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Copy Cats: How to Protect Your Content from Theft

| Posted in category Copyright

green ropeContent theft aka content “scraping” is nothing new to the Internet folks. About every website owner has at least once detected an illegally published copy of his own content somewhere in the vastness of the World Wide Web. Besides, copy cats have become smarter and more technologically advanced nowadays, hijacking whole websites, scraping RSS feeds, and more. So, how does one discourage the lucky duckies out there and protect their content from theft? Here are some basic steps.

1. Warn them

Well, if someone really wants to scrape your content, they probably will anyway. Yet, a polite warning on your website might deter scraper newbies or those unaware of copyright nuances. For instance, copyscape.com and dmca.com offer free copyright banners that you can put up on your website. They are also available in different shapes and sizes.

In order to protect your images from unauthorized use, watermarks are normally used. On the Web, there are lots of different watermark creation tools, for example visualwatermark.com , watermark.ws . They allow you to create watermarks of different degrees of transparency, color, etc.

Moreover, some SEO folks recommend disabling the right-click/Ctrl+C or create a pop-up warning that shows up once someone starts copying stuff from the webpages you wish to protect. Well, that will annoy a great deal of your visitors, and still will not stop more determined content thieves who normally snatch your HTML code.

2. Get a digital fingerprint of your work

This step could be omitted if you think you are not likely to take legal action in case your content gets scraped. However, having a digital fingerprint of your work (which is a serial number that you get from a copyrights management company) might serve as a reliable proof that you are the author of a particular work. This will spare you the need to collect evidence if somebody actually steels your content. However, most such services would charge you for registering your creative work. For example, numly.com charges $9.95/mo for 100 digital fingerprints. And you get a discount on an annual subscription.

A good way to secure evidence that you are the author of your work is to bookmark it using various bookmarking services as soon as you create it. This way your work will get indexed quickly for sure.

3. Look for copies of your content on the Web

Whatever it is that you hold near and dear – unique articles, kick-ass blog posts – run regular checkups to see if they turn up anywhere on the Web. There are numerous duplicate content checkers, free and paid. The most widely used one is, probably, copyscape.com. The free version of this program allows you to search by URL and see up to 10 duplicates of your content. Paid account users can also submit text and see if there are duplicates of it anywhere on the Internet. Besides, there are lots of other duplicate content checkers, for example, plagiarisma.net, etc.

Use Google Images to look for copies of your images, if you’d like. Quite a lot of people do not even bother to change the name of the file they copy illegally.

Besides, you can not only check for copies of your content online, but also sign up for a plagiarism notification service, like the one offered by Copysentry, for example. Their plans start at $4.95/mo. Or, you can just use Google Alerts (for free ;)) to see if any of your buzz words turn up anywhere on the Web.

4. Take action immediately

Once you detect a duplicate of you very own content, do not hesitate to take action right away. As experience shows, quite a lot of content scrapers remove stolen content from their websites once confronted. If simple request to remove snatched content does not help, contact the hosting provider of the scraper website and ask them to take action. They normally have strict policies regarding the hosting of such websites and might simply block the website you are complaining about. To locate the host, look up the site’s URL on one of the WHOIS sevices, for example, whois.net or whoisdomaintools.com.

5. Report the scraper website to Google

Well, or any other search engine. This often helps and chances are the website with stolen content gets deranked/deindexed. Here is what Google thinks about duplicate content.  And here is where you can report copyright violation to Google.

It is also believed that a lot of content scrapers  snatch content for the sake of increasing their Adsense ads popularity. If you see any Adsense ads on the site that posted duplicate content, you can report a case of copyright infringement directly to Adsense here.

6. Take legal action

If nothing helps, then the means of last resort is a lawsuit. Well, it’s very rare that a lawsuit gets filed over a 500 word long article or a photograph used by a blogger who gets 10 visitors a month. But in more serious cases it could be just necessary, which is a different story altogether. To understand your rights and responsibilities in terms of copyright, have a look at copyright.gov, which is the official website of the United States Copyright Office. It offers texts of different legislative documents that concern copyright and explains copyright basics in plain language.

So, if for some unfortunate reason your content gets scraped by ignorant or cunning copyright violators, you know what to do now. And we sincerely hope that you never get to step 6 😉 .



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