Joel Comm’s TwitPwr: Yet Another Content Thief

by Ben Cook on April 27, 2009

Update: Joel Comm (who had been out of town) responded to this post and the numerous retweets (thanks again to everyone who helped!) by killing the frame and keeping the rest of the features that make TwitPwr a an interesting URL shortener. Joel stated that the frame isn’t

“the primary purpose of Twitpwr and not an important feature to me. I instructed our dev to remove.” andthanks for pointing it out.”

Joel, you’re more than welcome. I appreciate the quick response and hopefully the trend of sites like Digg and TwitPwr accommodating content publisher’s rights will continue.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce TwitPwr.com.

TwitPwr Framejacking ESPN.com

TwitPwr Framejacking ESPN.com

As you can see in the image above, the site is yet another URL shortening “service” that frames other sites’ content.

I’ve written fairly extensively recently about the evils of this practice (known as framejacking) so I’m not going to rehash all those points here. But just so we’re all clear, framing another site’s content without the owner’s permission, is theft.

So, when I stumbled across TwitPwr today I was shocked. Not because another site was framejacking, but because the site is owned and operated by well known internet marketer Joel Comm!

Joel Comm = Content Thief?

Joel, according to his website, is a social media expert, a make money online entrepreneur, speaker and author who has written several books on all sorts of internet marketing related topics, including Twitter. As an author, you’d think he’d value the rights of content producers, right? Apparently not so much.

I tweeted Joel asking him why he thought it was ok to steal content from thousands of publishers and referred him to my post explaining why Diggbar’s framing activities were wrong. While Joel has yet to respond, Dan Nickerson, VP of Ideas at Infomedia Inc. and Joel Comm’s (quite literal) partner in crime, did.

Unfortunately, Dan apparently didn’t see the correlation between the Diggbar stealing content via framejacking and TwitPwr’s own framejacking activities.

“@Skitzzo you lost me.. removing the twitpwr frame would defeat the purpose of twitpwr.. No correlation between that article and twitpwr”

Dan went on to say

“the frame is what gives u more followers, traffic, pr and exposure for your twitpwr links” and “people use twitpwr because of the frame.. That’s why it’s popular, so your posts make no sense at all”

As most of you who have read my previous posts probably figured out, I really don’t care about users of framejacking sites, I care about the content publisher’s rights. Once Dan wrapped his head around that fact, he replied saying they

“hear your opinion. But I bet if we polled the owners of all the sites we are redirecting, 99% would say you’re nuts.”

You almost have to appreciate the gall it would take someone to essentially say “Yeah, I get that we’re stealing, but only 1% of our victims would care.” Unfortunately, the widespread uproar over the Diggbar suggests that a lot more than 1% of content publishers care about maintaining their copyrights.

Confronted with that fact, Dan began backpedaling and instead tried to justify the theft, saying

“I only said 1% wouldn’t think you were nuts, not agree with you. Site owners are getting backlinks and extra traffic from us too”

The links on member profile pages Dan mentioned do in fact link through to the sites that are being framed. TwitPwr also rewards users who drive a lot of traffic via their shortened URLs, an idea which I actually liked quite a bit.

However, while links and extra traffic are both nice things, TwitPwr could easily provide those perks without stealing content in the process.

Dan ended the conversation by claiming

“Twitpwr is built to help site owners/users”

Really, Dan? That’s the argument you’re going to go with?

You’re trying to help site owners by stealing their content?

Call me a skeptic, but I think you and Joel had slightly less charitable motive for framing sites with TwitPwr …

Joel Comm's real motive for stealing your content

How does this help the content producers?

While TwitPwr could easily provide shortened URLs, profile links, and extra traffic without framing other sites. They could NOT, however, pimp Joel’s latest book at the top of every framed page.

In fact, Infomediainc.com states

“Twitpwr.com was dreamt up when Joel Comm and Dan Nickerson were trying to find a creative way to promote Joel’s book Twitter Power.”

So you tell me, what is Joel Comm and Dan Nickerson’s real motive for stealing your content?

Joel Comm's real motive for stealing your content

Joel Comm's real motive for stealing your content

If you want people like Joel and Dan to stop stealing your content, I encourage you to Tweet this post using the button below and install the Frame Buster WordPress plugin.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Dugdale April 27, 2009 at 11:21 am

I like the hang man picture, very creative.

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RJ April 27, 2009 at 11:33 am

Stuff like this kind of makes me upset — this is more than fair use.

Couldn’t this have more severe ramifications than just somebody using an entire page of yours and profiting from it? For instance, Digg is pretty popular, and TwitPwr could be as well. Because of the trust of those domains, isn’t it possible that the framed pages could actually outrank your own page? Google doesn’t seem to be fixed in the way that they handle framed pages/sites, and I just think that the possibility remains that a twitpwr page could become indexed, and actually rob you of direct search engine traffic in some situations.

That’s worse than a scraper site, because scraper sites have a very short shelf life… This is really disappointing coming from somebody with such a big name.

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Skitzzo April 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm

RJ, actually the framed content isn’t read by Google or other search engines. In the case of TwitPwr, every page has the same title and content as far as the search engines know (as seen here http://cli.gs/VEDtPB).

