There are no official figures, but anecdotally, almost every content producer knows someone who’s had their content ripped off.
Someone copies all or part of their article, and passes it off as their own, in a practice known as content scraping.
Much of the content that is scraped is copyrighted material, and copying it without the author’s permission is against the law.
This means the victims of content theft are not powerless, and most cases are easy to resolve.
What is Content Theft?
Whenever someone uses your content or images without giving you proper credit, they are breaking the law. Common examples include:
- Republishing entire pages of your blog post, article, or ebook on another website
- Quoting or copying extracts of your content without attribution
- Slightly changing or “spinning” your article so that it fools plagiarism checkers, but the final copy is clearly based on your original work
- Copying or modifying your images, photographs, or logos (unless you have declared them free for the public and commercial enterprises to use under some form of creative commons license).
You don’t have to do anything to claim copyright. If you write web content, it’s automatically protected by law.
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How to Find Out If your Content Has Been Stolen
Set up a Google alert for each piece of content that you produce, and Google will send you an email every time someone mentions the information in that content. To create an alert, go to https://www.google.com/alerts and insert the title or a key phrase from your article.
Choose how often you’d like to receive the alerts and input your email address so Google can contact you with the results.
The Internet is full of plagiarism scanners, some free, and some with paid options. Of these, Copyscape and Grammarly are probably the best known. Copy and paste your original content into the plagiarism scanner, and the technology will return a list of all the places where your content appears.
Another option is to copy and paste small sections of your content into a search engine such as Google. The search engine will search for copies of the text for you. To detect plagiarized images, try TinEye.com or a Google Images search.
How to Deal with Content Scrapers
1. Send the offender an email
Before you call the lawyers, try resolving the dispute amicably.
Many websites display a contact address so you can get in touch with the website owner and let them know they are using your content without permission.
You will need to send proof of the scraping, such as a screenshot of the offending content or the result of your plagiarism check.
In the majority of cases, a mildly threatening email is enough to get the content taken down.
Surprisingly, some people don’t understand that content on the Internet is not free. The chances are, your content thief will not even realize they are violating copyright laws.
2. Cease and desist letter
State that the offender is breaking the law and warn of legal action should the stolen content not be removed by a specified deadline.
If there’s still no response, it might be time to contact a lawyer.
3. The DMCA takedown
It only applies in the USA, but the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) contains stipulations requiring online service providers (OSPs) to assist copyright holders whenever they are alerted of a copyright infringement.
The OSP itself could be held liable for the content theft if they refuse to help you, so filing a DMCA complaint is a pretty powerful tool.
Google makes filing a DMCA complaint relatively straightforward.
Head over to Google webmaster tools and follow the onscreen instructions. Once Google understands that you are the creator of the content, they should remove the stolen content from their search services.
This means that your content will receive the page rankings, since the offender’s site will be de-listed. Filing a DMCA with Google can be a lengthy process, but it is effective.
Website hosting companies are also on the ball when it comes to DMCA complaints. Most well-known web hosting companies have DMCA forms on their website. If you aren’t sure whom to contact, use the website WhoIsHostingThis.com to get the information you need.
Non-U.S. hosts are not affected by the DMCA, but most of them are subject to similar copyright protection laws. Web hosts in Europe, Canada, and most Asian countries are usually quick to take down the offending page as soon as they learn of a copyright infringement.[tweetthis]Great Article from Lori Ballen about Content Theft. Check it out.[/tweetthis]
Do this by contacting the content pirates and notifying them of the copyright violation per step one above.
Only this time, invite them to pay you a one-time fee to reprint the post on their website, or suggest that they hire you to write a unique article on a similar topic. If you’re feeling bullish, you could even send a PayPal invoice alongside the email.
Does this approach work? That depends on the content scraper. If the website owner never realized they were doing anything wrong, your email might embarrass them into paying up or giving you some business. Score!
If you are feeling particularly indignant, or suspect that the scraper is a serial offender, you might alert any advertisers on the offending website of the stolen content.
Most reputable advertisers will not wish to be associated with illegally obtained content, and may withdraw their sponsorship. This is usually enough to kill off the content scraper’s website.
One final point: it’s easy to wake up angry after a copyright infringement, and you may be set for some e-revenge.
However, publicly outing the content thief could ultimately lead to legal action being taken against you for defamation.
Stay calm and avoid the public shaming.
There may be opportunities to tell your story after the transgression has been resolved.