Unfortunately in the blogging world there is one thing we’ll all have to deal with sooner or later — content scraping. This is when someone steals a post or article you wrote and publishes it on their own site.
While this used to have some serious SEO implications, these have been recently minimized by Google in new algorithms that help determine which post was the original and which is the duplicate. However, this content scraping is, quite simply, theft. Theft of your work. Theft of potential readers. And a sign of incredible laziness (or ignorance) on the part of the thief.
Perhaps you discovered the theft in a Google Alert you set up (and you should definitely be doing that), when a friend DM’d or emailed you to say “Hey — isn’t this your post you wrote last month?”, or just by pure happenstance. Whatever the method of discovery, I have some tried-and-true ways of dealing with content thieves you might find useful.
Stay Calm and Be Polite When Dealing with Content Thieves
My initial knee-jerk reaction is usually, “How dare they!?” but this is rarely a useful response. If this is a live human being, it’s probably better to try emailing them or using their website contact form if possible to inform them that you are the copyright holder of the post in question (Be sure to link to which post you are talking about). My initial email or comment usually goes something like this:
“Hi! My name is Angela England and I’m glad you found my article about lavender essential oil useful, however this article is protected by copyright and cannot be republished without permission. You can remit a one-time reprint fee of $XXX via paypal to <my paypal address>. Alternatively, I am available to create an original piece on this topic specifically geared towards your audience for $XX. Otherwise this article needs to be removed within 24 business hours. Thanks so much! “
There are a couple of important things to notice in my sample email above:
- I used a statement rather than a question. A question can be answered negatively and legally can be ignored. Had I asked, “Would you mind taking it down?” They could have replied, “Yes I mind”. You must say “This article needs to be removed….”
- I invited the content scraper to hire me or pay me. Obviously you can only offer a reprint fee option if that option is available for that particular post. However, I generally charge about $50 more for a reprint fee than I offer for creating an original article for that person. I would rather them hire me to create a new piece than to have duplicate content floating about all over the web. Besides, lots of people don’t realize that blog posts and websites aren’t a free-for-all. Educate them by offering to hire yourself out. This not only creates a potential win/win situation, but also makes it very clear that your words have VALUE and aren’t up for grabs.
Want to learn more about starting a successful blog? Check out this article on the basics of starting a blog.
Filing a DMCA Complaint Against Content Thieves
One time out of 10 I get a new job when I send that email. One time out of 10 I get a reprint fee paid to me. Five times out of 10 the articles disappear — usually without a single word of acknowledgement to me at all. So what happens the other three times when there is no response, no reply, and most importantly, my article is STILL up there?
Sometimes, especially if it looks like a legitimate website, I will actually just send an invoice via Paypal. In the invoice I price it higher than my initially stated reprint fee (call it a pain-in-the-butt tax), and will include a notice that payment needs to be remitted with 48 business hours or else the stolen article at http://yourthievingwebsite.com/mystolenpost/ needs to be removed. Sometimes this will work, but sometimes it won’t.
If that doesn’t work, you move to filing a DMCA complaint. I usually will do a WHOIS search and find a contact email address and resend my request to that email. I will also contact the host of the site with an official DMCA complaint. And I will contact Google, Yahoo, and other search engines. It’s not hard to fill out the form and it is, in my opinion, important for bloggers and writers to protect their work. The more often content scrapers “get away with it”, the more the problem will continue.
Depending on how much time I have and my feistiness level, I will contact any advertisers on the website as well. All ad networks have rules in place about the type of content that is permissible, and illegally obtained content isn’t usually approved content. Sometimes the ad networks will remove ads before Google gets to the DMCA complaint — either way, mission accomplished. (Usually I only contact a website’s sponsors if someone responds to me with an ignorant email saying something like “But it was on the internet and everyone knows if it’s on Google it’s free to use”.)
I hope this helps you as you battle content thieves and scrapers. Don’t be afraid to contact them and tell them your posts need to be removed. Your words have value and deserve to be respected.