The Plague of Stolen Content
Stolen content is one of the plagues of the online writer. You spend hours writing an article. More time polishing it and making it perfect. Commenting, backlinking and trying to get people to notice your work of art.
It is a job of dedication and love.
Your articles are your children.
Then you notice someone has stolen your "child" and copied it to their website.
Arrrgggg! The Frustration! I don't know about you, but I hate stolen content and plagiarism
Even if the effrontery of these actions does not make you mad, it is important to know that this could affect how YOUR article ranks. Google sees it as duplicate content and YOUR article could slip in the rankings because of this copy.
Not only that...but the copied article may even rank HIGHER. (I have had this happen to me more than once.)
It is frustrating, and it makes me spitting mad.
In this guide I have included everything I could think of in regards to finding stolen content.
- Steps to get stolen content removed
- How to write a DMCA Takedown order
- What to do if a DMCA fails
Hopefully this will give you everything you need to protect YOUR rights as the copyright holder for the material that you write online.
What to do if your content is stolen: The short version
In this article I am going to go into nauseating detail on how to specifically do all the steps to get your stolen content taken down. But there is a short version. Here it is:
- Contact the offended and ASK them to take it down
- (optional) Report it to Google and Adsense (may get ads removes and article delisted)
- Do WHOIS search for offending ISP
- File DMCA to offending ISP
- Contact Lawyer: Get Cease and Desist order and begin legal proceedings
Step #2: Turn to Google
A full DMCA takedown notice may not always be needed, even if the owner of the page where the material is copied does not reply. These steps are completely optional, but in one case, it may save you a bit of time, and in the other case, it can help you hit the plagerizer where it hurts...in the wallet.
DMCA if the page is owned by Google
-Plus de-indexing the stolen content
Google has a few pages where people can come and write for free, and of course potentially post plagiarized material. Places like Blogger/Blogspot and Google +. If you find your articles posted on these places, without your approval, google had automated the DMCA takedown process.
In addition to removing content from blogger/blogspot, this form could also result in two very important removals for the offending parties. Google Search and Google images. Google cannot kill the page, but by de-indexing the offending plagiarized and stolen content, they do just as good.
DMCA when the offending page has Adsense
Google does not have the right to "takedown" plagiarized material, but they can and will disable Adsense on the pages, and perhaps, with repeated complaints even suspend or ban the offender. This may not get the copied material off the internet, but it will take away the reason that people often use copied material, easy Adsense money.
Again, this step is completely optional, it will not remove the offending content, but if enough people file complaints to Google about bad users, they will take action and clean up the 'net for the rest of us who are trying to write honest articles for Adsense money.
Both of these options follow simple "fill in the blank" instructions to make it easy to act on plagiarized material.
Step #3 Do a WHOIS Search
The reason I was inspired to write this article today was because of a question asked by BJ Hansen in the forums. He had some content scraped and wanted to know what to do about it. I gave a short similar to the one above, but realized that was really incomplete. So this article is for you BJ, and I will use his specific plagerizer as an example.
There are many sites to do a DNS IP address lookup. Check Domain, Allwhois, Domain Tools, whois.net, iptools are just a few of the literally hundreds of sites. YOU can find and use your favorite, but I have used Domain Tools in the above example. This info will tell you a lot about the person who has copied your info. You may also use this for step 1 to get an email address that works better than any contact info the owner has on his or her website.
First go to whatever Whois directory you decide to use and enter the URL with the stolen article. Click on the IP address and a window will open with a lot more information about the ISP/host of the site that has stolen your content. (sample below)
This window will show you how to contact the ISP quite easily. They will usually have an email address JUST for complaints.
In BJ's case you can see that his ISP, is based in Great Britain and has a dedicated contact information for abuse. All that needs to be done is writing them the DMCA takedown message and I bet they will sort out the offender quite quickly after they are reported.
