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Content Thief

It has finally happened. I knew it would sooner or later. Someone running another site has stolen a post from my site and posted it as theirs. It looks like he may have used an automated scraper. Why should I care and shouldn’t I be flattered? No, it is not flattering to be used to create content for someone else’s site so they can make money from ads off my work. Many unscrupulous people create websites that scrape the content of other sites with no creation of their own content at all solely so they can make money from ads. They throw up hundreds of these automated sites to get rich off others. It is one thing to ask if you can host a feed from someone else’s site or post excerpts with full credit given but quite another to simply take their content which is illegal. Also, having duplicate content posted elsewhere lowers the ranking of my own post in many search engines.

Happily, I took steps quite some time ago to be able to stop it. There are services which you can use to semi-officially copyright your material or at least create evidence of when it was created and by who. My Free Copyright is a good one and it has a FREE version. If you are a more prolific writer with more than 3 posts a day, look into their paid service. They monitor your feed or you can upload individual articles securely, they copy any new content, create a digital fingerprint of it, register it with themselves, then email you a copy. They also provide a logo for your website. There is also a WordPress plugin called Copyright Proof that can do this as well.

Another great plugin is Digital Fingerprint. This can mark every post in your feed with an identifier that makes it clear the content is in fact yours to anyone who sees it and can be used to track stolen content down via search engines. ©Feed is another plugin that can do this.

I highly recommend using Google Alerts with your digital fingerprint to keep watch for your signature and email you when it appears somewhere it shouldn’t.

What should you do when you find content has been stolen?

Contact the owner of the website first by email with a Cease and Desist request (use in the subject line) to see if they will remove it without further hassle or at least give you proper credit so you get a link back. You may want to only allow part of the article to be used with a “Read the rest…” link to your blog or page. You can find the owner of the domain by checking any whois site such as Betterwhois . If the owner info is not provided, it will at least tell you who the domain registrar is so you can then go to their registrar and use their whois. If the domain is private (info hidden), there should still be an email address to contact or you can contact their domain registrar with your complaint.

If the domain or site owner refuses to remove the content, contact their webhost with a DCMA request to remove it. Webhosts take such complaints very seriously as required by law. Their webhost name is often in the name of their DNS servers shown in whois or you you can do a tracert to the domain to find their webhost. See also this FAQ for some DCMA report addresses.

I suggest watermarking your photos too. If you use Microsoft Live Writer to create posts, it is capable of watermarking images. Many gallery scripts such as Coppermine can also watermark images uploaded to them. WordPress has several plugins available. Try searching the term “watermark” in Add New under Plugins in your WordPress admin panel or see “WordPress Plugins to Automatically Watermark Your Images”.

For more info on copyrights and plagiarism, PlagiarismToday is a great site with plenty of info. I also found this article on copyrights helpful: 10 Big Myths about copyright explained . It will give you a better idea of what is copyrighted and what may be fair use.

BTW, my Cease and Desist email to the website owner worked for me. He removed my post from his site and apologized. 🙂

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