December 17, 2014

What to do when your Content is Stolen Online

when someone steals your content

Yep….that’s the Outdoor Blogger Network content being stolen in it’s entirety

Hi! If you are reading this post, but you aren’t on the Outdoorbloggernetwork.com website or a legit RSS Feed reader, than you should know it’s stolen content from the Outdoor Blogger Network. That’s right, the website you are currently on is stealing content because they aren’t smart enough to write their own!
For the real deal, visit the Outdoor Blogger Network.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist….(waves to content thief)

If you run a website or write a blog long enough online, chances are you’ll eventually find your content pirated, copied, stolen, used and reproduced in one way or another….

After your initial anger at seeing your personal efforts being used by someone else, you need to take an offensive stance and get after the offender.

Since someone is currently stealing all of the copyrighted material from the OBN feed and re-posting it on their site, I thought this would be a good time to address this problem and show everyone the steps I’ve already taken, and will continue to take until the situation has been resolved.

First off, it’s good to know WHY people would use your content.

Scraper sites (sites that use the content of others) do it for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, content is king when it comes to SEO’ing a site (search engine optimization), ranking a site, gaining visitors and value via search engines. The people who use the content of others either don’t have the time, ability or money to pay someone to write their own original content, so they need to ‘beef’ up a websites content and they do it on the backs of others. Typically the only reason to do such a site is to drive advertising revenue up via organic visitors.

The Scrapers: Now…in the case of the site that is currently posting word for word the content of the OBN: simply copy and pasting content in it’s entirety from another site without link attribution/credit to the original author is pure theft and it won’t fly. Basically, they are using the OBN’s outdoor keyword rich content to beef up their online business in the rankings.

The Aggregation Sites: There are sites that are purely an aggregation of content from various sources around the web.  These types of sites will use a partial content/excerpts (NOT YOUR WHOLE POST) with a link attribution back to the original content owner. From my understanding, they achieve this through a ‘fair use’ clause in the copyright system. In some cases this can be a great thing if you’ve been picked up by a popular website and linked back to your site. In other cases it’s just scrapping and provides no benefit to you.

Aggregation sites — if they follow proper link attribution and credit to the original writer are working within legal lines, but you CAN request they remove your information. Most sites don’t want any issues and will remove your work if you ask.

Back to what to do when your online content is stolen:

Step One: Try the easy route, contact the offender from their site.

The first thing I did Wednesday was find a contact on the offending website. I sent them the following message.

“To the Administrator of this Website:

It has come to our attention that you are copy and pasting content in it’s entirety from our Website located at Outdoorbloggernetwork.com

To your website located under your domainhttp://www.j—removed so they don’t get link credit here g.com/

This is your official copyright infringement notice. If our content is not removed within 24 hours, we will contact your website hosting company with a DMCA notice(Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

Rebecca Garlock
Owner of the Outdoor Blogger Network”

I also had a hunch that they were taking the information from our OBN RSS Feed, so I went and did a modification to our feed so that it would include an actual link to the OBN since at that point there was no attribution/link to the OBN within their copying. Plus I would know if they were copying from the feed or our actual site:

When I looked today at the offending site, sure enough my latest OBN post was up and I see the new Copyright and URL I added to our feed is on their site, so now I know where they are pulling from, but I also noticed that they have now added a view Original Article Link:

screenshot from the offending site

That’s nice and all, but they are still stealing our content in it’s entirety without permission.

If they were to read our copyright notice they would see that it clearly states the following:

Unauthorized use or copying of the material on this site without express and written permission from the OBN is prohibited. Excerpts may be used as long as credit and a link back to the original material at Outdoorbloggernetwork.com is used.

If you don’t have one of those little notices on your blog, please feel free to copy mine, change your website info and post it somewhere on your site.

If Step One doesn’t work, then onto Step Two:

Any website that is its own domain is hosted somewhere….

You’ll need to visit http://www.whois.net/ and enter the domain name of the offender. From there you’ll be given a starting point of who, what, where. Sadly in my case, it’s looks to be a private registration, but that’s ok, I still know the site is done via GoDaddy and that’s who I went to with my copyright complaint.

Hosting companies (in most countries) typically take violation complaints seriously and will notify the offender and or take down the site if necessary… so at this point, I’ll see what GoDaddy has to say and let everyone know in my follow up post.

Step Three: The whole point of them taking your content is to beef up their own website to gain notice in search engines — thus driving potential traffic to their website. Take them down by filing a DMCA with all the major search engines.

File a complaint with Google:  http://support.google.com/bin/static.py?hl=en&ts=1114905&page=ts.cs

File a complaint with Yahoo: http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/abuse/

File a complaint with Bing: http://www.microsoft.com/info/cpyrtinfrg.htm

Step Four: If they are displaying advertising anywhere on their website, be sure and be helpful ! and let their advertisers know they are copyright violators.

Step Five: Hopefully you don’t have to get to this point, but if you do, it’s time for legal action and you’ll need a lawyer.

In conclusion for today, I’m currently at step two and I’ll follow up with the results of my little battle as they get resolved.

