Photo by jackieb163
A delicate problem every blogger is facing at present date, is the issue of content theft. Notice I said every blogger, as no blog is spared of copyright theft, no matter how big or small it is. It’s a question of when, not if, so it’s important to realize that’s imperative you take the necessary precautions and measures when faced with copyright violations. Content theft has been around, since the first words have been put on paper, there’s always been vile people around to make other’s people hard work their own, but with blogging the phenomenon has deepened even further, due to the thousands and thousands of splogs.
Back in autumn, I had the change to attend a really cool blogging workshop, called Blogoree (thanks Bobby), in which the main theme of discussion was copyright violations and virtual thefts. I’ve learner a great deal on the subject, that day, and with that in mind I documented myself even more, on how I can protect and enforce my blog’s content. Now after months of reading, coaching and practicing I’ve managed to learn a great deal, both legal and “street smarts” wise, on how to protect my blog against content thefts.
Before I continue with my article, please bare in mind, that I’m far from being a legal expert, the whole post is based solely upon my experience and the advice/pointers listed bellow, may actually cause harm. If you’re in any legal predicament, please contact a professional, aka a lawyer. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s go on.
Preventing And Protecting Your Blog’s Copyright
Photo by nemo585
Because bloggers are one of the most prone people of getting plagiarized, due to the simple copy/pasting involved, it’s always for the best to try to minimize it’s effects, by discouraging various copycats.
- Make your own Creative Commons license. Creative Commons is one of the best things that happened to the Internet, in like…forever. What this remarkable service does is it enables you to make your own content distribution license, absolutely for free, so that your writing, photos, videos or anything you’ve created, is protected. It’s basically a sign telling people, if you’re content is available for mixing, process or for most lowlives, copying. The service is extremely easy to use and you can make your own license in a matter of seconds, you just have to specify if you’d like your content to be available for commercial use and if you allow modifications to your work. In example here at Lost Art Of Blogging, you’ll free to remix, distribute, display, share my work, as long as you mention me via a link and don’t use my work for commercial use, meaning you have to not make money off of my work. I just came a cross a cool WordPress plugin called Creative Commons Configurator, that ads your CC license at the end of each post and in the blog’s head (visible only to robots); should prove very useful.Your content, if original is copyrighted by a US law (if the lammer is from outside of the US, you’ll have a hard time making him back down), called Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA. Some critics fear Creative Commons could make copyright law more complex, but what you have to keep in mind is that, Creative Commons isn’t a law nor does it add or subtract anything from the law. It’s simply a license based on copyright law. It doesn’t change the law any more or less than any other license, such as a EULA. It can spur changes in the law, but it doesn’t effect changes just by existing.
- Protect your RSS feed. A lot of people and a even large amount of automated blogs, will often use your blog’s RSS feed to automatically steal your content, so the least you could do is protect it, by adding a few lines at the end of a article, visible only via RSS. Something like “If you’re reading this anywhere else, besides LOAB, then this article has been shamefully stolen,” is pretty cool, but a “Copyright (c) 2007-2008 LOAB,” will do the trick too. With this in mind there’s a large amount plugins available on the web, like Angsuman’s Feed Copyrighter Plugin, ©Feed, Simple Feed Copyright, or even the CC-Configurator plugin I wrote about a few lines above.
- Write a special Copyright page. It may be a good idea to make a all new blog page, in which you’ll write all sorts of copyright related stuff and various rules, like what people are allowed to do with your content, what they’re not allowed to and the consequences of disobeying them. Hopefully this will both educate people on what they can do with someone else’s content and discourage plagiarizers.A great example of this can be found at Dosh Dosh.
Spot The “Blogiators”
The first step to fixing a problem is identifying it or in our case find out who’s copying your content, so that you can then take the necessary measures. The most common and most of the time effective way of tracking down plagiarists is using Google. Just open Google and run a search, but don’t query your post’s title though, it’s true most of them are to lazy to even modify it, but some do; so the most sure way of finding them is to look for a specific and clear representative paragraph from your article and then query that up. It should pop you up with some interesting results, if not you’re in luck and your respective content hasn’t been stolen or the copied article is either non indexed or slightly modified.
The Google method is somewhat primitive, but does it job well; for more elaborated tracings though, it’s better to use more specialized tools, that are built with one task in mind only and that of finding copied content. The best and most well known are Sentinel and Copyscape, however, they solicit premium paid accounts. A small price to pay, though, for ones work.
Enforcing Your Copyright
Photo by Radio Rover
Ok, so you’ve spotted the culprit, now it’s time to deal with him, hopefully in a amiable way, if that’s not possible, then there’s more drastic measures we can take.
1. Contact the plagiarist. A very straight forward way of dealing with people, stealing your content, is by contacting them, in a really mannerly way. Don’t freak out! I know it can be really stressful, when someone calls your work their own and on top of that use it to gain a profit too, but it’s important to keep your nerve, be calm and deal with the issue. Just drop him a line and explain to him, that he’s broken your copyright infringement and that he should immediately retreat the respective copied content from he’s blog. Some people actually believe their doing nothing wrong in coping other people’s work, considering a internet a big freebie pool; that’s why it’s pretty important to work on “preventing and protecting your blog’s copyright.” After you send him the e-mail, most “bloggers” will take the stolen content down immediately, if you add a law suit paragraph too, you’ll have faster and better results too. Cease and Desist Stock Letter.
