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Should Online Writers Cry About Content Being Stolen?

Updated on June 19, 2013

A Burglar in the Neighborhood


Stolen Work is Serious Business

When an author's work is stolen, it is a serious issue. Let's not belittle the fact that it is never okay to steal another's work.

However, in the business of online writing, the original author of the content has several choices:

  1. Pursue the filthy thief with their precious time.
  2. Spend time doing fruitless and paranoid tasks to avoid plagiarism.
  3. Focus on creating more content.

The third of the above options is the most productive and profitable of the online writer's options.

I know online content stealing happens. It is an unfortunate thing that none of us can predict. However, as an online writer, you can let thieves make you paranoid.

If you are a serious writer, you will write no matter what. If someone steals one of your pieces, you have to "pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again," as the age-old adage goes.

Online Writing Stolen?

Have you ever had your online content stolen?

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Don't Cry Like a Baby


It All Started on a Hubpages Forum Thread...

First of all, this whole discussion came about from a Hubpages Forum in which I suggested that Hubpages should add badges to individual Hubs, much like the "Hub of the Day" badge given when a Hub is selected for its excellent content. That thread can be viewed here.

From my comment sparked numerous comments, mainly from paranoid Hub authors that are worried that such a badge would prompt thieves to steal their online content.

I responded to all of these people with this:

"As far as all of the people on here that say that this would make thieves want to steal content: I don't make decisions based out of the fear of the unknown. I have no control of what other people are willing to steal. I am not concerned with what the thieves are doing. If you are the first to publish content online, and can prove it with a date stamp, then you should not worry about what thieves are going to do."

To which Hubpages user WryLit suggested that I have not had content stolen.

I have had online content stolen. Is it worth losing sleep at night?


Probably my most viewed online article (with over 100k views) was stolen. I tracked down the user that posted as theirs on another site. The user did not even speak english.

Nonetheless, I spent time tracking down the person and confronting them all to no avail. Was it worth my time to continue with this fruitless effort?


If there is anything I have learned about online writing is that you cannot control the thieves, nor should you let them affect you as a writer.

Sure, I advocate taking whatever precautions you deem necessary.

Some authors feel they have to put their copyright notice on their own work. Well, it is already your work. Does it deter thieves? Who knows?

Thieves generally don't care about laws. They just operate "above the law" until they are caught.

Afraid You Won't Get Read?

Online Content Writers know the risks of publishing content in the public domain. You risk the good with the bad.

The good would be gaining readers and followers that bookmark your homepage and keep coming back to read your content. Thieves cannot duplicate your style of content. That is unique to you.

The bad would be that you risk someone plagiarizing your content. I'm sorry, but this is a risk all online writers take when publishing content online. It is not my fault, and I feel your pain as an online writer. However, a Hubpages accolade for individual Hub achievements does not mean your online content will be stolen. That is not something anyone can predict.

What Then Should Online Writers Do About Stolen Content?

First of all, stop crying like a bunch of babies.

If you are a real writer, with real content, no one can duplicate all of your awesome writing. Sure, thieves can copy one here and there, but they do not have the brainpower to actually come up with the stuff themselves.

Hubpages user SmartAndFun made this comment on the Hubpages Forum discussion:

"I don't leave my husband's big flat-screen TV out on the lawn, or the keys in my car and my laptop sitting in full view in the passenger's seat with the car windows rolled down. I also lock my house up at night and when I'm not at home."

Thanks for your input, but online writing is different from locking your door at night. For one thing, I should hope that your private life is private. Assuming that you don't have a reality show with a filming crew in your home, your home should be off limits to the public.

Online writing is different. You are publicly inviting people to "come into your house" and view your online content. Your "lock the doors" analogy does not apply, because online writing is inviting complete strangers to read your writing, and hoping that they will stick around and read more.

That's why your overall portfolio is critical to your online writing success - not one individual Hub.

Legitimate online publishing websites (like Hubpages) will not allow publishing of content already in existence on the internet. This is because duplicate content online is frowned upon by Google.

Online writers cannot worry about the the questionable websites that do not have sound publishing practices in place. Yes, you can do your part to help shut down websites by reporting plagiarized content, but it is a waste of time to take on every single thief that copies your online content.

Choose your battle wisely, become battles of futility are not worth the effort on an online article that will pay out $5.00 or even $50.00 over its internet lifetime, yet you have spent hours filing DCMA complaints. Not worth it. Look at all that wasted time. What is your value per hour?

What's Next For the Online Writer?

If you are an online writer, and have found yourself devoting most of your time to combating piracy, then I suggest you do something different.

Is your online writing portfolio your only means of income?

I should hope not. Smart writers do not put all of their eggs in one basket.

Online writing portfolios are a stepping stone. If you really want to make money as a writer, you should leverage your online writing portfolio as a means to get a real writing job.

Yes, I am talking about the kind where you have an employer and get paid per job (or gig).

