. One issue that affects the experience of players is affiliates stealing content from competitors. Most of this goes unnoticed by players as it is often handled behind the scenes. The offenders are generally smaller affiliate sites.
There are many examples of content theft. Reposting videos without permission, as well as copying news and editorial articles, are all too common in the industry. It is difficult to police. One reason is that affiliate programs and site operators are too often indifferent to content theft or other intellectual property infringements. They often refuse to get involved.
Advertising revenue through poker sites and affiliate programs are generally the sole source of income for poker content sites. If an affiliate program or operator continues to advertise on sites that steal content, there is little motivation for the thief to change his ways.
Original content is what draws traffic to poker sites. Videos and news articles are expensive and time consuming to produce. The reward is that traffic drawn by unique content creates a return on the investment, which in turn provides revenue to produce more quality content that returning users expect.
Live event coverage is extremely expensive to produce. That is because it requires travel expenses that are above and beyond standard salaries. Long hours and extra staff are often required to ensure quality and extensive coverage.
When another site steals content or videos, it takes value away from the company or person that produced that content. If the rate of return is low enough, the producers will throw in the towel and stop investing in this specialized content.
Sites that base business models off of stealing content from other sites dilute the marketing pool of funds. If Site A produces content and Site B steals it, the return on Site A’s investment is now theoretically 50 percent lower than it would have been had it not been the victim of copyright infringement. Site B did not spend any money to produce its content since it was stolen from Site A. This can make Site A less motivated to invest in future content since companies like Site B do not respect their intellectual property. If that happens enough, the entire poker community loses.
Affiliate Programs May Refuse to Get Involved
Affiliate programs contribute to this issue. Many programs are outsourced and often do not care where their players originate as long as they deposit. This recent forum thread shows what an affiliate went through trying to get affiliate programs to help him out when a site used his trade name and joined the same programs.
There are terms in most affiliate programs that state copyright infringement will result in removal from the affiliate program. I have only known of this happening a handful of times in my career and the content thief in question was undoubtedly a marginal earner. Affiliate managers become a lot less motivated to get involved in the issue if the offending site is bringing in new players.
It is not just websites that suffer from content theft. Cable networks produce full-length TV shows that re-air throughout the year. The value of this content is diluted when it is readily available on unrelated sites without permission. This can lower the future production length and quality of this content as lower ratings produce less advertising revenue.
Most Issues Resolved Privately
Most accusations of content theft occur behind the scenes. That is because content creators often send demand letters to sites using work without permission. In most cases, the offending site responds with an apology and removes the work, often blaming a rogue freelancer. Sometimes the content is removed without a response. Publicly outing content thieves is usually reserved for situations where the offending website ignored private attempts to resolve the issue or has a history of stealing content.
This industry has done a great job over the years of self-policing. Content theft is one place where little has been done. The sites that steal content represent a tiny percentage of all poker sites. For the most part, poker affiliates do the right thing. Unfortunately, those that do not can be a major burden on those that do.
It is time for affiliate programs and site operators to help protect the content generators that bring fresh players into the system every day. If something is not done, the risk of losing the talent to other industries becomes a real possibility.
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