STOP Affiliate Commission Hijackers

Posted on December 4, 2002

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STOP Affiliate Commission Hijackers
By S. Denise Hoyle

Some affiliate industry experts and concerned webmasters have recently been voicing their opposition to a number of popular free software downloads that divert commissions away from sites actually providing affiliate traffic into the pockets of the software providers.

The software, known in affiliate circles as thief-ware, pirate- ware, steal-ware and parasite-ware, is made by close to 20 companies and is used by dozens more. Thief-ware is typically installed when a user downloads free music or file swapping software, and the consumer is generally not clearly informed that by downloading the free software they are allowing their computers to be electronically marked.

Thief-ware allows future purchases via affiliate links to be overwritten and makes them appear as if they were made through the software provider's links when they are not, and it continues to redirect commissions on all subsequent sales - even if the software is uninstalled.

Companies who provide the diversion software include Morpheus, LimeWire, Kazaa, TopMoxie and BearShare among others. The software has reportedly been downloaded by tens of millions of Internet surfers, and the makers contend that they're doing nothing wrong since users agree to their terms when they download the free software. obviously disagrees with the practice since they recently terminated Morpheus for violating its policies - great news for their 800,000+ affiliates. However other large affiliate companies, such as Commission Junction (, are so far refusing to take sides in the battle because the diversion practices have not yet been found to violate any laws.

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Some of the companies who provide the software, including LimeWire and Morpheus, say that they have provided "fixes" for the software so affiliate commissions are not inadvertently overwritten. The "fixes" supposedly allow users to choose whether to support their software provider, or in some cases earn a "rebate" or "reward" for themselves by making purchases through affiliate links and allowing the links to be overwritten with the provider's code.

Although the debate over the legality of diverting affiliate commissions continues, most webmasters who spend a great deal of time and effort fine-tuning their sites with content to attract users say the practices are unethical at best, and at worst outright theft. There is little at this point that webmasters can do to halt the practice of hijacking commissions altogether, other than voice their opinions to companies they are affiliated with and take steps within their own web sites to curb the theft.

To protect the affiliate links in your web site, and stop commission thieves in their tracks, you can disguise all of your affiliate links so they appear to be links to other pages within your site by creating a "redirection URL" for each of them. To do this, simply create a new web page that looks like this:

<META HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT="0; URL=affiliate_url">

Replace "affiliate_url" with your actual coded affiliate URL, and remove the periods at the beginning of each line that are used here for demonstration purposes. Now you will advertise your disguised affiliate links by directing visitors to your new URL:

Until there is some kind of consensus and perhaps action taken on the issue, the best way to fight back against commission hijackers is to protect your site as best you can, and inform your affiliate partners of how thief-ware hurts the small companies and sites that help make the Internet great - and depend on their affiliate income to survive.

About the Author

S. Denise Hoyle is President and co-founder of, an affiliate directory site devoted to providing links, news and information of interest to webmasters and affiliate program managers.
(c) Copyright 2002, S. Denise Hoyle. All Rights Reserved.


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