One of the most aggravating things that could happen to a writer is to have someone steal their original content and use it for their own purposes. As detestable as blog content theft is, it’s surprisingly very prevalent. Content theft is threatening the livelihood of literally tens of millions of creative people worldwide. Bandits are brazenly stealing people’s creative work and re-posting it to receive ad revenue. Many are also plagiarizing and using other people’s words or ideas without giving credit. Fortunately, you don’t have to take this sitting down. There are several things you can do to both protect yourself and to bring the infringing site down. Below are the five best step-by-step suggestions for dealing with the scourge currently menacing writers with great content.
1. Protect Yourself
There are certain things writers and bloggers should know when it comes to publishing work. One of those things to know is that the very second you publish original work, you own it and it is entitled to protection. If it’s original work, more than likely you have the first publishing date and your ownership of the content is legally recognized. However, it’s always best to copyright your published work legitimately. Even though you are already entitled to protection, having your work registered with the Library of Congress is always best because it’s much easier and conducive to take action if things get ugly.
Couthless thieves are salivating over good content more than ever. If you have a popular blog that attracts attention, it might be in your best interest to copyright it just in case you ever have to go to war. If a situation arose in which you needed to get someone to cease and desist using your material, there’d be nothing to investigate. When your work is registered, your will must be obeyed by all in a speedy fashion. You’re still protected even if you haven’t registered your work, but registering your work with an official copyright is an ironclad form of added protection. With a copyright, anyone with any semblance of your work easily goes down in flames.
With or without copyright registration, it’s also a good idea to mention somewhere on your pages that you do not wish to have you work republished without your permission. The most official message is the following:
No part of this website may be reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without permission of John Smith.
Copyright 2010 John Smith. All Rights Reserved.
Although thieves may steal your content anyway, this discourages a good many of them. It makes it clear that you are aware of your copyright protection and that you’re serious. It also stops the people who don’t know or understand that it would be copyright infringement to use portions of your content. Believe it or not, some people are that clueless.
Registering your work is easier and cheaper than most people think. There are many sites that offer assistance but they tack on a lot of money and you could easily do it yourself. The best way to copyright your work is to do it directly with the Library of Congress for only $35 a pop. Go to eco.copyright.gov for instant online filing.
Register Your Work Easy
- Electronic Copyright Office (eCO)
- Library of Congress Home
The Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, and it serves as the research arm of Congress. It is also the largest library in the world, with more than 120 million items. The collections includ
2. Set Booby Traps
There are lots of awesome ideas to prevent content thieves from scraping your material. There are so many resources out there that prevent content scrapers from stealing your work, or if nothing else, make it extremely difficult. There are even codes you could implement that can make a THIS SITE CONTAINS STOLEN CONTENT banner pop up when scrapers try to copy your work and post it elsewhere. One blog written by Chris Dyson, offered so many useful ideas and tips for that sort of thing that instead of reproducing them here, I decided to just provide the link to the author’s page. You can find very helpful tips in the link provided below.
- 7 Tips and Tools to Stop Content Thieves in their Tracks
Are you sick of people copying your content without your permission or attribution? Plagiarism has been an issue on the web for years and with every new generation of bloggers come another group of lazy people who are prepared just to copy your content.
3. Check Your Work
The next step in dealing with content thieves is to know they exist. It’s extremely easy to find out if someone is stealing your work and there are many helpful sites that can assist you to find content theft for free.
You could find infringements on your own by searching sentences from your content. If you’re notified of infringements or discover it on your own, chances are you have good material noticed by both people who appreciate your content and by thieves. If you have been copied once, chances are there are more so it’d be a good idea to search diligently using multiple resources.
I most frequently use copyscape.com and dmca.com. The more sites you use the better because different sites show you different search results. It’s a good idea to widen the net as much as possible. I’m not sure why, but different sites showed me a completely different set of blog thieves who copied the same article.
I caught up to 16 thieves using four different resources. It’s very flattering in a way, but “no bueno.” Not only are these fiends stealing content and profiting, they could also be affecting your internet traffic using your own work against you. It’s a crime that’s beyond shameful and you need to be proactive about it. Scan your work using these sites and if you’re copied or plagiarized, rest assured it will be found. Once you find the infringements, make a list of all the URL’s and get ready to get to work.
- Copyscape Plagiarism Checker – Duplicate Content Detection Software
Copyscape is a free plagiarism checker. The software lets you detect duplicate content and check if your articles are original.
- DMCA Protection & Takedown Services
DMCA.com is the #1 provider of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Takedown Services & Website Content Protection tools.
