When you publish content online, it is available for anyone and everyone to read. That also means its available for people to steal as well. And steal they will. It’s not a matter of if, but when. That is why the title of this article is What to Do When Someone Steals Your Content. It will happen. Don’t let that truth keep you from publishing your content; just be prepared so you know what to do when the inevitable happens.
The First Step: Preparation
There are unscrupulous people out there who will use your content for their own gain. Some will do it intentionally; many will do it simply because they don’t know better. Either way, you want to make sure that your site clearly states what type of use is authorized by you.
Add Post URL:This free plugin for WordPress adds a copyright notice to the end of each post on your blog so there is no confusion about what your policy is about sharing your content.
Antileech: Much of the pirated content online is harvested by bots, not humans. The bots insert your blog’s RSS feed into a website, which then displays the content as if it was original to that site. The Antileech plugin doesn’t prevent these bots from visiting your site, instead, it simply gives the bots fake content to use. (Editor’s note; the Antileech plugin is no longer available. -10/3/2013)
If someone is intent on stealing content, there isn’t anything you can do to stop them from stealing. Thieves look for the easiest targets, so using these tools may be enough to discourage would-be thieves from stealing from you.
The 2nd Step: Tracking
If someone is using your content without your permission, you can’t do anything about it if you don’t know about it. So the second step involves tracking your content online and seeing how it is used.
Use the following tools and services to help you track your content online.
Check TrackBacks and Incoming Links: Interlinking your content helps your readers discover your other articles and it can help you find content thieves. When thieves post your content on their site, they will usually leave your links intact. These links will then appear as TrackBacks on your blog, so follow the links of every TrackBack and look for pirated content. You are most likely to discover content theives from this one technique.
Google Alerts: This free service from Google allows you to set up searches for your content. Emails are sent to you when Google finds new results — such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs — that match your search term(s). These take only a few minutes to set up and will continue to work forever, without any more input from you. They work best when you can search for a phrase unique to your writing.
Search Copyscape: Enter the url to any page on your site and search the web for matching content. Ten matches are displayed for free. Sign up for a paid account and set up an automatic search.
Search Google Images: If your content is stolen, the thieves will likely use your images as well as your text, so searching for the image may turn up pirated content as well. This is particularly useful when you use unique images.
The Third Step: Remediation
When you do find that another site has posted your content, follow these simple steps to resolve the issue:
- Direct Contact: First, try to contact the blogger directly, either through the Contact form on the website, or through a comment left on the offending post.
- WHOis: If no contact info is available, look up the domain in WHOis database and send your request to the contact email or snail mail address for the registrant.
- Resend Request: If you don’t receive a response, or there is no action taken to rectify the situation, send another request.
- Host Server: If no response to your 2nd request, contact the host server.
- Search Engines: If no response from the host server, contact the search engines.
- Advertisers: If no response from the search engines, contact their advertisers.
Much more detailed instructions on how to craft your response, and how to contact host servers, Search Engines, and advertisers, can be found here.
Don’t let content thieves get away with swiping your content. It does take a little time to follow up and ask for remediation, but not as much as you think. You’ll be protecting your content and your reputation.