I know hubpages prohibits writers from having duplicate content. My problem is understanding what that exactly means. I heard from many that it means writers can't publish content here that already exists elsewhere, but can publish here first and then publish it elsewhere. My concern is if I were to write articles here, but someone were to steal it a week later and publish it on his site, would my article be flagged as duplicate content and be unpublished as a result? If so, doesn't that hurt hubpages by discouraging writers to publish anything here?
No, provided you published the article first, you won't be penalised by HubPages if someone steals it.
However yes, it does discourage writers from publishing here now.
Theft of articles has always been an issue on HubPages, but in the site's heyday it was worth the hassle because the earnings potential on HP was so great regardless. Now that traffic and earnings are less impressive, that tradeoff becomes more debatable.
So, if a site steals my content, hubpages doesn't require that I get it to remove the content (provided it was published here first)? I've heard people say they had to file DMCA complaints, but is it because hubpages requires them to do so or because hubpage writers choose to?
It is because the writer wishes to protect their work and because they wish to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. Encouraging thieves by allowing stolen material to remain published can only hurt the community as a whole.
But in reference to your OP, you cannot publish here and then publish the same thing somewhere else. Outside of stolen material, HP does require that the material on the site be unique to this site, and if you re-publish elsewhere it is no longer unique.
You don't have to file a complaint; it's up to you. Often, it's hard to do unless you can find the offending site's contact info (the "file complaint" button, next to where HP tells you the link of the stolen content, only works if they can link it, but if not, they provide suggestions on what to do). I've had a number of articles scraped, and I've been able to get some sites to remove stolen content, but it takes a lot of time. It's aggravating but there is little that you can really do to prevent it and Google has never been much help. I had an instance once where I had republished on HP, an article that I'd previously published on Suite101. Suite was gone, which left the piece mine again for republishing. But shortly after I republished, I was tagged for duplicate content because another site had previously stolen my words verbatim from the Suite article. Because I always keep PDF copies of my work and have the original copyright date (of the Suite article), HP noted that the original work was mine (they reversed the plag-flag) and published the article. Lesson learned. There are a few others I wrote for Suite that I wanted to republish on HP, but that info was stolen by a number of sites and I knew it would be a nightmare to deal with. Copyscape will help you find and determine what to do.
BTW al, just so it's clear, you can publish your original work on HubPages, but if you want to publish it somewhere else, be sure and delete it from HubPages first. Also, sometimes the DMCA notification of infringement generated for you might also include the email address to send the DMCA notification to if it's in HP's growing database of offending sites (oftentimes, though, it's unknown to HP.
It looks like everyone here agrees that it's not a problem if someone steals a hubpages writer's content, and hubpages writers are not required to file a DMCA complaint. However, if hubpages doesn't allow a person to publish here first and then republish elsewhere but has no problem with content being stolen, how does hubpages tell the difference between what is stolen material and what is not? If I publish here first and then elsewhere, how would hubpages know whether it's stolen or simply republished by me elsewhere?
Since you must delete your Hub before you publish it elsewhere, HubPages won't know and won't care. If you don't delete it and publish it elsewhere then, yes, HubPages is going to care. If you want to have your article on HubPages, you can't have it somewhere else at the same time.
How does hubpages determine if a hubpages writer is republishing their content elsewhere or if others are stealing a hubpages writer's content? That's what I don't understand. Am I flagged and then have to explain to hubpages that my work has been stolen? Or do they have ways to detect what is stolen and what is republished by the hubpages writer? I don't want to write articles here only to have it stolen and have hubpages assume it's me who is the one republishing it elsewhere.
People are misleading you slightly.
The rule is this: when you publish a Hub on HubPages, it MUST be original material, not already published elsewhere.
However, once your Hub is published, it's an honour system. You must not republish your work anywhere else, BUT HubPages will not penalise you for it, because it doesn't have the resources to check every copy to see whether it's yours or a thief. However, it's a pointless thing to do, because it won't do you any good.
When you publish an article in multiple places, Google simply assesses all the copies and chooses ONE to include in the search results. The risk is that Google will choose the one with less earnings potential, so it's always best to choose the best place for the article and publish it there (and nowhere else).
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