Online writing portfolios are a great way to display your work, but honestly, you are getting paid pennies, when you can make some real money in the real world for real employers.

Online Writer


Online Writers Should Focus

Hopefully, you have learned that instead of crying about online content being stolen, you should spend your time expanding your brand offerings.

Write more content online, and clean up what you already have out there.

That means you need to raise the bar.

If you have writing that is worth its weight in gold, so to speak, then you should not publish it online, free for the world. That kind of content needs to be in a book, or should be sold to the highest bidder.

Publish online what you are proud of, but it is only to create a readership.

Don't waste your time pursuing one thief. That is such a waste of time, and if you are an online writer, time is money. Ultimately, the big money is not in your online offerings. That is just change to what you can make in the real world, so stop sweating over the minuscule pennies.

Online writing is only a vehicle to the bigger things. If you haven't found that out yet, this is your lucky day.


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    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 

      5 years ago

      Zack ~ What a marvelous Hub about a topic of concern. Your perspective puts things into place and the many comments also have a positive spin on the whole theft business. Now I understand why and how you have become an award-winning author published on Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Finance, and Yahoo! Sports. Your advice as a professional blogger, ghostwriter, and copywriter is worth its weight in gold. And, the final touch about saving your best writing for the paying public comes also from your own life experience as an author of, "Freelance Writers: Write Online & Get Paid Money." Have a beautiful day. Debby

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Your way of explaining this is really good. It happens to all of us and, like you said, these thieves can't duplicate the quality of the writing. They usually even mess something up in the process.

      A few times I found plagiarized articles of mine that included links to images I had in them. Those links were proof of the theft. How dumb. All I had to do was mention that in the DMCA report and the content was removed by the webmaster.

      But as far as crying about it, you are so right! We have more important things to do. Creating new content and other income producing work is more important.

      I only check for copies of my hubs and other articles once in a while - when I have spare time. I usually just add a Google Alert, for a random sentence, when I publish something new. Then I go on with my life.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      I understand how this works now. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain this to me. I am not a computer, internet, or search engine guru, so I appreciate the information. Your approach to thieves is a good one. We could spend all our time going after them with no time for writing. lol

    • zeke2100 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago


      Google is not like a copyright police. They honestly do not care. Google only owns the #1 search engine in the world. So when another website has duplicate content that is added to the index, both websites lose their clout. The second to submit would look unoriginal and affects their overall score and page ranking, but it also has implications on the first.

      Google does not shut anyone down, they just lower the position in which the website is found in searches. When this happens, the website receives less traffic as a result.

      Most of the complaints I received in the Hub Forum were from upset people that have had their Hubs copied and as a result, got less traffic. I say don't let the thieves steal your joy.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      I agree with what you have written. It is the Christian way to handle the situation. I have had articles stolen and I have done nothing about it other than report it to HP. I believe HP needs to know when this happens. However, there is one thing that has always puzzled me. If we are told we have duplicate material and cannot publish it because of Google, how does the thief re-publish our work and not get taken down by Google for duplicated material. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. And, hopefully, Google doesn't shut us down here in HP because our article is duplicated somewhere else. If you can answer this, I would be enlightened and interested to know. Thank you.

    • zeke2100 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thank you both for your comments

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      My apologies Zeke, but I just have to comment on Eric's comment.

      What a generous and kind way of looking at these situations. Beautifully expressed; your attitude is full of grace and mercy and we would all do well, and probably feel much better, if we cultivated a similar attitude. Blessings! Theresa

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      If someone repeats what I wrote. It must be worthy. I think, and speaking just for me, I want people to read what I wrote.

      When I start a sermon or bible class I always beg to the effect: : "fill my heart with YOUR words and fill me with the inspiration of the Spirit". I do in a sense feel that none of my worthy words are mine. If someone repeats them somewhere then that is the Gospel of Eric. And so be it. One person more grasps my love of life then that is a good thing.

      Life is full of the negative, I try to send out the positive, if someone repeats the message, "good on me".

      I make a living writing. And I found a fancy pansy law firm that quoted my stuff in a brief. I hope it helped. If a thief is so poor of ability but can help feed his family off my writing, then it is better writing than I ever imagined, to feed one is worth my effort.

      I knew a man who took pictures of the St. Peters basilica and made a mint publishing them. I do believe Michaelangelo would be happy. I know a preacher who only quoted the bible ---- and with that he fed millions through donations.

      What beauty, what art, belongs to man? I suggest all my writing belongs to mankind and not me. I may die impoverished by your standards, but I will die rich by mine.

    • zeke2100 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      I appreciate your comment. It happens and it can be a pain, but in the grand scheme of things, you have to weigh out the alternatives of pursuing a thief or to just keep writing.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great attitude and advice. And no I have not had content stolen, or if I have I don't know it. But truthfully, I don't have the time to track down and get any stolen material pulled. I have a day job, family, and my extra time is spent writing n HP. I understand how it upsets some people, but I wouldn't spend time on it myself. Thanks for an interesting article.


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