Every time we publish on the web, it’s a leap of faith. Of course, our first thought is “boy, I hope someone reads this” and not “wow, I hope someone doesn’t steal this.” But there is plenty of content theft occurring on the internet. If you're a blogger, you need to know how to protect your blog content and the steps to take if your content gets boosted.
The reason that I’m writing this is that I’ve had quite a few articles taken from my website and I’m sure that it’s happening to other writers as well. Most recently, a social media company took text directly from my blog and used it in an infographic word for word. I happened to see it on Pinterest and tried to contact them via Twitter and email. And I wrote about it, of course. This infographic has gone viral and has been posted on Social Media Today, Bit Rebels, PR Daily and Entrepreneur. I also filed a takedown notice with Google. If your content is taken per the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), you may submit a claim to Google. It’s fairly quick to complete.
The content thief didn’t respond via Twitter but several days later sent me an email saying that it was a “clerical error” and they’ve added a link to their post and adjusted the infographic. Operating with a “better to ask forgiveness” type policy is the wrong way to go with online content. Always ask permission if needed and always give credit for content that isn't yours.
I’ve found most of the people who have taken whole posts without permission from links back to my site that were in the body of the article. Make sure you’re checking your linkbacks on your posts.
For the record, had they asked, I would have gladly given them permission to use it with credit. I'm sure that there are rules for taking text to use them in graphics but I don't know what those are or if they are the same. They did take text from other websites and gave them credit on the original infographic.
Do you have a republication policy?
I have a policy on my blog and I highly suggest that you add one to yours as well. This tells people know if it’s ok for them to use your content or not. My notice clearly states: “To be clear, you do not have permission to take material from my blog and run it on yours.”
From my republication policy:
- You may publish a quote of 100 words or less from the original article with a link to the original article.
- If you republish a partial post, it must be exactly as it appears on my website with all links intact.
- Special permission needs to be granted in order to republish more than 100 words from this website. Full articles are not permitted to be republished without permission from the owner of this site.
I subsequently received an email from Google saying:
Thanks for reaching out to us.
In accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have completed processing your infringement notice. The following URLs will be removed from Google’s search results in a few hours:
Please let us know if we can assist you further.
Yes, another reason to love the Google gods!
The person who took my content then contacted me to see if I would have this lifted by Google since they added a link to my website. I have not done this since I feel that they didn’t respect my intellectual property or the copyright laws and they shouldn’t be rewarded for making a small amends once they were caught.
How you can protect your blog content
- Create a reposting or permission policy on your blog. I used this as a guideline:
- You agree to publish a quote or excerpt of, at maximum, 100 words from the original article.
- You agree to republish the partial post exactly as it appears on this website with the proper formatting and all links intact.
- Check your linkbacks to your blog to make sure your content isn’t being taken without your permission.
- You can try a website like Copyscape to check for plagiarism.
What to do if your content is taken? Of course, you can ignore as some writers do but why? That's your intellectual property. Contact the website owner via Twitter, email, phone or whatever method you can find. One person ignored all my communications but received a phone call from me. Yes, he was surprised and yes, he removed my copy when I insisted. His excuse was “that it takes a long time to write on a blog so he just likes to take content from other sites and give them a link.” Seriously? No.
I hope you won't need it but if you need to file a takedown notice with Google. You can file a DMCA takedown notice with Google but if the stolen content is on WordPress, file one here: Automattic DMCA Notice. Also, please note that I am NOT an attorney and this isn't legal advice. Read the whole legal agreement before completing it and signing it.
Have you dealt with content theft from your website? How have you handled it?
P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter here
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How to File a DMCA Takedown Notice by Sara Hawkins
What to do When Your Online Content is Copied by Sara Hawkins
Photo credit Stocksy and BigStock Photos.