SEO

Stolen Content – What’s a blogger to do?

Catch content thieves
Content theft is a problem on the web. First you catch them, then . . .

Every web site owner or blogger will face the issue of content stolen from them and posted on another site. Whether it’s scrapers who use software to “scrape” text off of web sites for use on spammy made-for-Adsense sites or an S E O-wannabe copying that article you worked so hard on and posting it on his blog as his own creation, content theft is an unfortunate fact on the web these days.

For instance, content from The Web Optimist is permitted for use on any of the iEntry network of sites, including WebProNews and SearchNewz (See WebOptimist.com becomes iEntry Blog Partner). I also submit many of my articles to article directories where they can be used on other sites or blogs with the condition that my byline and bio be included.

So, I don’t have a problem sharing my content. I do, however, have a problem with idiots who take the articles, cut any mention of the original author and post the piece to their blog. This has happened to me more than once. Most recently, a blogger claiming to be a senior
S E O in India pulled the 40 Quick S E O Tips, Part One from WebProNews, removed my byline and bio and posted it to his Blogger.com blog.

First, Blogger.com is a nice place to start, but a serious SEO would quickly be annoyed by the limitations of a blog service and move on to a self-hosted system like WordPress. This guy might just be playing with Blogger.com because there were only two posts on the blog (including my stolen article).

Second, that’s still my article!

The unfortunate thing (other than having your content swiped) is that it can be very difficult to do anything about it. Complaining to the web service provider or search engine might not do it. For instance, Blogger.com states in their Terms of Service:

Please note that Blogger is not in a position to arbitrate issues regarding ownership of content; however, Blogger does comply with the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

They then lead you to a Google page of information for filing a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) violation. Reading that page is like reading the info page that comes with a prescription drug. After reading about all of the possible side effects, you don’t know if you want to take that pill or not. Such is the DMCA pill, which is supposed to be our prescription against content theft.

This is typical of how the major search engines handle stolen content complaints.

So, what’s a blogger to do?

First you have to catch them.

If you are running a WordPress blog, check the backlinks that show up by default in the control panel. It is under Incoming Links and shows the most recent links back to your WordPress blog. Check those every day. I have caught more than one culprit who thought he had removed all of the links back to me, but only cut out the anchor text, leaving the link code in the raw HTML. That’s enough for the link back to you to be reported.

Second, sign up for Google Alerts for your main keywords, domain name and site name. Every day Google will send you a notice of the latest mentions of any of those that it has discovered to your e-mail box. I caught that latest infraction from the guy in India through Google Alerts. This so-called senior S E O also stripped out the anchor text, but left the link code to my blog in his raw HTML. Duh…

Another simple way to track down your content is to simply take a phrase from your article, say a dozen words, and do a search with the phrase in quotes. You’ll get a search page listing all sites where that exact phrase shows up that you can check through for theft.

Now, contact the perpetrators by e-mail or through a comment on their blog and let them know they’ve been caught stealing. Most of the time they’ll respond with a “Gee, sorry. I didn’t mean to…” and either remove the content from their blog or site or add your bio and backlink.

No response? You could try sending them a letter from an attorney. I’m not a lawyer, but that would get my attention!

If that doesn’t work, well, then you move on to the DMCA filing. Yes, it’s a hassle and requires a lot of information, including your original posting date, proof of ownership, where and when the perpetrator posted your stolen content, etc. which has to be signed and submitted by regular mail. As far as I am concerned, it’s your final option, but it can and (frequently) does work.

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One thought on “Stolen Content – What’s a blogger to do?

  1. First off, I am very sorry to hear that this has happened to you and I want to offer to help. If there is anything I can do, please just drop me a line. I’ll gladly do what I can.

    Before that though, I want to offer a few suggestions.

    First, consider using either CopyFeed or the Digital Fingerprint plugin to add a unique fingerprint to your content. It is easy to do and makes your work much easier to search for.

    Second, while we’re on the subject of plugins, look again at Copyfeed and at Antileech as plugins that can outright prevent scraping, at least in some cases.

    Third, a DMCA notice really isn’t that hard. I have a stock letter on my site you are completely free to use. It is a piece of cake, the only thing is that Google requires a handwritten signature though the law itself does not.

    You can get around that by creating a PDF of the notice, with your scanned signature, and sending it to amac at google dot com. I’ve done it a few times successfully and recommend that as the fastest route.

    Finally, there is little need to get a lawyer involved in the vast majority of cases. It can be a huge hassle, very expensive and almost never brings any financial return. It’s an option that’s available and appropriate in many cases, but in over 600 of my own, I haven’t found one yet…

    Hope that this helps and that you’ll let me know if there is anything I can do!

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