Let’s face it, the internet is good for a lot of things but it’s terrible for your content. With the simplest of commands people can capture huge quantities of your work and republish it on their own. What’s more, because the internet is such a big place, it’s entirely possible you won’t find out or it will take you a long time until you do.
The result? People copy indiscriminately. Whether it be visitors, strangers or your competitors, they’ll make off with your information more rapidly than a Road Runner cartoon. And in order to get them to take it down and respect your rights, it might often feel like you have to resort to the same kind of contraptions as Wile E. Coyote had to use.
Even worse, because of the way Google punishes duplicate content, if somebody with higher standing goes out and steals your work then it’s entirely possible Google will assume that they are the original owner and your stuff is the duplicate. How bad is that?
So, is there any hope? Or is the best we can do shake our fist and mutter incoherently about the unfairness at it all?
I’ve Got Good News and Bad News
The good news is that anything and everything you put online that is originally yours is copyrighted by law. That’s what the DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1996 stipulates. Though this is a US law, there are equivalents in European and most of the rest of the world.
The bad news? Most people don’t seem to know that. They don’t realize that even if it doesn’t say ‘copyrighted’ at the bottom, they can’t just go ahead and copy it. And so they do. Even worse, the task of finding those who infringes on your copyright is yours, as well then asking them to take it down.
That makes sense. After all, so much content is consumed, created and commented on every minute of every day that it would be impossible for any agency to monitor it all. And so, it’s up to us to do so.
How To Do So
The first step to making sure people do not copy your content is to make them aware that it is illegal for them to do so. Register your website with the DMCA and put their badge on your site. Put the copyright sign at the bottom of each page and make it clear that it is illegal for people to copy your content.
You can also put a DO NOT COPY badge on your website. These are provided by a lot of duplicate content checking websites. The great thing about these badges it that in the know thieves will understand that if they do copy your content, they’re likely to get caught, as there are sites actively scanning to find duplicate content.
Use Duplication Checking Software
You’ve got a bunch of options if you want to make sure that your website is not being stolen. There are a lot of them out there. Quite a few are free. Do note, you’ll want to make sure they actually do their job correctly by putting in content that you know is out there to see if they actually find it.
Another useful tool to use is Google Alerts. With this, you can mark writing that you’ve done and get alerted with anything similar to it appears on the internet. That can be very useful – not just to find plagiarism. Sometimes other people will share your content with a link back to your original stuff.
That’s also nice to know about.
And if you’ve got a blog, another useful tool that you can use is CopyGator. This piece of software will scan your blog and then figure out if anybody out there is copying your content. That will make it far easier to find whoever is stealing your content. They also provide badges, like I discussed above.
They’re Stealing My Content! What Do I Do?
If you do find that somebody is claiming your content and pretending it’s their own then you’ll have to take steps to make them take it down.
The first thing you’ll have to do is gather all the evidence. This means that you find the original documents in which you wrote the content. You’ll also want to take screenshots of your own content and theirs so that you can prove that they did indeed plagiarize.
Then you’ll want to send them an email to ask them to take the content down. It’s a good idea to make sure that your email is friendly and not overtly aggressive. This seems to work better than calling people names.
It can sometimes be hard to find the email address of the person who owns the site. A useful tool to help you discover the actual legal name of the site’s owner is to use a service like ‘whois’. This will often get you the name of the owner and from there it can be pretty straight forward to find their email address.
If the owner of the website has not taken the content down, then you can contact whoever is hosting the domain. Often, they will not take kindly to a person using their hosting service to host plagiarized content and might not just remove the content but the entire domain. That will teach them for ignoring your kindly worded request!
Still no luck? Then it’s time to use an official ‘cease and desist’ letter. You don’t need to get either a lawyer or scan writing companies reviews to get one of those written. A simple search will get you a wide number of different versions of this. This letter will make it clear that you’ll seek legal action if they do not comply.
You’ll also want to contact Google. They are pretty sensitive to this kind of thing and will make sure that the content does not appear in their search results (and often penalize them in other ways as well). It’s not quite the same as having the content taken down, but it is close.
That’s A Lot of Hassle!
It’s true. Getting people to take down duplicate content isn’t always easy and it isn’t always fun. At the same time, it’s entirely necessary. A lot of people don’t realize that they can’t just copy content freely, even if they’re not using it for commercial ends.
Only by reaching out and making it clear to them that this is not an acceptable way to move forward can we educate the general populace and make sure they, well, cease and desist. And though obviously each individual doing so might feel like a drop in the ocean, the truth is the ocean is made up of nothing but drops. And so, if we all work together we can make sure that people understand that stealing content is unacceptable and, more importantly, has consequences.
Only when we do that, can we make it viable for those of us who spend our days slaving away to put content online to continue in this line of work.
About the author: Jessica Fender, professional writer, independent blogger and chief content officer at OnlineWritersRating.com. She is passionate about wise team management and self-development as a leader. Featured on Freelancer.com and Addicted2Success.