The person who said ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ obviously didn’t live in the internet age. Because I sure as hell don’t feel flattered when I see my content on other people’s websites without even a suggestion that they didn’t write it.
And yet, it’s ridiculously common. It seems like there is an entire segment of the population who build their reputation off of stolen content. That’s hugely frustrating to those of us who spend our time putting together high-quality, original and well-researched content. So, what can we do about it?
Fortunately, it is possible to do some.
Put a Copyright Sign on Your Page
Okay, the truth is that everything that you create, whether you put it online or not, is copyrighted. That’s the good news. The bad news is that a lot of people don’t seem to know that. They assume that if it doesn’t say your content is copyrighted or watermarked, well then it must not be copyrighted.
So, step one is to make it clear that your content is, indeed, copyrighted. The standard way to do so is to put a copyright sign in the footer of each page. Normally, that’s written like so:
©2001 – 2018 All rights reserved. Enter your name here dot com.
You’ll also want to put up terms & conditions of use somewhere on your website which specify what people can and can’t do with your content. Your best bet is to ask a lawyer who understands website and online communications. Do note, not all of them do – so make sure you check!
Alternatively, if that’s too expensive, then check out how other people have written up their terms and conditions. Of course, don’t simply copy and paste as that would be the height of irony.
Register Your Website
Hopefully, you never have to bring a lawsuit to get people to take your content down. All the same, better safe than sorry. Register your content with the appropriate authorities to be on the right footing to bring a case against somebody if it’s necessary.
In the US, you can register your page through the U.S. Copyright registration portal. Do note, you’ll have to pay to pay a small fee to register your content. You can do so in bulk.
Register with Plagiarism Checker Websites
Next, you’ll want to put your page up with one of the many plagiarism checkers out there and then put their banner on your website. The advantage of these services is that they will check to see if there are people out there who have already copied your content and will continue to do so.
That’s important, as legally the impetus to find people who have ‘borrowed’ your content falls on you and not the copyright office. The reason is obvious. So much content gets created each second that it’s simply impossible for any single office to check it all! And so, we – or somebody else on our behalf – has to do it.
There are a lot of them out there. Some are better than others. Some are more expensive than others. So, shop around. Make sure you check if they’ve got that banner for you to put up. In that way, any potential thieves will immediately see that if they do copy and paste your content, they’re going to be discovered quickly.
If You Find Your Content Elsewhere Start With an Email
To legally require somebody to take your content down is a long process that can put you back considerably financially. So that’s better kept as a last resort. A better idea is to first email the site and let them know the content they’ve put up is, in fact, yours.
As a lot of content websites put up get created by third parties, there is a good chance they won’t know. For that reason, don’t start off by yelling and swearing to bring down hellfire. Besides, a nicely-worded and well-written email generally tends to work better anyway.
If you don’t know who to send an email to you can use the tool whois.net. There you can get the official owner of the website, which you can then generally use to track them down.
If that person does not comply with your request, then contact whoever is hosting the website. Often, these companies aren’t looking for any legal trouble and will take down websites which infringe on other people’s copyrights.
If even that doesn’t work, then contact Google. They can’t take down the website itself, but they can stop listing it in their search results. And that’s almost the same thing.
Finally, Get a Lawyer
If all that doesn’t work, then it’s time to bring in a lawyer. That does mean paying their fees and in other ways committing yourself to a lengthy process. So, make sure you’re ready for all that. At the same time, if none of us ever get in touch with lawyers, then content thieves can act with impunity. And none of us want that!
So, if you do go down this road, think of yourself as a torchbearer for the rest of the blogging community. After all, if you enforce these needs then hopefully other copyright infringers will be scared off. And that’s good for all of us!