We’ve wondered previously who was going to use MySpace News (if ever), and now we’ve found the traffic source: Google.
Framed pages of blogs and news sites, complete with MySpace News branding and MySpace URL, are being indexed by Google as original content, stealing search engine placement and direct links from content creators.
A search of Google found thousands of MySpace News pages presenting story headlines with a MySpace url that led directly to a framed page that uses content from other sites.
The legality of passing off content as your own is questionable. The case most frequently cited in content framing cases is Washington Post vs Total News where the Washington Post argued that this was unfair and harmful use of their trademark and there was a danger that the user would be confused concerning whose content was being displayed. Unfortunately that case was settled out of court; notably MySpace today is framing content from the Washington Post as well (example here). Some refer to the practice as stealing, and even Chilling Effects notes that the legality of serving framed content is questionable.
The practice may also be in breach of Google’s TOS; MySpace is leveraging its position of strength to promote your content branded as their content in the Google search results, a practice that looks like search engine manipulation from a distance.
No matter what the legalities and moral dimension, if you’re a publisher and MySpace is hijacking your search results and throwing up a frame with their branding around your content, it’s not a good thing. Given what little traffic MySpace News is doing on their main site, there is little new traffic benefits from the service, instead the traffic from the MySpace News pages on Google cannibalizes existing search traffic.
Here’s hoping the Washington Post and the other big media outlets who are having their content framed and presented as MySpace News content take the matter further.