How to Handle Online Content Thieves

content_thiefMost business people wouldn’t consider stealing somebody else’s online content and presenting it as their own. However, if you’re one of those folks who is diligent about adding original content to your website or blog, chances are you’ll one day find your awesome prose or photos have been pilfered and are now being prominently displayed on somebody else’s site.

Why Do People Steal Online Content?

In a nutshell, because it’s easier than coming up with original material. The most blatant offenders are the scrapers, who simply lift your content and post it, word-for-word, on their site without providing any kind of attribution or credit. Scrapers are generally trying to come up with a lot of keyword-rich content fast for their site, and don’t have the time, ability, or money to produce it on their own or pay someone else to do it.

In other cases, it could simply be the work of misguided fans who like your work so much that they want to showcase it themselves. In some cases, the failure to credit you as the original author may be a legitimate oversight. In others, they may actually be trying to claim your work as their own.

How Can I Tell If Someone Is Stealing My Content?

If the thieves are stripping the links out of your articles, then your only hope of catching them is to stumble across your content on their site. You can use a search engine to do an exact match search for your post titles or any distinguishable phrases you commonly use, but it’s still very much a needle-haystack situation.

If the thieves leave your links intact (as most content scrapers do), then there are several ways you can go about catching the culprits red-handed.

  • Trackbacks: WordPress can alert you any time another website links to yours. If your content has links to other items on your site, it’ll show up as a trackback when it’s posted on the scraper site.
  • Webmaster Tools: Google’s Webmaster Tools include a utility that displays links to your website. If a site is linking to a lot of your posts, odds are you’re dealing with a content scraper. Or an online stalker, in which case, you have a different kind of problem.
  • Copyscape: Copyscape is a search engine designed to search for duplicate content. Their free search will provide you with a handful of results, while a premium account will let you check up to 10,000 pages.

What Can I Do If Someone Is Stealing My Content?

The first thing to do is to breathe deep until all thoughts of felonious assault are gone. Once you’re tranquil and thinking straight once again, you have a number of options:

  • Contact the offenders. Check the offending website for an email address, phone number, or other means of reaching them. If they don’t provide that information, use WHOIS to look up the domain owner. Once you know the identity of the culprits, send them a notice to let them know you want all of the stolen content taken down immediately.
  • Contact the hosting company and/or domain registrar. If the villains stealing your content refuse to comply, or if you can’t find any contact information for them, use WHOIS to figure out whom the domain is registered through and/or who is hosting the website. Contact both companies if possible and let them know that the domain in question is stealing content.
  • File a removal request. All of the major search engines—Google, Yahoo!, and Bing—have processes in place that will let you report content that is in violation of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). You can also file a complaint with WordPress if the website in question is hosted on their domain.
  • Contact the advertisers. If the site in question is displaying any ads, get in touch with the advertisers and let them know.
  • Call a lawyer. If all else fails, an attorney can outline your options and help you decide on the proper course of action.

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