As writers in this electronic environment, we run the risk of our words being republished without our permission and/or passed off as the work of someone else. The benefit of our environment, though, is that there are targeted ways of fighting back.
If your blogs are ever re-blogged elsewhere without your permission or your writing has been stolen and republished online otherwise, there are a few steps you can take without things getting too crazy.
As writers we run the risk of our words being republished without our permission and passed off as the work of someone else.
But First: A Note
If you find out your content is being scraped and republished online, you’re wading in the waters of copyright infringement. Before you go firing off your “strongly worded emails” and/or contacting “the authorities,” take a deep breath and verify that you’re in fact dealing with copyright infringement.
This is easy to do if what’s scraped is content (such as blog posts) lifted from a site you own and operate. It can be a little more tricky if your writing was client work, guests posts, etc.
Often contracts will state that copyright transfers from you to the client once you’re paid for the work — but check the language in your own contract to see what it says. And if you never signed a contract, the copyright never transfers and you retain the copyright. (This would mean you’re dealing with copyright infringement.)
How to Get Your Stolen Content Taken Down
Once you’ve determined it’s time to proceed, you need to decide what outcome you want to see, and how far you’re willing to go to get there. Do you want your content removed, or do want proper attribution and/or payment? (If you’ve got a contract attached to the work, you’ll need to do whatever will keep things in line with those terms.) If you have any questions at any point in the process, contact an attorney.
When you’ve clarified your goal and you’re ready to take action, here are a few steps you can take:
Send a letter
It’s not uncommon for copyright infringement issues to come up because the infringer doesn’t know any better.
For that reason, it can be really effective to send an infringement notification letter (aka email) to the site’s owner. See if you can find an email address or any contact information on the site where your content is being republished, and send your infringement letter to every email address you can find — including any “higher up” levels of authority you can find over the site (such as a “parent” site).
Look them up
Check WHOIS if the site has its own domain — the owner’s contact information may be listed there. This won’t work if the website sports something like “.blogger.com” or “.wordpress.com” at the end of the URL.
Find a profile
Another way to find contact information is to see if the site owner is responding to blog comments (and use that to go to their profile link) or to do a search on social media for the site’s main URL to see if you can find clues about the owner’s contact information.
Go to the host
If that doesn’t work (or if you aren’t able to find any contact information), you can lay down the DMCA smackdown. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires hosting companies to remove any content that violates a copyright.
A quick way to find out who’s hosting your thief’s site is to check WhoIsHostingThis.com. From there, you should be able to find the host company’s name. Visit the host company’s site and look for their mechanism for reporting abuse — probably the quickest way to do this is by searching their support documents for the word “abuse.”
For more ideas for finding someone to contact, check out my friend Jennifer Mattern’s detailed run-down here of what she does when she finds her content being scraped.
If you find that your blog feed is being copied and republished elsewhere, you can add a special footer to each post that only shows up in the feed. I once read about someone who added this footer and called out the website that was doing the lifting. That alone was enough to get the scraper to stop.
Take It to the Next Level (If Necessary)
Many times, these steps are enough to get your content taken down. If you’re up against something bigger and badder — and it’s worth it to you to spend the extra time and money — it might be time to speak with an attorney who specializes in this type of copyright infringement.
Have you ever noticed your work being stolen? How did you handle it?