An industry where ownership of content counts for little

 

Time for a gripe...

It's now been over a decade since we set up the Treatment Abroad medical tourism portal - ten years in which our company has invested cash, time and effort in creating and maintaining content that aims to inform patients about their options when considering medical tourism. Ten years in which I personally have invested my time and intellect in preparing presentations for conference presentations around the world. As a business, we are very happy to share what we know and have learned about the medical tourism industry.

But, if there's one major gripe that I have about the sector, it is the lack of respect for the ownership of content and ideas. It's part of the "get rich quick" philosophy which plagues the industry and is fuelled by the hype that surrounds it.

It seems that the way to build a business or build your reputation in medical tourism is to steal someone one else's content or ideas.

Here are a few examples that I have come across over the years that have eaten up my time and that of my team, have diverted us from other priorities and have sometimes cost us money for lawyers to protect our rights.

The latest issue… “It's not my problem.... the web designer did it”

A few weeks back, our Production Manager, was looking at the issue of content duplication. Placing duplicate content on multiple sites gets us penalised by Google. With 30 plus healthcare sites, we have to be careful that we don't break the rules.  Our Production Manager came across a site where the content looked very familiar - www.makemedicaltrip.com (now taken offline). Page after page on the site contained content that had been copied and pasted from the client profiles, destination information and treatment section pages of Treatment Abroad.  All of this content had been written by professional copywriters who are part of our content team.

So, the pursuit of the “infringer” began. Who owned the site and who could we pursue for recompense? Emails to the site’s info@ address got no response. But we were able to determine that the site was a sister site, operated by the owner of www.medicaltourismbusiness.com. But the site contains no reference to the company who owns it or where they were. We determined that the site was registered from West Palm Beach, Florida. We then emailed a number of businesses that appeared to be advertising on Medical Tourism Business, asking whether they had contact and business details of the owners. And we got a response. A facilitator in Thailand responded, saying that he had paid $500 to Medical Tourism Business who promised to send him 50 patient referrals….. but, so far, he had not received a single one. He gave us the name of the company that owned the site – Zeewik LLC, based in West Palm Beach, Florida and run by a Gilliam Elliott.

So who is Gilliam Elliott? According to his LinkedIn profile, Gilliam was most recently the Senior Membership Coordinator for the Medical Tourism Association in Florida, where he states that he was "Creator of the Facilitator Start-Up Kit" and "Toured Asia and across the US marketing medical travel". Perhaps he should have spent some time researching copyright law?. We finally managed to get a response from Gilliam.... “the website was created by an independent web developer that we hired online ……. We were not aware of the origin of the information”.

Well, I’m sorry, Gilliam, that’s not a great excuse. You own the site… and you carry the can, if someone you hire to build the site (presumably at rock bottom prices) breaks the law.

Why pay for information, if you can get it for free?

A similar issue of “content theft” arose when one of our team came across a web site for a hospital in Ghana with an extensive treatments and conditions section that provided some excellent information for patients. The only problem was…. that the Intuition team in the UK had written it all! An eager content producer in Africa decided it was much quicker (and cheaper!) to cut and paste hundreds of pages from our UK site Private Healthcare UK than to go the trouble of writing new content. We finally got the content removed.

The Russian Treatment Abroad

At a conference in Turkey… as I enter the exhibition area, a business contact comes up to me and says, “Hey, Keith… I see you’ve opened a branch in Russia”. “No”, I reply. “But that’s your stand over there”, he responds. Across the exhibition, there it was…. TreatmentAbroad.ru, using an adaption of our logo, the same brand colours. Perhaps that explained why we had received a few calls in previous weeks asking about our Russian site. One patient had contacted us saying “Their managers are saying to me that they are part of treatmentabroad.com…. Is it real? Because I really trust your site and your services”.

OK, we should have registered the Russian domain perhaps, but we owned the brand. Our lawyers issued a legal letter to the Swiss and Ukrainian representatives of the company operating the Russian site. Eventually, the site owner relented, and the design was changed to reduce confusion.

Another experience of “Content theft”... dental travel to Turkey

It seems to be a recurring problem. If you write great content, you can expect it to be copied.  Another site... this time about dental travel to Turkey. We discovered a site with plenty of well written information for patients about the pro’s and con’s of Turkey as a medical tourism destination and information on the various treatments available. And… Ok, you guessed it. Where had all the information come from? Treatment Abroad!

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

... or so the saying goes. But it would be better if, once in a while, online publishers in the medical tourism sector would pay for the privilege. Gilliam will be hearing from our lawyers.

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