Picture this: you’ve spent a crazy amount of time creating beautiful blog posts for your blog. A lot of time goes into taking photographs, editing the images, researching and writing. You’re pretty damn proud of your blog and so you should be.
Then you receive an email from a reader that she found several of your articles (including the photographs) on another website. These were republished without your permission. They may or may not have credited you for the articles but at the end of the day, it was published on another website without your consent.
WHAT THE @^%$^#*!@#???!!!
May I just say, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt?
Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence amongst bloggers and content creators. There are websites that claim to trawl the Internet for the “best content”, lift the content, curate them and put it on their sites. You might think “but it’s a link back to me. Isn’t that a good thing?“. Genuine, organic link backs are good. This is just plain doggone thievery.
You may also see a lot of sites like this that have advertisements from Google Adsense peppered all over the page. What they’re doing is earning money off YOUR content. Are these the sort of links you want when other people aren’t just taking your content (along with all that hard work you’ve put in), they’re making money off you as well?
You may also notice that every time you post something new, these websites display your latest posts as well. How does this happen? What they do is they have your RSS feed linked to their platform. This means that whenever you publish something new, they publish it too.
It’s frustrating as hell and I get it. I’ve seen my content copied and pasted in many spam websites. It’s bloody infuriating but you can do something about it. Here are a few ways I’ve found that helped me:
1. Contact the web adminstrator.
If there’s a Contact Me page, send them a polite but firm email telling them that they’ve used your content without your permission. Don’t just tell them to take it down. Give them a deadline and what will be done if it’s not met. E.g. “please take it down within the next 5 business days [insert deadline] or I shall proceed to take legal action against you.” Tough, but it works.
2. Contact the webhost
Sometimes, there isn’t a Contact Me page on the website. This is when I know that the website is really dodgy when there’s absolutely no way I can reach the owner of the website. This is when I’ll contact the website’s webhost. Do a WHOIS search on the website (try WHOIS.com) and you’ll see who the domain registrar and webhost are. Contact the webhost instead and inform them that the website (give them the URL) has stolen your content. Most if not all webhosts have it in their Terms and Conditions that the content in each website must be genuine and not stolen. The webhost will usually take action against the website and pull it down.
3. File a DMCA takedown notice
A DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is a US copyright law that makes production and dissemination of copyrighted work illegal. A DMCA takedown notice is a notification to either a web hosting company or a search engine that they are either hosting or linking to copyright-infringing material. It provides them notice to remove the copyrighted works. Web hosts are required to remove or disable access to the material, while search engines have to stop linking to it.
If your webhost is based in the US, EU countries or any country that has a notice and takedown system, you can lodge a DMCA notice for your stolen content. I did mine with Google as it’s a free service. Having said that, they take a long time to process your notice (at least they did for me) and you do have to fill in a lot of details of the copyright-infringed material.
4. Seek support from your blogging community
Never underestimate what a group of bloggers can do. I’ve seen bloggers helping bloggers spread the word about stolen content and to alert other bloggers who may have their content stolen too. I’ve seen bloggers helping bloggers leave comments on websites or brands’ Facebook pages where content was used without permission. By letting fellow bloggers know that your content has been stolen, the website(s) that stole it, etc, it also helps them check if their content was used without consent.
5. Set up alerts every time your blog is mentioned
Web services like Google Alerts and Mention can help you track down the websites that have mentioned your blog. This is particularly useful when dodgy websites lift your RSS feed and use it as their own (often there’ll be a link back to your site with “to read more, please visit this website blah blah blah“). For some unknown reason, Google Alerts has never worked well for me despite my setting up so many references to Beautyholics Anonymous. They’re also slow in reporting any link backs. I much prefer using Mention.
6. Add an RSS feed footer
If you’re on WordPress, it’s worthwhile downloading the RSS Feed Footer plugin where you can input text and even images in your feed footer. This will appear at the bottom of every post in feed readers like Feedly and email subscriptions. You can write “this post appeared originally on [blog name]” or “if you’re not reading this blog post on [blog name], this means that the content has been stolen“. Something like that. You get the gist.
7. Block the IP address
Some time ago, I was getting track backs from a particular website that lifted my blog content via my RSS feed. I tried contacting the web administrator to no avail. In the end, I went to my website’s cPanel and blocked the IP address of that website that lifted my content. That website stopped publishing my content automatically after that.
These are some of the methods that have worked for me. Perhaps you know of a way to stop dodgy websites and people from stealing your content too. Please let us know in the comments if you do. I’d love to know more.
Don’t be discouraged when you realise your content has been used without your permission. Instead, quickly take action against them and inform your fellow bloggers if you see their content stolen too.
Together, we can nail the bastards.