So Your Article Has Been Copied and Reposted Elsewhere

A few weeks ago a curious thing happened - one of my articles got an inexplicable spike in traffic, with no correlation to current events, holidays or astronomical occurrences. Not a huge spike, but it accounted for nearly half of the total views.

Intrigued, I googled the title, thinking someone must have linked or shared it on social media, and that's when I found it - my words, my pictures, even the poll capsule! - copied in its entirety on some paranormal blog (which shall remain nameless), and even assigned a new author.

WTF??
WTF?? | Source

To be clear, that wasn't the source of my sudden traffic surge - the article was copied over a year ago. Besides, the tiny back-link was at the very end of the verbatim piece, I doubt anyone ever clicked on it because why?

It was there symbolically, so the site administrators could say: hey, we're not stealing, we linked it back to you. Or maybe they just copied everything without thinking.

Either way, I was pissed. Maybe a more enlightened soul would have been completely unfazed or even flattered, but I felt wronged. I felt like when someone cuts in front of you in line, or when you hold a door open, and someone just walks through it without as much as acknowledging you with a nod.

I immediately wrote them a polite but rather annoyed email requesting to either delete my content or keep a snippet of it with a link back to the source.

The next day I received a short and unapologetic reply: "The article has been removed."

No explanation, no "Sincerely yours," not even "Best wishes." Fine, I'll take what I can get. At least they responded quickly and did what I've asked them to do.

Some people think copying is OK as long as you give credit to the author. Not so! Reproducing without permission is still copyright infringement.
Some people think copying is OK as long as you give credit to the author. Not so! Reproducing without permission is still copyright infringement. | Source

Not All Thieves Are Created Equal

But it made me think: how many more of my articles had been stolen without me knowing about it? And how many of those are not easily taken down?

Sure enough, I found more of my content apparitions all over the web, sometimes attributed to me, sometimes not, but always republished verbatim.

After the initial shock wore off, I considered my options. To track and pursue every violator would take up so much time, and I would rather be writing than chasing people who steal my writing. But to do nothing would mean encouraging the thieves, implicitly supporting the rampant plagiarism online, not to mention losing traffic and ranking.

I also considered that not all the infringers are acting on intentional malice. Some believe that they're doing you a favor by re-posting your article and are genuinely surprised when they receive your "unfriendly" email with the request to take it down. These are scrapers - people who reproduce your content without permission.

Plagiarizers are a different breed. They knowingly steal your work and pass it off as their own. And although they can be reasoned with via email (like in my case), they are generally less inclined to be cooperative. Dealing with these rascals requires more forbidding measures like contacting the hosting company, filing a DMCA complaint, or reporting to Adsense if they have google ads on their website(s).

I continue taking the infringers down, one by one, but there's not enough hours in a day to get each and every one. The rest of you anonymous Internet content snatchers - read the letter below.

What to Do When Someone Steals Your Content

1. Some bloggers recommend doing nothing at all. There will always be theft on the Internet. Tilting at windmills is time-consuming and futile. It might not be worth the effort, especially if your content is ranking higher than the duplicate.

2. Send a polite email (most websites will have an email listed on their contact info page). This is the least invasive way to deal with online theft. In the best case scenario, they'll apologize and take it down immediately. In the worst case, they'll ignore it or try to turn the tables on you.

3. Send a "Cease and Desist" letter. The template can be found here. Sometimes the "legalese" is enough to scare the thieves straight.

4. If your content is still up after you've made an effort to resolve the issue peacefully, report the bastards to their hosting company. In my experience, this is the most efficient way of dealing with unresponsive plagiarizers, especially if you suspect that their website is built entirely on stolen content. The hosting company will either remove your article, or shut down the website altogether.

5. Another option is to file the Google DMCA complaint. If you can prove that you are the original author, they'll remove the duplicate content from Google search results. The downside of that is, your article will still remain on the offending website, accessible through internal site search or other search engines.

Dear Plagiarizers!

So you started a blog and you desperately need content to fill it up, so you can actually start making money with AdSense.

You figure, the best way to go about it is to comb the Internet for articles on your topic and copy the ones that match your niche from more or less obscure sources, i.e. other aspiring bloggers like you, content mills, article-sharing sites etc.

Stop! In the name of copyright infringement laws. See, just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's free-for-all.

You may think that because you put a tiny-weeny link at the end of the copied article, it makes it OK. You may even think that you're doing the original author a favor by providing a link, but what you're actually doing is creating duplicate content that can hurt both yours and the author's search engine rankings.

What you might want to do instead is:

  • post a snippet of an article you like with a link back to the source
  • ask the author if you may repost their content with clear attribution - they may just give you the permission in exchange for credit/exposure
  • ask other bloggers in your niche to write a guest post
  • use other people's work as inspiration to write your own content, rather than an invitation to steal
  • have respect for the hard work that goes into creating anything of substance, be it writing, photography or art
  • if you are using someone else's material and making money off of it, have the decency to offer the creator a monetary compensation.