The issue with the Diggbar was a bit different since they did use the submission title as the title of their framed page. However, Digg has since made several changes to their Diggbar which will negate any SEO impact and will only display the framed pages to logged in Digg users.

That is a MUCH better method than the one TwitPwr is using although it is still framing content, which as I’ve said several times, I view as theft.

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Daniel Mcskelly April 27, 2009 at 3:06 pm

And now t.love.com results have started showing up in the SERPs too. All the ****s had this idea at once a few months back didn’t they?

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John April 27, 2009 at 5:27 pm

If it wasn’t for services like Digg and Twitpwr people would never have heard of you. Most people consider services like them to be great for promotion.

Google uses a frame sometimes, not just the cache but images too, are you complaining about them too?

Theft is the act of stealing someone else’s property. And what makes something your property? The knowledge that if you take a certain care and interest in protecting something for your exclusive use, that it is yours. If you were to leave a newspaper in a doctors waiting room would you accuse someone who read it of theft? No of course not, you may risk your personal reputation and ask for it’s return but some would say that’s not the spirit of human coexistence.

It is easy to protect your “possessions” should you want. After reading your paper in the waiting room you could take it with you, that would ensure no one reads it and give you the satisfaction you are seeking.

And if you don’t want your web page “hijacked” by a frame then all you have to do is target=_top and there’s an end to it. You may lose friends and certainly readers but you can at least be satisfied that no one is stealing your content.

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Skitzzo April 27, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Daniel, I’m looking at love.com’s results as well. It definitely appears they’re framing other people’s content but I don’t believe they allow just anyone to create links etc and they don’t seem to be promoting it as a URL shortener.

But again, they are definitely framing and unless they have an agreement with those sites, I would consider that theft.

@John, I’m not arguing against Digg or TwitPwr, I’m arguing against them framing MY content.

Yes, Google uses frames and yes, in my mind that is content theft. They aren’t placing their ads on my content which TwitPwr was doing but I would still say it’s content theft.

This is nothing like someone reading a paper that’s sitting around. This is the equivalent of someone taking the New York Times, putting their heading and ads at the top, and redistributing it. If you think the Times would sit back and let that happen you’re absolutely wrong.

As I’ve said before, it IS easy enough to prevent sites from framing your content. However, even if you leave your possessions sitting on your front porch, it’s still theft if someone comes up and takes something that doesn’t belong to them.

Just because someone isn’t preventing their site from being framed, does NOT give any other site the right to steal that content.

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Jon Henshaw April 28, 2009 at 11:21 am

Google steals content and then turns around and makes money off of it. It’s the biggest scraper and taker of content out there. But the difference is that it returns a service that people want and it provides exposure to the sites it scrapes. The toolbar is no different. And if you don’t like it, don’t use the service. And if you’re a publisher and you don’t want your content framed, add JavaScript to prevent it. I think this is much ado about nothing.

If you’re the company providing the frame, make sure you give users options to display or not display it, and make sure you detect whether or not it’s a search engine or browser, so you can 301 the search engine bot directly to the site (no frames). Personally, I think it’s a useful and interesting service for users, and I still get access to the content (the publisher’s content). If everyone had such a strict attitude about content, particularly content aggregation, the Internet would suck big time.

With all that being said, still love you Ben, even if we don’t 100% agree on this 🙂

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Skitzzo April 28, 2009 at 11:45 am

Jon, here’s where I think the difference is from framing and what Google does.

Google only displays a small description of your content rather than the entire page. Yeah, they do use frames in showing the cached version and their image search which I’m not crazy about, but the bulk of what they do (and what they make their money from) is just aggregating a lot of small snippets of your content, not the entire page.

While I think the steps you mention of detecting search engine bots etc, would definitely be a step up for a lot of these sites, that doesn’t cut it in my book. The issue is that a frame takes my content (w/out my permission) and puts it in someone else’s wrapper (often times with ads on it).

Yes, busting the frame is a good idea, but that doesn’t make framing a site ok. If I took your pimptastic SEO tools and somehow framed them or put my logo over yours and then sold it as my own or made it available for free with some ads plastered across the top, I’m guessing you wouldn’t be real pleased with me.

In my mind, framejacking is essentially the same thing. And don’t worry, it’s always ok to disagree with me, it just means you’re probably wrong 😀

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John April 29, 2009 at 3:56 am

I don’t think there’s an argument here I can really get my teeth into but I would like to add that people profit from what we do all the time, if they didn’t we wouldn’t be making a living. My issue is that your attitude is a bit authoritarian and there are legitimate reasons for framing other peoples content but people reading your post may make the mistake of thinking it is somehow socially unacceptable, like smoking in a non smoking restaurant. There is another world out there with a different opinion and I respectfully disagree with yours, on this anyway.

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Skitzzo April 29, 2009 at 9:13 am

John (with an h) –
Actually I agree that there are legitimate reasons to frame a site. For example, Aaron Wall’s SeoToolbar uses a small framed version of your page when you check your server headers.

And actually, the existence of legitimate reasons to frame content, only makes my argument against “services” like Ow.ly (who still hasn’t removed their framing despite saying they would) that much stronger.

If I want to prevent Owly from stealing my content, I have to use a frame-busting script which also interferes with the legitimate uses of framing.

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