If anyone else has dealt with this issue and has more solutions, or ideas to add, please let me know in the comments! If I got something wrong above, do tell so I can get it right.

We all need to stick together against the ugly underbelly of the Internet =)

Rebecca

Bonus Note:
If your content is on a domain.wordpress.com site, Visit here to file a complaint: http://en.wordpress.com/report-spam/

If your content is on a domain.blogspot.com site, visit here to file a complaint: http://support.google.com/bin/static.py?hl=en&ts=1114905&page=ts.cs

Bonus Note #2 ~ How to Check the web to find out if your content is being copied: 

There are a couple of ways you can check the web for offenders. First up, visit Copyscape and enter your personal domain name.

Please be aware that many people have RSS feeds to your site (a huge compliment) posted in their blogroll that can come up on copyscape. So be sure to check the actual link that copyscape provides, visit the site, look it over and decide if the person is simply linking to you, has you in a informational RSS feed set up,  if they are excerpting your information or just stealing your content.

You can also set up via your google account — google alerts that email you when information has been posted about you out there on the web. You can play around with the alerts until you have in narrowed down to just the info you want sent.

Those are the two systems I use, does anyone else have other avenues to check for stolen content on the web?

About Rebecca

When Rebecca isn't running the Outdoor Blogger Network, she is off Fly Fishing her favorite rivers. Occasionally she writes about those adventures at The Outdooress.

Comments

  1. 1

    Just goes to show you that there are creeps in all walks. You’d think outdoor folks would have more common sense and dignity, but I guess not these guys. Thank you for sharing this with everyone. ( PS – I can’t wait to see THIS post show up on THEIR website! lolz )

    • 2

      I would think Outdoor folk would too….but alas, we have to take a couple of bottom feeders in the mix with a whole lot of greatness!

      And I have to admit Owl, I can’t wait to see if this post shows up on their website or not =)

  2. 3

    How would you know if your content is being stolen?

  3. 6

    I’ve had to deal with this fairly recently too. Not much fun , and it does bug me , but it’s tough to catch all of it. Supposedly , there are “investment funds” that buy premium domains and then fill the sites with content swiped from RSS feeds. There’s even a wordpress plugin to swipe feeds , or so I’ve heard.

    One thing that has helped me was to change my RSS feed to syndicate a summary ( the first 200 words (I think)) as opposed to the whole article. I hated to do it , because I know of a few who get new posts via email , and others who primarily use a reader , but it was getting out of hand. Switching to summaries has really cut down on a lot of it.

    Best of luck getting it cleared up Rebecca!

    • 7

      Thanks JM.

      I’d hate to change the RSS feed to summary since I know a ton of people pretty much follow the OBN via their email or feeder. But if it becomes a constant issue I might be forced to go that route because battling it is a pain and time consuming.

      Darn bottom feeders of the Internet!!

      • 8

        Agreed. I follow a LOT via my RSS feed, OBN included, and it sort of makes you wonder how many folks are really reading your blog since you don’t see that in your “hit” metrics.

        Bottom feeders, indeed.

  4. 9

    Great post. Thanks for the info.

  5. 10

    This happened to me a few months ago as well. I found the offending site by looking at the pingbacks to my site. I saw a bunch coming from a domain I didn’t recognize in rapid succession and that’s how it came to my attention. These guys not only stole my content, but scraped the entire site including images, theme, everything. They even went as far as to register a very similar domain name to mine. Unbelievable.

    At any rate, I knew enough about the DMCA to be able to take the steps you outlined above, contacting the website owner and host simultaneously. Thanks for documenting those steps, btw. And luckily the owner decided to do the right thing, pull the content and apologize (said “his developers needed some content for prototyping a new site, that’s all” or something like that). I took that all with a grain of salt, especially since they continue to use the similar domain name and the theme they pirated from my site.

  6. 11

    Hi Rebecca. Thanks for the post. Some months ago I found a whole series of my photos that’d been taken and re-used in someone’s article to describe a route on a geo-caching website, and only after I’d run a Google Images search and thought some results looked really familiar. I really wouldn’t have cared if they’d actually asked me first, but there was no attribution. I posted something in their comments thread asking for an attribution (no response), then I emailed the author directly and asked the same, and eventually he just decided to remove them completely rather than add a simple line to say they weren’t from him. That seemed weird to me, but whatever.

    A couple of thoughts occur.

    #1 – (For anyone reading) Please make sure you’re not also ripping off other people’s work. I lost count a long time ago of the amount of times I’ve seen bloggers take random pictures off a Google Images search or similar and re-publish them without permission because they want a big themed picture at the top of their post and find it quickest and easiest not to bother creating or licensing it themselves.

    #2 – If you want to be pro-active and do something radical, you could consider automatically licensing your work to others under a Creative Commons licence, which lets people reproduce it under certain conditions that you choose (like non-commercial, attribution required, no modifications or whatever). I have a note at the end of all my pages which states the text is licensed for others to use non-commercially under certain conditions, as long as they attribute it. (I don’t do the same for the pictures I publish at this point.)

