As a blogger, content thieves can be one of the most infuriating things to deal with. We DIY bloggers can work HOURS on one single post–doing the actual project, taking the photos of each step, editing the photos, writing the instructions. It’s hard work, and takes a tremendous time commitment.
So after all of those hours of work, a content thief comes along, swipes your post (including all of the pictures) from beginning to end, and reposts it on their blog that is usually filled with pay-per-click advertising. In a matter of minutes, they’ve stolen the very thing that you worked hours on, and now they’re making money off of your hard work.
“Infuriating” doesn’t even begin to describe it!!
So how do you deal with content thieves? Here’s how I go about it:
1. Determine if the offender is really a content thief.
To call someone a “thief” is really quite a strong accusation, and one that you don’t want to make lightly.
There are many, MANY new bloggers out there who may have the best intentions, and want to share your post with their handful of readers, and simply don’t know (yet) that reposting another blogger’s post in it’s entirety is a big no-no.
When I happen upon one of these newbies, I make every effort to handle the situation in private, and with as much kindness as I can portray in an email. I don’t want to come across as being so harsh, mean, or angry that I scare them away from blogging completely.
Newbies need to be taught, and I try to take that opportunity to pass along some helpful blogging tips, while at the same time, requesting that they remove my post and replace it with an excerpt and a link to my post.
They usually respond with something like, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea! I’m so sorry! I just loved your project so much that I wanted to share it.” So everyone’s a winner. They’ve learned something new and valuable as a new blogger, I still get my “shout-out” on their blog, and I have kept my original content safe and sound on my blog.
So there are newbies who don’t know better…and then there are content thieves. With the thieves, I’m not too concerned about kindness.
2. Locate The Owner’s Contact Information
More times than not, these content scrapers will not have any contact information on their blogs. They don’t really WANT anyone contacting them. They simply want to steal content and repost it on their blog that generally has tons of pay-per-click advertising in an effort to make easy money off of someone else’s hard work.
But if the offending blog is on its own domain (i.e., not a .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com blog), you can generally find contact information for the owner on a website called Better Who Is. Simply go to that website, and put the URL of the offending website into the blank…
After you press “Search”, it’ll bring up the information for that domain, including a contact email and mailing address, and a phone number. You can then use that contact information, and send them a demand for removal of your copyrighted material from their website. Be sure to give them a deadline, and tell them that you will take further action if your content has not been removed by that time.
3. Contact the offender’s domain registrar.
If the offending blogger or website owner has not responded within the set amount of time (or if the Better Who Is information did not show the actual website owner’s information, but rather, showed some proxy information), the next step is to contact the domain registrar/website host and file a complaint with them. The registrar information can also be found on the Better Who Is listing for that domain.
You may have to provide proof that the content belongs to you, but the domain registrar/hosting company will let you know exactly what you need to do, and if they will be able to help you. They may send legal notice to the offender/content thief.
Update: You will need to send the offending website’s ISP a DMCA Takedown Notice, and there are specific requirements for this notice. I happened upon this fantastic explanation of how to write a DMCA Takedown Notice.
4. If the offending blog is not on it’s own domain, contact the free hosting company.
If the thief’s blog is hosted in Blogger or WordPress.com, you can contact the hosting company and have the content removed.
I’ve never had to contact WordPress.com about a content thief, but I can tell you from personal experience that Blogger responds very quickly (within about 24 hours) to claims of copyright violation, and they will remove your content from a thief’s blog with no hesitation and no questions asked as long as you provide adequate proof that the content belongs to you.
If someone has stolen your content and placed it on a blog hosted by Blogger, you can use their online form to file a complaint. Be as specific as possible, and give them all of the requested information, and your content will be removed from the thief’s blog.
Unfortunately, you do have to give the URL of each and every post that the thief has stolen from you, which can be a very long and drawn out process if you’re dealing with a content scraper who’s using your RSS feed to fill up their blog with your posts.
I’m not sure about the specific process for WordPress.com or any other free blogging host, but I can assure you that they do have some remedy for copyright violations. You’ll just have to Google and/or find the information on the host’s Terms Of Service or other information pages.
5. When all else fails, send content thieves an interesting photo in place of your actual photos.
Content scrapers take everything…your entire post from beginning to end, including the URLs to the locations on your server of any of all of the photos in your blog post.
If you’re on a self-hosted blog, e.g., a WordPress blog hosted on HostGator or another website host, then that means you are paying a monthly hosting fee based on the amount of traffic your blog receives. The more traffic you get, the higher the cost of website hosting will be because you use more storage space and more bandwidth.
When these content thieves use the photos directly from your server, that means that you’re not only paying the monthly fee for the traffic to your own blog (the traffic that you actually benefit from), but you’re also paying for the traffic to your posts on the thief’s blog. (You can learn more about bandwidth and hotlinking here.)
The good news is that if you’re on a self-hosted blog, and you have access to your Control Panel (which you should), you can re-route all of the requests for photos on your server to another photo that you specify. That means that when one of the thief’s readers tries to read your post on the thief’s blog, instead of your server sending over the photos that are specified in the blog post, your server will instead send an alternate photo.
This morning, I reached my limit with content scrapers (thieves), so I used my photo editing software to create this photo…
And it brought up a screen that looks like this…
The first thing you want to do is click the button that says “Enable” at the top, so that you enable hotlink protection.
Next, you want to list all of the websites that you’ve given permission to publish your posts. If you have other websites or blogs, including subdomains, you’ll want to include those. Also, add things like your Feedburner feed URL, Google (so that people can still see your pics on Google Reader), and any other site where people are allowed to read your blog feed.
Then in the box that says “Redirect Request to This URL”, you’ll put the URL to the alternate photo that you created. Be sure that the URL ends with .jpg, or .png, or .gif, or another picture file extension. This URL must be directly to a picture, not to a webpage.
Please note that this last option will send your alternate photo to ANY website that uses photos from your server, and hasn’t been specifically listed in the “Allow Access” box.
That means that if you have a blog button that is on your server, and you provide the code for other bloggers to add your button to their blogs, they will now be sent the alternate photo. You can remedy this by uploading your blog button to a place like Photobucket or Flickr, and then adding that URL into the blog button code. However, any blogger with the old code will still be sent the alternate picture until they update their code.
That also means that if you have guest posted for another blogger, and you stored the photos for the post on your own server and included those photos in your post, that blog will now be sent the alternate photo on your guest post UNLESS you add that blog to the “Allow Access” box.
Also note that this option does NOT remove your actual content from the thief’s blog. However, the hope is that they will see all of the alternate photos filling up their blog, finally realize that it’s not worth it to steal from you, and remove your posts from their blog.
Dealing with content thieves can be frustrating and a huge drain on your valuable time. However, it’s very important that these thieves be dealt with. These republished posts are viewed by Google as duplicate content, and while Google is generally good at determining which source is the original source, there’s always a chance that your blog can be penalized by Google for having duplicate content, and even for unnatural linking practices (if your posts include links to prior posts on your blog). And as we bloggers know, it’s always best to stay on Google’s good side.