Bottom Line

Whether you're just scraping (copying the content verbatim with all the links) or plagiarizing (passing someone else's work as your own), it's unethical at best and illegal at worst. Give credit where credit is due and learn to respect other people's creative property.

P.S. In case it's not clear, this article is copyrighted and cannot be used without my permission and an appropriate credit.

POLL: Had Your Content Ever Been Stolen?

And if so, what did you do?

See results without voting

© 2016 Lana Zakinov

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Comments 22 comments

jmark13 profile image

jmark13 11 months ago from Dallas

Back in the Bubblews days, that happened to me a few times and so I sent an email to have it removed. Luckily a lot of fellow bubblewers told me about it. As a content guy myself, I've only copied creative commons licensed stuff that I think is good and will probably be something I will cite in the future or link back to. In searching for creative commons work, I did find one site which said they were enforcing their fair use rights to some of the stuff they posted, which I thought was pretty ballsy, and they were a pretty legit news site too. But to their credit I think that was for stuff that didn't make their copyright clear.

On a similar subject, I am more focused on not only using CC licensed material but also tagging my content with varying CC licenses as a revolutionary tactic against the news services, a final nail in the media source coffin perhaps, where they end up submitting to the licensing too? That'll be the day, right? By the way, you should also go after whoever took shots of your right eye for the recommended hub ads above.


wilderness profile image

wilderness 11 months ago from Boise, Idaho

I disagree that doing nothing is a reasonable course. The only time that even might be acceptable is in the case of Chinese theft, or some other country that does not recognize internet theft or police their citizens.

Allowing theft to continue without action can only encourage it and make it grow - thieves must be curtailed whenever possible to maintain even a modicum of control.

In most cases (and I've had hundreds) the first response is a DMCA to the web host. "Cease and desist" letters don't scare thieves at all - at most they will remove the stolen material simply to prevent further actions by you. But web hosts can and will close entire sites for stealing material, causing the thief to start fresh. I've seen a group of hubbers chase a thief all over the internet, closing nearly a dozen sites before the thief finally disappeared and quit stealing hubs.

And finally, contacting the government can be of help; one thief that stole from me and used an unscrupulous and thieving host as well was finally shut down by their own government after I complained there. The Netherlands, as I recall.

So don't do nothing; stand up for your rights and do your part to police the web. We all lose when thieves are ignored.


Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 11 months ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

I also wrote an article on this...quite some time ago...


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 11 months ago from Oklahoma

Great article. Very informative.


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 11 months ago from California Author

Hi Dan,

I wouldn't say I'm advocating for doing nothing, but it's certainly an option, and I presented it. Plus, before I wrote this, I've talked to a number of online writers on the subject and many of them were of the opinion that pursuing the thieves was a waste of their time.

I wouldn't say it's always a waste of time, otherwise I wouldn't have taken any action, but it's not my job to police the Internet. I've also read that Google can determine which article is original, and it will be ranking higher. Of course, I would still prefer if it wasn't stolen, and I would contact the web host to request that it was removed. I've also filed a DMCA complaint. In my case, this one website republished my article and put "Creative Commons" at the end of it, and then 10 other websites reposted it after that. Should I report all of them to Google? I'm not sure.

In any case, it's a complicated issue and I do believe that filing a DMCA should be the last resort. Thanks for stopping by.


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 11 months ago from California Author

Hi jmark13,

What right eye? I don't see anything like that in the recommended hubs.

Yes, Bubblews was certainly synonymous with plagiarism until they cracked down on it. Personally, I only use photos as Creative Commons, and even then I try to supplement my articles with my own photographs as much as possible. Happy new year!


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 11 months ago from California Author

Thank you, Larry!


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 11 months ago from California Author

Suzanne, I'll be sure to check it out.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 11 months ago from San Diego California

You're a great writer, and I can see why they would steal your stuff, but of course that doesn't make it right. As far as I know it only happened to me once. A guy in France stole parts of my "Serfs Up" hub and put it on linked in. Hub Pages actually found it, and provided me a template. Linked in took it down immediately. Great hub!


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 11 months ago from California Author

Thank you Mel! Yeah I'm kind of new to this thing, and it can be a frustrating experience. So far HP only flagged two of my hubs as copied, both were published on another site 2 years ago with my permission, but from there they were copied multiple times. So now there's a bunch of these copies floating around the Internet, linking back to that site, and none of them actually link to me, not to mention that some rank higher than HP. Urgh this is tough...I understand why some people choose to just ignore it.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 11 months ago

Lana, filing a DMCA complaint didn't do me a bit of good. A website copied my hub about my underground house and all the photos verbatim, posted it and didn't credit me or post a link. If anyone wanted to contest, I can prove that "I" live in the damn house, not them. Bits of that hub have been posted on other sites, too, and one has been cut and pasted so that it isn't credible. I can't spend my time chasing all them down for nothing. Am I angry, you bet I am.

