In today’s society, new content is produced at an alarming rate – and with everything just a search away, it’s super easy to find (and steal) whatever you want. If you’re worried about someone stealing your blog content for use as their own, there are some things you can do to protect yourself.
Run Your Content Through Copyscape
Copyscape allows you to check for plagiarism. The free version allows you to paste the URL of the page you want to check, and see if there’s anything else out there like it. Of course, it will find commonly used phrases, and some information such as dates and times that can’t be helped. The premium version, which will cost you a nickel a search, provides more in-depth protection. You can add credits at any time, and they expire a year after they’re added. You can paste your blog post content in the engine to be sure you’re not plagiarizing anyone before you post your content. You can even add the content to a private library to make sure you’re not duplicating yourself – good for avoiding both plagiarism (yes, you can plagiarize yourself!) and any duplicate content issues. Copyscape also has banners you can install on your website to let others know you use the service to protect your content.
You can also sign up for Copysentry, which automatically checks your content and alerts you of plagiarism. Plans start at $4.95/month for up to 10 pages, checked weekly. Each additional page will cost another $0.25/month. If you’d rather have your content checked every day, you can pay $19.95/month for up to 10 pages, and another $1/page/month for each additional page.
When you run a search, you’ll want to make sure you click through to read the page to make sure they are actually copying your content before you take action. Keep track of any pages that are truly copied with a spreadsheet or a text document.
Though I’m not an attorney and I can’t offer you legal advice, I can say this – you could be held liable for legal costs if the website is found to be using your content legally. So, if you’re not sure, talk to a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property law.
Include Terms and Conditions and Disclaimers on Your Website
Within your terms and conditions, you should also have disclaimers. These will protect you from liability should someone misuse your content. If you post a recipe on your blog, and then someone makes it, but ends up sick in the hospital – clearly, it isn’t your fault, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get sued. The disclaimer that you are not responsible for whatever happens should someone use the information you share on your blog helps relieve your legal liability.
While I’m an advocate for hiring an attorney to prepare your terms of service documentation for you, there are a number of tools online to help you generate custom terms on your own. While it is tempting to just copy the terms and conditions from another website, you can’t do that – that’s copyright infringement. Plus, their terms and conditions may be different from what you require on your website. Once you have the terms and conditions drawn up for your website, place them in the footer of your website – on every single page. If you WordPress, this is relatively easy to do, though specific step by step instructions will vary depending on the theme you’re using.
Register Your Content with the Copyright Office
Taking the time to register your content with the U.S. Copyright Office gives you the legal ground to sue for copyright infringement. While it’s true your copyright protection is automation and your posts are your property the second they are published, you don’t have the legal right to sue unless they are registered with the government.
You can register your blog content on the U.S. copyright registration portal. All you have to do is submit an application, payment, and your blog posts. It is possible to register a collection of posts at one time at a cost of around $35 to $55. Rather than trying to copyright each post as it goes live, you could submit an application monthly or quarterly. This way, you’ve got it worked into your workflow, and everything is protected.
When you register your website and blog content, if you find that someone has infringed upon your copyright, you have the right to monetary compensation as a result. These awards can range from $750 to as high as $150,000 in some cases – making the filing fees well worth the investment and peace of mind.
Add Plugins to Your Website
Though the developer hasn’t updated the plugin in a while, WP Content Copy Protection automatically prevents many of the most common content theft methods. It blocks right-clicking, source code viewing, many keyboard shortcuts, and more. A developer can also manually code these things into your website. Disabling right-click can also help protect your images from theft. If you’d rather not disable right click on the entire website, you can disable it on images only, too.
Though it doesn’t prevent content theft, watermarking your images can certainly deter it. Several plugins can automatically watermark images you upload to the media library, and some can even bulk watermark any images you’ve previously uploaded. Options include: Image Watermark, Easy Watermark, and Image Watermark WP. One thing worth mentioning is that once this is activated, every image you upload will be watermarked. That means if there are images you’re uploading that aren’t originally yours, you’ll need to turn it off before you upload them, so you’re not falsely watermarking them as your own.
Send a Cease and Desist Letter
Content and images are taken all the time online – sometimes on purpose, and sometimes by accident. If you know who did it, you can reach out to them and ask them to stop. You can do this in the form of an email that outlines the content that was taken, and ask them to either properly credit you, or to remove it completely. Generally, when someone realizes they were caught, this is enough for them to comply with your request.
If the email approach doesn’t work, ask your attorney to send a formal cease and desist letter. You don’t have to have an attorney to do it, but sometimes having legal representation helps speed up the process.
Your cease and desist letter should outline and reference the posts taken, with summaries, links, and other details. Typically, it will provide a 72-hour window to comply with the request. If your content is registered, include the copyright registration number in the letter. If the letter doesn’t work, move on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – also known as the DMCA.
Make Use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Under the DMCA, if someone takes your content and puts it elsewhere on the internet, you as the owner of the original content can go directly to the platform or web hosting company and let them know. When this happens, the content will be removed. This is the approach you should take if you’ve fallen victim to a content scraper and you’re not sure who is directly responsible for the infringement.
Use Whois to determine who owns the domain and where it is hosted. Once you have this information, you can contact the domain owner and/or host directly. Sites like YouTube and Google have DMCA takedown procedures in place, but if you’re dealing with one that doesn’t, you can email them.
Under the DMCA, as long as the platforms and hosts comply with various rules in the law – such as having a designated agent for handling the takedown notices – they won’t be held responsible for hosting infringed content. These platforms aren’t generally interested in hosting infringed content, so they gladly remove it, allowing it to remain in the one place it belongs – your blog.
Copyright Infringement is a Serious Crime
Just as you want to protect your content from infringement, you want to be sure you’re crafting content that’s original, and not subject to infringement. If you must use material from other sources, credit them accordingly – and ask for permission to use anything if you’re not sure.
And to remove my own liability, let me remind you, this article is not intended as legal advice, and instead is for informational and educational purposes only.
Have you ever had your content stolen? Share your story in the comments below.