How can I get in touch with the plagiarist blogger? Well most people have a e-mail or contact form listed, so you can talk to them, but if you happen to come across one that hasn’t you can try to look up his details via a WhoIs procedure. A WhoIs query can return all sorts of information about a website, like when the domain’s been register, when it’s gonna expire, where and with which hosting company the domain is hosted (will come in handy) and among other things, it lists the full name and address of the website’s owner. There’s a lot of WhoIs services you can use, I personally use Who.Is. Unfortunately registrant information can be easily faked and while it may still be correct, if it’s a automated spam blog, you’d be virtually writing the e-mail for nothing. Let’s see what else we can do then.
2. Issue a take down notice to the plagiarist blog hosting company. If the website, responsible for copying your content, isn’t answering or complying with your e-mails, then you need to take this another step further and send a DMCA notice to it’s web hosting firm. If the respective hosting company is located in the US, it’s protected and encouraged to take down the stolen content and actually is authorized to suspend the abusing website. You can easily find out which hosting services a website is using, by followin the same step as in the contacting point, meaning via WhoIs. You’ll be listed with full details about the OSP, including the website’s IP address, nameservers and geographical location. The next step is contacting the respective web host via e-mail or phone; all respectable hosting companies have some contact information, of any sort, listed somewhere. Before taking the time to write the e-mail, be sure you’ve got your facts right and you’ve got positive proof (screenshots, cache logs etc) that your blog’s content has been stolen. This is serious business and the last thing you need is making an ass out of yourself. Here’s a stock letter of a DMCA Host take down notice.
If you’re facing a off-shore web hosting company, then US copyright laws won’t apply and the situation might go on unresolved. Don’t give up though, it ain’t over quite yet.
3. Send a DMCA notice to the domain registrar. If you didn’t had to much luck with approaching the plagiarists web hosting provider, then you can try your luck with it’s domain registrar. Few people actually contact domain registrars, for copyright infringements and even fewer people actually get a positive response. It won’t take much of your time though, so what the heck, right? First find out what registrar company the respective domain is registered too, by using the same technique listed above (whois), head over to the companies homepage and file an abuse. Hopefully the registrar will receive the e-mail and take the necessary measures, implied by the US internet copyright laws, which can result in temporary/permanent domain name suspension. Use the same contact stock letter, as in the OSP take down notice, just make sure you revise it where necessary.
Again, if the registrar is a off-shore one, there’s a minimum chance of actions being taken against.
4. Send abuse and duplicate content notices to search engines. This is actually the most effective way to deal with a plagirist blog, that doesn’t wish to cooperate, as it almost always wields results. Basically what you’ll do is send an e-mail to various search engines, like Google or MSN, with copyright infringement notices, which if found conclusive and well based, will often lead to banning of the respective websites. Thus you’ll be hitting two birds, with one stone: one you’ll be teaching the plagiarist a lesson and second you’ll rankings will be rehabilitated and duplicate content penalties removed. Check out various search engine DMCA’s from: Google, Yahoo, Live.
Photo by w e n d y
5. Denigrate the plagiarists and their blogs. Head over to a few copyright related boards (Ultra Shock, Intellectual Property etc) and report the fact, that the respective domain has been scraping your content, with no approval, incriminating your copyrights. You can do the same with niche boards, in example if you own a blog about SEO and another blog copy/pastes your posts, you can head over to a SEO based forum and rant over there. This will create a bit of buzz, that will hopefully denigrate and label the plagiarist blogger, together with his websites, as a spammer and overall douche bag, and no one wants to be associated with a douche; especially advertisers. While I’m sure he won’t remove the stolen content out of pure shame, he’ll most probably remove it due to word of mouth fear.
6. Contact the thieving web site’s advertisers. If you want to make some real damage, that’s sure to make the spam blog regret the day it ever messed with yours, then send some take down notices to the monetization network it’s using. Most probably he spam blog, will be using Google Adsense, so what you’ll gonna do is send a DMCA take down notice to Google, much the same way you would with the search engine notice and you’ll most likely ban his ass. Some goes with Yahoo, Adbrite or any other respectable advertising network. Although you’ve not effectually taken down or removed the infringing content, you’ve cut the spam blog’s pipe line and with income stream the respective splog is dead and no use to plagiarist. Hopefully it will be abandoned and the content scraping will stop.
7. Proceed with legal action. This method should be kept as a last result only and only used if it’s really worth all the effort and financial expense. Truth is, the time and money you’ll spend, while suing the incriminated blogger, is not worth it, no matter what’s the nature of your content (there are exceptions). If you’d like to make a example and discourage any future scraping attempts or simply caught a grudge, then it court action may be a solution. A fun way of dealing “legally” with a plagiarist, is having a lawyer friend of yours sending a really pompous and official looking take down letter at his home address (it’s usually listed in the who.is info), stating if he doesn’t comply he’ll be in a lot of trouble and get prosecuted. It should definitely cause a big scare and I’m almost certain the first thing he’ll do, after reading the letter, is taking down the violated content. A reason most of the steps above don’t work is the fact that most people don’t care and don’t take you seriously; it’s quite interesting how mindset change when faced with a simple piece of paper.
Conclusions And Last Words
[digg-reddit-me]Sadly, fighting internet copyright infringements and violations, most of the time, is like battling with the wind mills. Basically most cases are just to small, to actually pay attention to and it seems whenever you take one down, there’s always 3-5-10 other splogs to take their place. Despite all this, there’s no need to despair or lose faith, never give and whenever you find someone scraping your hard work, don’t leave it unpunished, it may all be in vain, it really isn’t. Through your efforts you are fighting for preserving the integrity and value of your blog, the main principle around anti-plagiarism.
Stock letters via Plagiarism Today (a must visit).
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