User-Generated Content

Dealing with Content Theft

Content theft is a growing problem for professional bloggers. You put long hours and all your creative energy into crafting a blog that is not only useful but reflects your personality only to find that your income and traffic drops off. Later you find a complete copy of your posts or entire blog. What can you do about it? Can it be prevented?

Blog Zombies

Reading through my feeds I happened across this post by Parental Olympian. It seems Scott Goldblatts content was being ripped off and a complaint to the thief was answered with

Your RSS feed is open for use on your website, which means that the user in question does NOT violate your copyright.

A thorny topic. There are many who agree with the perpetrator. After all feeds are a form of syndication. In his terms and conditions he clearly states that the feeds are for non-commercial purposes. Unfortunately just complaining will not usually have the desired effect.

Prevention

Right away, preferably before you are a victim, get print outs or dated screenshots of all your posts. You might need this proof in future.

There is nothing really you can do to stop someone stealing your content, if you make something readable then it is copyable. What you can do though is make sure all your links within your content and RSS feed point to the full address of your site rather than use relative links, that way if they are sloppy and do not rework the content you still have links pointing at your site. Both good for traffic and for evidence.

Make sure you have clear policies about use of your content and feeds and put a copyright notice in your footer.

Detection

You can search for copies of your content using Copyscape

So how do you even know to look if someone is stealing your content?

  • Drop off in traffic/Search referrals dry up
  • Another site appearing in search for your exact keywords
  • Referrals in your logs that look out of place

Let’s go through each in turn and discuss further.

Drop in traffic

There can be many reasons for a drop in traffic but if you are used to receiving a certain level of traffic from search engines, checking to see if someone has ripped you off is worthwhile. Copy a large segment of text, a couple of sentences, and see which pages come up in the results. It will be clear if your content has been copied or simply quoted.

Another site appears for your phrases

The other site might be higher in the results for good reason but they might also be ranking using your copy. What is also common is you drop out of the results completely because they are using your exact content and your site is seen as the duplicate.

Strange referrals

Weird one this but it does happen. All of a sudden I started receiving lots of traffic to page two of a three page article. It worked out that page one had been copied but they had left all the links exactly as they were in the original!

So what can we do?

If you do discover someone has copied your content then the most important thing is to stay calm. Getting hot-headed is not going to help and all you will acheive is a migraine.

The first thing to do, and the polite thing, is to contact the perpetrator as mentioned above. Find out everything you can about them, obviously most important is their contact details.

Most content thiefs will be using domains registered under dummy or cloaked details so you might need to do more investigation. Using DNSStuff you should be able to work out a fair bit about their domain and hosting solution. Before you contact the offenders ISP, take a copy of the site or at least screendumps.

If a site is ripping off content on a large scale it is also worth telling the other victims. Also if they are copying large amounts of posts they will be hoping to earn from it so another route is their advertisers and affiliate accounts.

Google, both adsense and search, and the other search engines take a dim view of this kind of thing. Let them know about it. At this point you might need to make a DMCA notice.

What’s left?

If you see it as a big problem then you really need legal advice, particularly if you are seeking damages payment. There are lawyers who specialise in copyright, obviously this could become costly but in the end if nobody defends their work the problem will only grow.

You?

Have you had your content stolen? What did you do?

Author: Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is a content marketing and blogging coach and co-author of the Problogger Book with Darren Rowse.