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So Your Article Has Been Copied and Reposted Elsewhere
The first time I found one of my articles copied in its entirety on some blog (and even assigned a new author), 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 apology, no "Sincerely yours," not even "Best wishes." But at least they responded quickly and did what I've asked them to do.
I've learned since that it's not always the case.
Not All Thieves Are Created Equal
Many of my articles had been stolen and many of those were not easily taken down. So I had to consider my options. Would I rather be writing or chasing people who steal my writing?
I'd rather be writing but to do nothing seems wrong too. It would mean encouraging the thieves, implicitly supporting the rampant plagiarism online, not to mention losing traffic and Google ranking...
I also considered that not all 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).
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 online. 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.
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.
So you started a blog and you desperately need content to fill it up.
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.
The bottom line is: 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.
POLL: Had Your Content Ever Been Stolen?
And if so, what did you do?
How Not to Be a Dick Guide
© 2016 Lana Adler