What Do I Do When My Writing Has Been Stolen?

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.

What Do I Do When My Writing Has Been Stolen?

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 “” or “” 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 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.”

Keep reading

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?

Ashley Gainer is a part-time freelance writer and editor, a full-time mom, a life-long Tar Heel, and a knitter during stolen moments. On paper, her greatest accomplishment might be building a successful freelance business as an at-home single mom in her son’s infant-to-preschool years. In reality, though, she’s more likely to tell you about the blue ribbon she won at the State Fair. When she's not writing or being "mommy," she's at teaching other parent-preneurs how to build a business around their family lives. You can find more about her at her website, or hang out on Twitter.

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It’s a really valuable and informative text, thanks for that! People are struggling with plagiarism all the time. The only thing that is missing is the process of searching for the scraped content. It usually is pure coincidence that someone finds out that his/her post was stolen. But once it was stolen, you search deeper and deeper just to make sure nothing else was stolen. I know it from my own experience. I searched for the plagiarised posts manually and it was a pain in the ass, but my friend who is also a blogger recommended to me a great tool ( that does that work for me and scans my blog regularly and sends me emails every time it finds a copy of my work online. After that, your advice is perfectly aplicable.Reply to Anna
Thanks for the tip, Diana!Reply to Ashley
Such an important topic! Thanks for bringing it up, Ashley 🙂 As far as I know, I haven’t had my blog posts stolen (yet) but I have had and content to have my profile objective stolen (on websites like oDesk, Elance, even LinkedIn). I have found that the most effective tactic is to contact the website where the stolen content is hosted – e.g. oDesk, Elance or LinkedIn. They usually have a procedure in place, to determine that it was in fact *my* content which was stolen by someone else – and they quickly pull it down, should the thief refuse to cooperate. Works every time. I realize this is different than in the case you describe in your post because if a blog post is stolen, the thief probably hosts it on their own website so contacting them wouldn’t be as efficient as contacting a 3rd party website. Nevertheless, I wanted to share this for everyone out there who has to deal with this type of freelance plagiarists 🙂 Hope this helps! ~DianaReply to Diana
Thanks! It hasn’t happened to me (yet) but it’s good to know what protection is out there. One more reason to work with a contract, too 🙂Reply to Ashley
Ashley, Great post! I personally haven’t had my writing stolen and I hope I never do. Thanks for the great tips though!Reply to Elna