Send Plagiarized Versions of Your Work to the Abyss

Plagiarism can hurt your search engine optimization and internet marketing efforts, even when done poorly.  It's every SEO and IM professional's biggest pet peeve to check on rankings and find that some dolt is outranking you using content that they stole directly from your site or one of your republishers.  Let's not even get into the discussion of how Google allows such a thing to happen, considering that in most cases the site featuring the stolen version is a brand new piece of garbage spam machine.  That discussion tabled, let's talk about what you can actually do to these scumbags in order to protect your work and potentially bring them to justice. 


The following are the 6 steps you can take to get plagiarized work taken down and force the thief to suffer at least some consequences:


1.) Make 1st Contact


It's always best to start out polite and by offering the benefit of the doubt to the alleged infringer, even if it's obvious that their use of your work is blatant thievery.  Send a message using the contact form, email address or even comment section of the page/website featuring your content.  Point out that your work is being plagiarized or used without your permission and request that it be taken down immediately. 


In many cases the site owner isn't aware of the plagiarism and will take prompt action when they hear from you.  In fact, they're required to under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but don't go throwing this law around just yet.    


2.) Send Cease & Desist


As often happens with thieves and spam sites, it can be nearly impossible to make contact with anyone related to your work that has been stolen.  If you've made a good faith effort to contact the offending party with no result, the next step is to send a formal Cease & Desist notice the host of the website.  Both site owners and hosts are required to take action quickly under the DMCA, and in many cases the host will simply pull the plug on the offending page rather than argue about it and face liability. 


3.) Send DMCA Take Down Notice


The next step in battling a case of plagiarism is to send a Take Down Notice under the DMCA.  This is similar to a Cease & Desist but is specifically designed to require that the unauthorized use of your work be taken down from whatever URL or page it is on, immediately.  Websites, hosts and other entities could face penalties under the DMCA is they do not comply with your request. 


4.) Report Plagiarism to Google


Many thieves will try to monetize your work, and one of the best ways to do this is through Google Adsense.  Fortunately, Google doesn't take too kindly to people who monetize work that isn't theirs.  If you find Adsense ads on a site featuring your work in an unauthorized manner, there is a small button on the top or sometimes the bottom of every Adsense ad.  It usually says "Ad Choices."  Click it, and you'll see an option to report a violation.  Follow the instructions and if your case is valid, Google will often take action in as little as a few hours, shutting down the account of the offender regardless of how many other sites they may have setup on Google. 


While this won't get your work taken down, it will stop people from profiting from it using the most popular search engine marketing platform today. 


5.) File Complaint with State's Attorney


If you're thoroughly disgusted, consider filing a complaint with your State's Attorney.  It's not often that they'll go after an infringer, but if there are multiple reports of the same person victimizing other people it's much more likely that they'll look into the case or at least conduct a preliminary investigation. 


6.) Lawsuit


When all else fails, gather up all your evidence, notes and pertinent documents and setup a meeting with your attorney.  Often a firm letter from your attorney will get results where other tactics come up lacking.  A formal C&D letter from your attorney can also be accompanied by a settlement demand letter if you're seeking financial compensation, but be prepared to prove why the unauthorized use of your work is worth what you're asking.


Before taking any of these six steps to taking action against plagiarizers, you should ask yourself if it's worth it.  For instance, is it really worth it to pursue a case against a spam website that has no credibility, no PR and no backlinks?  Probably not.  Is it worth it to pursue every case of plagiarism against you?  Also, probably not.  This is because if you're a professional writer or you publish a lot of content on the web, you can be certain that it's being stolen.  Only take action against plagiarizers that you can identify and that pose some significant threat against you.  Otherwise, you'll just be wasting your time and resources.