4. Decide Who Stays and Who Goes
Believe it or not, not all blog thieves are hurting you. Some could unwittingly be helping you in search engines. In one case, a guy took my caption about a boxer word-for-word, but he referenced me as the author and had a link to my site attached beneath. Although he did not ask my permission, I let his blog stay because that’s how it should be done. Generating traffic for himself with my caption referenced and linked back to me could also generate traffic for me too. Nor is he taking credit for the content. He took captions other people have written and compiled it together under his own themes. In each caption he credited the original author and provided the original URL link. I don’t consider it blog theft if a person only uses a portion of the content, credits the author and provides a link to the original.
In another instance, someone copied and pasted my content but the page listed me as the author. His page most likely doesn’t affect me negatively in search engines. And even though it was unauthorized and directs traffic elsewhere, I didn’t mind too much because it was about the message. The content scraper believed in what I wrote and I believe he reposted it to share the message. For that particular hub, that’s why I wrote it and not necessarily for money. If someone is moved by something and reposts it to share it, it’s my belief that that in and of itself has value. I let this instance slide because, again, I don’t believe anyone was trying to steal credit, but it was about sharing an ideology. Perhaps he should’ve provided a link to my domain which he would’ve known if he’d asked permission first. Regardless, I let it be.
Don’t be too hasty to get a site removed until you have analyzed the content and you understand how it helps or hurts you. Once you are certain of blatant unauthorized use of your material for which you are not being credited and another entity is profiting, it’s time to take action. As soon as you discover your work augmented or published somewhere else, your copyright rights are being disavowed; something that belongs to you is being unjustly taken and used for someone else’s benefit and it’s time to lock and load.
5. Go In For The Kill
Most sites offering advice suggest contacting the thief, content editor, website master, or the domain owner first but I strongly disagree. You can also send a “cease and desist” letter or email and await their compliance, but you can do better than that. If someone stole your car you don’t go to great lengths to find out who the person is, then give the thief a call to say, “Hello, I believe you stole my vehicle and I’d like to discuss its safe return with you.” No, you call the police and bring them down. You should treat content theft no different. I actually tried to contact the editor and website contact at a few sites, including The Deccan Chronicle, a site that known or unknown to them has stolen material, including mine. And surprise, surprise, no one did anything or responded to me. So, again, I would suggest doing what you need to do to get the page down with or without notifying the culprits.
I like to think outside of the box. When you skip the preliminary cordial formalities of trying to contact webmasters and go straight to content removal, it will begin to change many things in the long run for the better. Also, blog thieves rest comfortably assuming that they’re okay until someone contacts them. When blog thieves begin to realize that their accounts can get zapped at any minute without warning for stolen content, they will not rest comfortably and many will decide not to do it in the first place.
In some instances the webmaster may not even be aware that they are harboring stolen content, but let that be their problem, not yours. When webmasters are affected, maybe they’ll start being proactive and begin to set standards for content submissions and ask questions like, I don’t know. How about “Is this yours?” For instance, you can’t monetize anything on YouTube without first proving you own the copyright or have permission. Webmasters need to catch up and start doing the same.
Your original material is something you probably worked hard on. There should be an understood social sanctity to original work. It belongs to you and only you, and the people who took it know exactly what they have done. I strongly suggest taking the most severe measures immediately. Most blog scrapers are despicable simpletons with no class or integrity. If they had any, they wouldn’t be stealing your content. Who copies and pastes someone else’s work and reposts it as their own to get money? What respectable site gets notified of illegal content and decides to do nothing? Copyright infringement is a crime. For the principle, go in for the kill. All criminals need to know there is a penalty for any crime. If people insist on stealing content and web hosts insist on not holding content posters to any verification standards, it should be with the understanding that it’s at their own risk. So let the guillotine blade fall.
In life you learn that there are some people who are not to be messed with, and I consider myself one of them. With one particular blog thief, I compiled the undeniable evidence of his infringement. Even if the thief attempts to change the content, you can print or save the page as a PDF as it is. With this evidence, their only recourse would be full admission and deletion. After an hour of digging around on my laptop, I found out the name of the person responsible. I also found his personal Facebook page, his twitter account, and then I found out where he worked. He had various pseudonyms that all traced back to him and many of them could be seen in postings on his twitter and Facebook pages. He was recently married and just had a beautiful baby boy, by the way. That isn’t very nice to start a family, raising children while secretly engaging in unprincipled illegal activity, but I digress. Ironically, to my surprise, the clown worked at a school in the computer department. As a societal duty, I think the institution that he worked for should be privy to the questionable extracurricular activities of some of their staff. I’m of the belief system that people who steal literature from other people and repost it as their own should not be working in an educational environment. It’s unethical and it shouldn’t ever be tolerated. Unbeknownst to him, one of my first jobs in college was an online Anti-Piracy Researcher for the Harry Fox Agency. Reeling him in and contemplating the various possibilities of his public embarrassment and exposure was somewhat enjoyable.
