Fighting Copied Content and Plagiarism

I recently had an issue with one of my other websites. Somebody decided that they would copy my content and list it as their own, on their own website. Obviously I was not okay with this, and nobody should. In leiu of this, I’ve decided to write about what you as a webmaster can do to fight people from copying your content, or at the very least prevent it from happening.

From my experience, the only thing worse than searching for plagiarists, is finding one. I mean, what on earth do you do when you find one? What steps should you take in getting them to remove the content in which they’ve freely copied and listed as their own? I’ve come up with a few ideas that I personally implement when somebody decides to copy my content, and they are quite effective.

Prevention

If you are a webmaster of a website, popular or not, your content will eventually be stolen and republished somewhere else. You will go through mixed feelings of pride, rage, and confusion, especially the first time it happens to you. However, after having it happens over and over, as in my case, it just plain upsets you. You shouldn’t feel flattered, you should feel upset. This is your business that people are messing with, and do you know what the side effects of copied content are? Let me name just a few for you:

  1. You’ll be outranked
  2. You’ll get bumped down the list
  3. You’ll lose money
  4. You’ll start wondering what YOU are doing wrong
  5. You’ll be very upset

Having said that, is this a series of events that you want to happen to you? I sure hope not. Whoever (or whatever) it was that ripped off your content did it for one single reason. Can you guess what the reason is? If you guessed that they just needed something to do, then you’re wrong. However, if you guessed anything dealing with finances, you’ve connected the hammer to the head of the nail. This simple procedure of copying your content is making them money, and it was oh so easy.

So how do you fight it?

I just finished telling you what the motive of content scapers is and if you can add two plus two, you will have realized just what you may need to do in order to get your content removed from their website.

The first thing that I typically do is make a “good faith” effort to contact the person who owns the website in which the content was placed. This can easily be done and there are several ways to do it. First, go to their website and look for the following:

  • Contact Form
  • Contact Email
  • Forums
  • Comment on Blogs or Posts

If you can’t find any of the above, take a trip over to Network Solutions’ WHOIS lookup tool and find an email address or phone number. If the domain just happens to be listed privately, and the information given is generic privacy information, you only have one choice.

Attack the thief’s wallet

The thief stole your content, and they stole it to make money. It’s just too bad that their advertisers are typically listed on their website. This can range from Google Adsense to affiliate programs. In either case, you should contact the advertisers and let them know of the foul play that is going on with their publisher. About 99% of these programs have an anti-spam policy, and any members who are accused of spamming won’t get their paychecks until they explain themselves and remove objectional content.

Contact their host

Somebody has to host their website, and the chances are extremely high that they don’t own their own server or hosting company. Do a WHOIS lookup and find out the nameservers that they are using to host their website. Now find the contact information of the hosting company and let them know that you are content on having the your content removed and that the webmaster has not be reachable or refused to remove it. If the offender is in the US, you can get DCMA on your side as well.

Cease and desist

If you really want to get nasty, and the problem is serious, you can hire an attorney to have them send a statement claiming that they must cease and desist their tricks. If they don’t, you have the right to bring the to court. If it goes to court, the offender will have to show up in your local court, and bring a judge from his own district. It’s really a messy situation. Of course, this doesn’t apply if the offender is outside of your jurisdiction.

Public name and shame

Sometimes there isn’t a whole lot you can do, especially if the plagiarist is international, and legal action can’t be pursued. Find out their internet alias, or real name, and search on search engines for where else they have been. Sometimes, you’ll find an offender who has a reputation at forums and other places. Go there and let everybody know the actions of the offender, they might be able to help.

Hire an Intellectual Property Attorney

The most powerful approach you can take is to hire an intellectual property attorney to go after the crooks. This is the approach that I decided to take mid-2010 and it’s worked out well so far. I’ve hired my attorney Steven Gibson with RightHaven to freely take on all intellectual property infringements on a contingency basis. If all else fairs, I strongly suggest contacting him and seeing what he has to say.

In rare cases, nothing can be done

I hate to say it, but when all else fails, you can’t do much beyond what I’ve suggested. Take is as a lesson, change the scripts on your website and make them more difficult to scrape or copy. There are scripts out there that can do this, and coders can be hired from websites such as RentaCoder.com and Guru.com.

Good luck!

Recommended Plagiarism Sites

Plagiarism Today

Jonathan Bailey’s website about combatting plagiarism and copied content is a must read. The entire website is dedicated to the topic and provides some useful tools for readers.

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