How to Respond to Online Content Theft

Credit: Copyscape

What is Article Plagiarism?

Content writers, webmasters, and others who post content online need to learn how to check for plagiarism and respond to it.  Plagiarism is when someone uses an article, image, or copyrighted content without permission. Online plagiarism is rampant costing content writers money in diverted income. 

Google penalizes duplicate content although they are tweaking their algorithms to try to rank original content first.  Sometimes scraped and copied content is ranked higher than the original. Sites like InfoBarrel and Seekyt accept unique articles only so it's important to have only one copy of an article to avoid any problems. Writing articles a  lot of work and it burns when someone an article drops in the SERPS or stops earning because someone plagiarized it. 

When content writers do not know an article was plagiarized their earnings can suddenly drop. A high earning article can lose its search engine ranking which leads to money loss.  It is important to check for plagiarism, especially when writing articles for residual income because the earnings are fragile.  Writers need to respond to plagiarism according to the copyright laws. 

Plagiarism and Copied Content Myths - Backlinks and Compliments

Content thieves steal articles to make money for themselves. Writers who have articles copied sometimes think the reproduction is a compliment.  This happens a lot with new online writers. It may happen on occasion, but is not the norm. Plagiarism is not a good backlink source.  Many content thieves leave links in the article and link back to the original.  This is still plagiarism.  Some sites advise leaving the copied content as long as it isn't ranking above the original in the search engines.  This advice is okay except Google frowns on links from bad reputation sites.  The "backlink" can harm the SEO efforts if it's a no-good site.

Follow these steps to check and respond to plagiarism.

How to Check for Plagiarism

1.Use the allintitle feature. Go to Google. Enter the following in your search box: allintitle:_____. The underlined area is where your search term goes. Use your title. All results with the term in the title will return.

Select the first 1-2 sentences of your article or piece of web content to check for plagiarism. Go to Google. In the search box put in parenthesis ("") and enter your article phrase. Hit enter and search that phrase. Oftentimes, those who copy articles do it quickly and use the article title and start copying at the beginning.

2. Check search results. Bookmarking sites will often show the first few sentences of your article.  When you bookmark your articles always add a unique description if the feature is available.  Read website addresses carefully and avoid suspicious websites.  Some websites use an article feed to show "related content", but it's really just a grabbing keywords.  Look at the cached copy of the website to find your article.

3. Use a virus program, such as Norton or even a free download of a program because there are times when these sites who plagiarize others are scam sites and will have a pop-up virus across the screen. Never click on a pop up that says "click here, you are infected".

4. If your article looks as though it's not been copied then that's great. However, go back to your article and choose a sentence somewhere in the middle. Repeat Google search as directed above. When someone copies your entire article you will find it by searching for plagiarized content further down in the article.

5. Use Copyscape. It is a free plagiarism checker. There are paid and free versions of plagiarism software. Using the free plagiarism checker you can insert your article's URL and Copyscape will detect plagiarism. Use Copyscape's free Do Not Copy copyright banners to ward off potential content thieves. This may curb plagiarism.

6. Google alerts. Some writers use Google Alerts to check for plagiarized content. Although Google Alerts was not set up to check for plagiarized content it can work if you put the right set of terms in there. Use a unique set of terms from your article to see if the alerts work for you. You can find this by clicking on "My Account" in your Google dashboard, and then look for Alerts. It is also at

7. Check for plagiarism routinely.  Looking for copied content gets time consuming. A rule of thumb is to always look for copied content if traffic or earnings drop suddenly.  for plagiarism if traffic or earnings drop. Earning income online has a natural fluctuation, but if suddenly there's a noticeable stoppage it's time to check your article for plagiarism to be safe.

When you check for plagiarism of your articles you will sometimes find article directory sites show your content. It can look like they stole your articles, but there are actually "related articles" sections that populate content related to keywords on the page. Just pay close attention when you check for copied content because if you report or respond to plagiarism you have to be right.

How to Respond to Plagiarism

When you find one of your articles has been copied you are likely to be angry. It is maddening. However, there are steps to take to respond to plagiarism and get the content removed.

1. Look for an email address or leave a comment on your article saying, "I am the owner of this content and it was copied without permission. Please remove it immediately or I will be forced to take further action against you to have this content removed." You can vary your response, but the intention is to get the person to remove plagiarized content. The sooner it is removed the better, so respond to plagiarism asap since sometimes it takes a long time.

Some sites say to look for the webmaster. This is usually the person who maintains the site. Not every site has a webmaster. When email does not work then follow the next steps to remove plagiarized content.

2. Go to the WHOIS site to find the owner of the site using plagiarized content. This sometimes allows you to get contact information. If you can get contact information then you can write the person as well as the web host of the person who copied your content. The web host will typically take the content down or notify the plagiarizer to do it.

3. Submit a DMCA aka Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Copyright law leaves room for "fair use" and does not necessarily protect every word against plagiarism.  For example, it is generally acceptable for someone to quote your article using a short excerpt.  Usually content theft happens when someone copies your whole article and puts it on their website, as their own, alongside Adsense ads or other monetization. This is not fair use of your work.

Google has a DMCA form for websites with Adsense and plagiarized content.  Use the Google DMCA form to report plagiarism by Google Adsense violators. Notice that if you file a form and are wrong or lying then you can be held liable for a large sum of money. If the plagiarism case is obvious then file the DMCA or ask others for help, such as using the admin or forum at Info Barrel or wherever you write.

4. Copy the URL of the page that has plagiarized your web content. When you file these forms you will have to provide information, such as their URL, your URL, and the search terms that you used to find them. Google often removes the site if they have offended plagiarism rules in the past. It can be helpful to take a screen shot of the website page that is the plagiarism.

5. Check and respond to plagiarism that occurs on other search engines. Google has a monopoly as a search engine, but not for showing plagiarized content. Some sites' content does not show on Google and some only shows on Yahoo or Bing. If you check for plagiarism and find it on a site other than Google then you need to respond in the same way as all the steps above, but also there is an excellent plagiarism resource that has DMCA forms for all the big search sites. AltaVista is a UK company and for others Google is a foreign company.

Final Thoughts on Plagiarism

Some plagiarizers do not realize that their actions are exceptionally wrong. Copying without permission is plagiarism. Plagiarism is illegal and unethical. Time spent checking for, and responding to, plagiarism equals less time producing new content, studying keywords, learning search engine optimization (SEO). It is another way the plagiarizer is hurting the owner and costing them money. Pictures are also copyrighted. Use images with caution, cite credit properly, and do not copy.

When it comes to writing and all the work that many content writers put in there is no way that someone should get away with stealing articles. The thing that is right is immediate removal of copied content. Protecting content from content thieves is hard so it is necessary to check for plagiarism and respond accordingly.

Copyright Protected Content--Do Not Copy