iCopyright.com Closes Down after 18 Years Online

Tragedy struck Tellus News Digest today. We have just lost our most prolific contributor. What makes this even worse is that we have also lost ALL of the articles we ever published by our late contributor. We now have headlines and first paragraphs for those stories…but nothing more. No content.

We had an inkling that something was up yesterday, when our website started to behave very strangely. It took almost 24 hours before we realized that our website had gone haywire because iCopyright.com had gone out of business, closing its doors the only way an online business can by shutting down its servers.

Also known as Republish.com, iCopyright.com had a very clever business model. They contracted with literally hundreds of publications around the world to legally republish articles that appeared on their websites in exchange for a percentage of the fees generated from advertising that iCopyright embedded in the articles they offered for republication.

Other publications, like Tellus News Digest, were allowed to insert those articles into their pages free of charge on the condition of having to take those articles with the (often) very obnoxious advertising copy that iCopyright inserted into their republished articles. For a rather substantial fee, website owners could choose to publish those same articles without the advertising content but the kinds of publications that would use as service like iCopyright weren’t the kinds of publications that would spend big bucks – or any bucks at all – to reprint someone else’s previously published content.

On the surface, this was a win-win-win situation. The website owners – people like us – good get timely, high-quality articles produced by established publications at no cost to themselves. The publications producing the content got a percentage of the proceeds from the advertising revenues generated by iCopyright’s articles and iCopyright got to take a percentage off the top….or at least that was how it was supposed to work.

That’s how it really should have worked because part of iCopyright’s business model depended on the fact that their advertising was immune to ad blockers, but their advertisers were never really top drawer and their mainstay advertisements were pay-per-click rather than pay-per-view. In fact, they probably had to work that way because advertisers would not be able to track the performance of their advertisements any other way.

We were always aware that using iCopyright content was a somewhat dubious approach to producing a web site because using previously published content meant that no one would ever find our version of those stories. Search engines give higher placements to the most read stories on a given subject, then to the first published stories on a subject, and finally to the most popular publications. By the time the search engines got to our versions of those stories, they would appear on the tenth page of the search results. No one ever drills down that far into the results on a search engine.

There were other warning signs that something was amiss at iCopyright. One of those signs was the increasing number of articles from Chinese propaganda outlets, as well as some alt-right publications of questionable veracity. Then we started seeing some obviously flack-written press releases dressed up to look like news stories. All things considered, we were caught with our pants down when we should have known better.

So, it was really never a good idea to use iCopyright but we were caught in the vicious loop of content publishing business. In order to generate the advertising revenue you need to support your contributors, you need a great deal of traffic but, in order to generate that traffic, you have to spend money – lots and lots of money – on advertising and promotion. The myth of the bootstrapped website is exactly that, a myth. No one bootstraps websites anymore and it is questionable whether they ever really did.

We’ve expressed our profound condolences to the people at iCopyright, and those condolences were sincerely heartfelt because it really does feel like the rug has been pulled out from under us, but it was our own fault for taking a stand on the wrong rug.