Also, I went to the trouble to do an interview with a television station about their nationally famous cat and got their permission to use their photos and videos in my hub. HP accused me of copying it and took it down. By the time I proved it was my work, the new had worn off, and I lost the advantage of posting a new hub. So you can't win for losing. What P.O'd me about this is that HP gives permission for people to post our work on Pintrest. So what if the TV station liked my story well enough to reprint it. I'd rather have them post it than to have it show up elsewhere without attribution.

I have studied copyright law in both my BA and MA journalism classes. What a surprise to me that the law doesn't work except in multimillion dollar lawsuits. Soooo, I guess we'll just have to live with it. I feel your pain.


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 11 months ago from California Author

Miz, I know what you mean. I spent an entire day yesterday trying to deal with 5 websites that reposted my article, and that was just one article! And HubPages doesn't really help with that "DMCA complaint" button because none of these websites were in their database and I had to play Sherlock trying to find the web host or some other information, composing emails/cease and desist letters, answering confused/angry replies etc. at the end of the day I was like: was it even worth it? I could have written a new article today... It's frustrating, for sure.


lovebuglena profile image

lovebuglena 11 months ago from Staten Island, NY

I filed a DMCA complaint a few times and my work that was stolen had been removed. Once I contacted the site directly as they had a link to file a complaint. Few other times I contacted Google blogger as my work was stolen and published on a google blog. I do have some stolen hubs that I've not contacted about yet. And I am not sure how to go about doing it. For example, I wrote a hub about MS Word keyboard shortcuts and another hub about MS Excel keyboard shortcuts. That content was stolen and either published in a google blog or elsewhere. It was either stolen completely or just the shortcuts themselves. The shortcuts themselves do not belong to me as I didn't come up with them so I guess they can use that but the shortcuts were copied in exactly the same order as my hubs had them displayed and in the same unique way I presented them. For example, something like this... CTRL + C = Copy Text. Do I have a right to file a complaint in this case?


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 11 months ago from California Author

Copyright infringement has some gray areas, for sure...I would say that because they had copied a portion of your article in the exact same way, they should have credited you or linked to your original article. That's just an ethical thing to do. But like you said, you can't claim keyboard shortcuts as your intellectual property.

I know it can get complicated. I wish it was as easy as waving a magic wand and all the duplicate content just disappearing!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

I've lost count of the number of mine that have been plagiarized. It's the nature of the internet. There really is no way to stop it. Still, I have to reflect, what kind of person thinks it is all right to plagiarize? It is theft, after all, so what kind of thought process happens in their seedy, pea brains that makes them think they are doing nothing wrong????


Jodah profile image

Jodah 11 months ago from Queensland Australia

I have never found that any of my hubs have been copied, but it is a possibility. You offer very good information and advice here however, and I am sorry that so many of yours have been stolen. It does show that what you write is popular at least.


lovebuglena profile image

lovebuglena 11 months ago from Staten Island, NY

billybuc - I think they don't care about the fact that what they are doing is wrong. All they care about is adding good content to their sites, which they probably can't write themselves, so they can make their money.


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 11 months ago from California Author

Bill - it's the most infuriating thing when you find your piece with a *different name* at the top. Wtf? I can sort of understand those who just copy and repost with all the links and credits, although it's still not OK, but plagiarizers...You KNOW you didn't write this.

My first knee-jerk reaction is always to curse them out, but then I sit down, take a deep breath, and write them a polite email...


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 11 months ago from California Author

Jodah - thank you, and you're lucky! Although more likely, if you started googling your articles/poems, you would find copies online. Just saying, your writing is totally theft-worthy :)


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 11 months ago from California Author

Lena - I agree, they know it's wrong (how can they not?) but they just think that the goals justify the means. Back when I was posting on Bubblews plagiarism was like a plague, and usually it was people from third world countries for whom Bubblews was a considerable side income (or maybe even main income), so they figured, it's OK because I need the money... And if I get caught, I'll just open a new account.


Virginia Allain profile image

Virginia Allain 9 months ago from Central Florida

It's really discouraging to see this happen. The most recent one was converted to Spanish but still had my name in it.


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 9 months ago from California Author

At least it had your name on it! I've had articles that were stolen and re-authored, that's truly maddening...HP shows that I currently have two copied hubs. Some sites had taken them down as per my request, others are less responsive, even if you contact the host provider. Overall, I have a feeling it's an uphill battle...

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