I thought about giving him a break for an entire two minutes, but then I came back to my senses. I spent hours researching for my hubs. I worked extremely hard on my content and he’s a thief who stole it selfishly to make himself easy money. This is happening to so many people in so many industries and he has probably done it to others. There’s something wrong with him. It’s blatant robbery that should be socially discouraged with consequences. People who decide to do such things should be made examples of for the principle, so off with his head.
I won’t suggest you do the things I’ve done. That’s just me and my idiosyncrasies, but here’s what you should do. If you left click in the upper right-hand corner of any web page there should be a list of options that come up. If you use Google Chrome for example, there should be an option that says “tools.” Under “tools,” there should be another option that says “report an issue.” Here you can report the issue to Google that your content has been stolen. It will ask you to provide the URL where the content scraper stole your work as well as the URL to the thief’s site. Google will then investigate the copyright infringement and bring the page down. This is an easy first step to getting the site removed. After about two weeks, I was able to shut down four sites this way. You can also file a copyright infringement report with the DMCA. Just provide the information and they will get to work on it. I’ll provide the link below.
Another way to bring these sites down is to sign up with one of several sites that help you protect your content. Many of them are in existence and are very helpful. I signed up with dmca.com. This site gives you a “DMCA Protected” banner for your webpages. With this banner, dmca.com can track anyone who attempts to scrape your work and they notify you and take action. They have some services that are free or you can sign up for membership for only $10 a month. There are several other resources, sites and information that you may find helpful.
There are several other sites and resources, both free and for a fee, that will assist you in tackling copyright infringements, so take full advantage. If a blog that was stolen from you is outperforming you or there is big money involved, I strongly suggest getting professional legal assistance.
Most importantly, don’t wait. Take copyright infringement very seriously and do not rest until the site is removed or punitive action is brought to fruition. You can do it yourself which may take longer or hire a service that will act swiftly. You are not powerless in this situation. No matter how sneaky a thief is, absolutely everything can be traced to an entity. If this has happened to you, it’s easy and quick to find out where it is and who did it. What you decide to do next is entirely up to you. With several resources available and the law on your side, have a ball.
DMCA Site Removal
- Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools provides you with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google.
Infringement Regarding Photography
This is a difficult one for a variety of reasons. Artists and photographers have a tougher time than writers regarding content theft. I also search for pictures and many are my own. Some I have purchased, some I’ve gotten permission to use, and many I have no idea who owns them. Many pictures are floating around the internet unattached to an entity. On one particular site, I tried to ask permission to use a photo and then I learned the website host didn’t own the pictures either and had no idea who did. This is why I strongly suggest notgoing in for the kill when it comes to photography infringements. Many people just don’t know who owns what or how the rules apply regarding photography.
If you’re a photographer, it’s a good idea to watermark your photos. It will help you track them down wherever they float, and the aforementioned sites offer those services as well. If you see your photos used without your permission and you object, definitely contact the person using the photo first. Do not take extreme actions prematurely. Most unauthorized use of photos is unintentional. If the person doesn’t comply with your instructions for using the photos after you’ve contacted them, then proceed to take action. A person is entitled to have his original blog up and a page doesn’t deserve to be taken down for photos that could easily be removed or properly credited. Use the resources and links provided as it may prove helpful in protecting your photography.
- How to find out if your images are being used online
Find out if your images are being used online in 3 clicks and make sure you are not infringing on copyright when you are using the images you find online.
Things That Should Be Done
We should take blog content theft seriously for a variety of reasons. As the years go by, our reliance on the internet increases. Simultaneously, different scams and crimes become more prevalent as things evolve and technology changes. As internet crimes increase, punishment should be very stern for the principle and to set the precedent for discouragement early. Ruthless blog thieves aren’t thinking about what they’re actually doing in the right light. Because there is less human interaction, the psychology of what these people are doing hasn’t caught up to many of them. The fact that they are stealing and doing something terribly wrong is not as real to them as, say, snatching a purse from an old lady. Because they never see their victims, people psychologically have less of a conscience when it comes to committing internet crimes. This has got to change.
