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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
The Copyright Handbook, 2014
How Not to Be a Dick Guide
© 2016 Lana Zakinov