    I also have one small semantic gripe. I won’t excuse people or sites that rip off content without permission or legal rights, but it’s not stealing — it’s copyright infringement. Stealing would be if someone took it and you no longer had it, but copyright infringement is about duplication, and it only applies for a fixed term (rather long in modern times but still a fixed term). Historically the primary reason for copyright law’s existence at all is to encourage creativity to generate works that eventually go into the public domain, rather than to let authors “own” what they create perpetually. Sorry I know it sounds like a small difference, but I’ve been annoyed in the past and present by several media mega-corporations which have been strongly influencing copyright law around the world by lying to governments that people are “stealing” billions of dollars from them that they never had in the first place, and then forcing through law changes that effectively give a small number of corporations absolute control over masses of content, eroding away traditional rights for users under copyright law such as fair use (or fair dealing where I’m from)… and that’s really bad for any creators who aren’t mega-corps, such as bloggers.

  7. 12

    I had some really blatant plagiarism happen last year – http://ozarkoutdoorjournal.blogspot.com/2011/06/ever-have-your-words-stolen.html
    I did get it resolved – but it was still a pain in the backside.

  8. 13

    ** “If they were to read our copyright notice they would see that it clearly states the following:
    Unauthorized use or copying of the material on this site without express and written permission from the OBN is prohibited. Excerpts may be used as long as credit and a link back to the original material at Outdoorbloggernetwork.com is used. **

    Just to maybe spark some debate on this, exact law varies from place to place, but generally fair use law makes it legal for people to use excerpts (reasonably) without linking back to the original material, as long as the source is cited. (I’m not even sure if citing is necessary, but I expect it’d be tough to justify something as fair use if you weren’t saying what you were talking about.) It probably doesn’t hurt to remind people that stuff’s under copyright and they shouldn’t be lifting it, but it’s automatically copyrighted with or without such a statement (unless you explicitly say it isn’t), and adding a statement saying anything in particular is disallowed doesn’t make it illegal if it was legal in the first place. Whether someone else’s use of excerpts provides benefit to you or not doesn’t really matter. It’s legal by design of copyright law for the benefit of *others* in society, because copyright law is meant to be a compromise rather than a total granting of distribution rights to an author or publisher. (Even though some publishers would have it another way, and society’s rights under copyright law are gradually being eroded by mega-corporations buying off politicians to let them profiteer more on their vast IP interests while doing less work as I mentioned earlier.)

    In cases when I don’t own rights to content, fair use is what makes it legal for me to use something like Google Reader to consolidate related blog posts in a convenient format without having to visit a million different slow-loading and incompatible websites directly, and it’s awesome. Fair use is the same clause which makes it possible, for instance, to review a book or quote some of the material that’s being criticised. So if you write a heap of stuff about silly people who need rescuing and then require rescuing after doing silly things, it might be completely legal fair use for a journalist to lift and re-print relevant parts—possibly lengthy relevant parts—of your blog posts if they’re meaning to show how hypocritical you are. Fair use also allows for companies like Google to re-publish excerpts of text or images from websites without explicitly requesting permission. Parody is another example of fair use—others might be able to legally reproduce your work under certain circumstances if they’re making fun of the work, and it’s often defensible even if it’s being done for profit… meaning that if you write something on your blog that’s controversial and another blogger or journalist re-writes it in a way that makes you look like an idiot, don’t expect to necessarily be able to force them to take it down using the law.

    What people can’t typically do is lift the entire content verbatim and republish it without permission, or republish it in a way that tries to supersede it, even if they credit it to you. So if someone’s scraped your site in an obvious attempt to draw traffic to themselves by re-printing your content, and it’s not part of an effort to criticise or comment on it, or if they’ve quoted unreasonable amounts for what they’re doing, it may well be copyright infringement.

    Anyway, I’m not a copyright lawyer but that’s my general understanding.

  9. 14

    Thank you for sharing Rebecca.
    It is too bad that people do these things.
    Some however don’t take the time to find out if it is okay or not. Some just think you won’t mind. I always appreciate when outdoor friends ask if they can share one of my posts. They are the best. ; )

  10. 15

    I’ve had this happen before. Some guy was just ripping it off and posting it to message boards. I just happen to find it because I checked my activity and followed up on it. I bitched to everyone, I even found out who the main moderators of the site were and found them on Facebook. They took it down pretty quickly. – JGR

  11. 16

    Thanks for a great post. It’s a shame that people have to try to game the system with SEO and scraping sites. Luckily Google tends to be REALLY harsh on sites that do this.

    It must be quite flattering to have someone out there who appreciates your writing enough to steal it (:

  12. 17

    I too am having the same problem. I tried a dcma to hostgator but that was a waste of time. I saw the offending site is linking directly to my images. I replaced those images with a male member. Now proudly standing amongst my stolen content on the scraper site is a male person in all his glory. The images on my site have been renamed. That is sweet revenge.

  13. 18

    I just had my entire website hijacked and stolen by the S#%^&X site people. I had to contact Go Daddy and go back and restore my files in my FTP server area. It is really scary to see that some out there do not care about us who have legitimate sites and are just trying to provide clean content for others to share. I got everything back up and running and then changed all my passwords. The lesson is protect your information always. So protect your content and your websites.

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