I worked on one particular hub for several weeks, day and night. There were hours upon hours of research committed. I checked the article over and over to make sure that it was just right. I tried to make sure that it was informative and entertaining while writing, deleting and rewriting captions incessantly. Finally, upon its release, it became another one of my articles to receive Editor’s Choice accolades for which I was very proud. After all that diligent work, someone saw it, then copied and pasted it onto their own blog page to get money and traffic for themselves. It’s money being stolen and diverted. This is loathsome criminal activity that should have strict punitive action. People that do this need to learn that it’s extremely dishonorable, nor is it worth it in the end. People who do this should have their sites deleted, their money earned abdicated, be forced to pay a fine and be banned indefinitely from Google analytic searches. If this is done to each and every collared blog thief, we would start to see a huge decrease in online criminal activity.
Hosting sites should have people identify themselves sufficiently to webmasters and have them swear or verify that they are the authors, or that they have permission for the content they submit. Where there is money you can’t trust people. YouTube found this out early and made necessary changes. Sites that host content submissions should start to do the same. It would decrease copyright infringements at an unbelievable rate.
Another thing that should be implemented is automatic legal punitive action taken against anyone proven guilty of copyright infringement. If someone is making money off of a site for which they stole content, they can’t claim ignorance. The content doesn’t belong to them and they know exactly what they were trying to pull. And like any crime, punishment is in order. Law enforcement should agree on a standard course of action for infringement. When Google, the DMCA, or an independent entity discovers an infraction, it shouldn’t just stop at site removal. The infraction should automatically be reported to authorities who would then move into action. I’m a firm believer in fighting criminal activity wherever it exists. By “criminal activity” I mean real criminal activity in all of its varying forms. I don’t mean people smoking weed, or johns paying for prostitutes, or the countless other things people get in trouble for but shouldn’t. I mean people who are doing something wrong to another person. Most of us have a good sense of morals and would never resort to things of this nature. Unfortunately, however, many people do not have a good sense of morals and laws are needed to control people who are unable to control themselves. “Thou Shall Not Steal.” Those who are unable to respect what belongs to someone else should expect the punishment they deserve.
In bullet form, the following should happen to content thieves:
Banned From Google
Reported To Authorities / Pay A Fine
Require Bloggers To Declare Ownership To Webhosts
Making A Difference
I don’t believe in just letting things happen to me. I believe in using the things that happen to me help other people. With that said, I think I unconventionally convinced at least one content thief out of the business of content thievery. Using unorthodox methods, there might actually be more but who’s counting. Anyway, it’s much bigger than content theft for me. It’s a very complex world out there and there is a constant battle between good and evil. There are people who are agents of good and there are people who are lost and consumed in negative practices in every aspect of life. Of course there are more serious infractions than copyright infringement, but it still manifests a contaminated thought system that should be opposed. A person that would steal someone else’s original creation to make money speaks volumes about who that person is and I don’t want them to succeed in victimizing anyone else. And sometimes, even good-natured people fall into negativity and need a good stern redirecting out of negligibility. I consider it one of my duties in this gift of life to be an agent of good to the best of my abilities, and as problematic to those contributing negativity as much as possible wherever negativity exists. Even when it comes to copyright infringement, and I’ll explain why.
I enjoy this extraordinary ability to communicate with the world that I never knew was possible as a child. I’m also thankful and appreciative of my voice and knack for writing. And I appreciate and applaud anyone who is creating things that other people are learning from, being entertained by or appreciating for whatever reason. To each of them I say keep up the good work. However, I have nothing but disdain for entities that desecrate this gift of speech and ability to communicate with their selfish and trifling schemes that cause online contributors to become victimized and annoyed.
I write music and I write literature. I’d like to live in a world where people can share what they make without soulless bandits stealing things and removing it from the author whose passion or talent created it. With that said, I hope this hub was helpful for anyone experiencing the nuisance of copyright infringement. Our voice is one of the most important things we have in life. A person’s words should never be taken, separated from the speaker, plagiarized, or exploited in any way, shape or form. We as a people have social values to uphold. We have a social obligation to show our intolerance for thieves pirating people’s creative projects and especially their speech. With this hub being one of many more to come, I will continue to do whatever I can to protect the always important sanctity of the written word.
Should Bloggers Declare Ownership Before Publishing?
Similar to YouTube, should bloggers be required to identify themselves and affirm that they either own the copyright or have permission to use the content they submit?