Step #4: File DCMA Takedown Notice
**SAMPLE DMCA Notification
This DMCA filing is something I wrote from a basic template a couple of years ago, I have successfully used it as a DMCA takedown notice a few times. Feel free to use it by replacing any bolded/italic parts with your own information. But do not copy this to your own site...I will get you!
To: ISP Email Address/Name
From: Your Name
Re: Copyright Infringement (DMCA)
I am writing to inform you that your company is hosting a website (according to WHOIS search) that is posting copyrighted materials, of which I am the copyright holder. This article was reprinted without my actual or implied consent.
The original article can be found here:
FULL Original Article URL
The infringing article can be found here:
Copied Article URL
This letter is written as an official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). I am seeking the removal of the above mentioned infringing material. I request that you please issue a cancellation request to the aforementioned infringing party at the web address given above.
Understand that under United States law a service provider has full immunity to copyright lawsuits, as long as you quickly remove the content or disable access to the infringing material. Failure to investigate, disable or remove the copyright infringing material in a prompt and expeditious manner will waive your service provider rights to immunity.
I am providing you this with a good faith belief that my rights are being infringed. I, the copyright holder, have never authorized any use of the material above.
I certify that everything I have written in this notification to be true, and that I am the copyright holder of this material, under penalty of perjury.
Please inform me of any steps you have taken to resolve this issue. If you have any questions or need more information, please contact me directly. Thank you in advance to taking prompt action on this issue.
What is Required in a DMCA
Above I gave a sample DMCA that I have used in the past to report stolen content. But you may want to know for yourself what needs to be in a DMCA and what YOUR rights and responsibilities are according to the Digital millennium Copyright Act.
Limitations on liability for online material is in Section 512 of the DMCA. Where it relates to what YOU need to include in a DMCA takedown notice is Section 512 (c) (3)
In a nutshell here is what you need to have in a proper DMCA takedown letter:
- Signature or Digital Signature
- Page or Item (IE: Photos, Art, Pictures) that has been plagiarized. If an entire site, or a huge number of items has been ripped off, a "representative sample" can be used here. (Good URL)
- Link to the plagiarized page and/or indication of what content has been stolen (Bad URL)
- Enough information for the ISP to contact YOU. Name. Address. Telephone Number. Email Address
- Statement of "good faith belief" that the offending material is not authorized by the copyright owner to be on that website.
- Statement that all the information is true, "Under the Penalty of Perjury"
That is what is NEEDED. The rest of the DCMA takedown notice is just reminding the ISP what you expect them to do, and what their obligations are under this act. Until they receive a DMCA they are not legally on the hook for publishing copyrighted material. If you give them this notification, it is filled out correctly and they fail to act, they are suddenly in your legal crosshairs. Trust me, most ISP's will quickly deal with it once they get a DCMA takedown letter.
What to do if a DMCA Takedown fails
The short answer is nothing.
It probably is not worth it unless you are willing to spend a lot of money. I have never had a DMCA -not- do the job, but if one ever didn't get it done, honestly, I would just find a way to live with it at that point.
The longer answer is that this is the time to contact an attorney.
You will need a cease and desist order and a court case. Things may get messy and you will have to prove you wrote the content and back-and-forth legal wrangler could occur. If it matters, get a lawyer to work on your stolen content issue at this point.
Before you do a DCMA...
A word about Fair Use
A DCMA is an important legal document. It can and will work for you, but it is nothing to play games with. You are affirming that YOU wrote the material when you send these notifications. So they should not be sent frivolously as a way to takedown the competition. They can be used against people who make false claims.
You also might want to consider, "fair use". If someone takes a few sentences out of your article and quotes it, that is deemed "fair use" and not subject to DCMA. Another example of fair use is Amazon images. Amazon is the copyright holder, but it is fair use to use them on your articles linking back to Amazon as an affiliate. However if you use the images and DO NOT link to Amazon in an article, they could post a DMCA for that picture if they desired.
Of course, if someone has scraped your entire article, there is no doubt it is stolen content and plagiarism. So go get' em!