Find & Prevent Blog Plagiarism and Copying on YOUR Blog!
The last blogging tutorial here on MamaNYC discussed how to find stolen images and what to do about it. This was a difficult post for me to write since it dealt with an issue that hit SO close to home. Well, I won’t lie. The words came POURING out as I sat here in the wee hours of the night banging away at my keyboard after discovering hundreds of images had been stolen from MamaNYC. I told you all about how I had discovered these images as stolen and provided pretty in-depth instruction on how to find stolen images from your blog or website, too. The difficulty in writing the post probably came from how sad I was that this had happened. Why did I even have to talk about such a depressing issue on MY blog?
Today I want to discuss the other end of theft in the blogger world: stealing content. This is a sad and disgraceful issue that is unfortunately running rampant in the blogosphere – and there is no end in sight. How do you stop everyone in the world from stealing content? You don’t. Someone out there is always going to think it’s okay to take another persons work or creative ideas, but there are a few things we can do to try and prevent or have that content removed by the thieves.
Lately there has been a lot of buzz in the blogosphere circulating around the sad, disgraceful, and ridiculous concept of stealing content from bloggers. The most surprising news was over Nickelodeons’ newest venture, NickMOM is stealing blogger images and content. Apparently the folks over at NickMOM thought it would be a great idea to steal images and content from bloggers. If Nickelodeon doesn’t know that it is wrong to steal from other people — then I don’t know what to think.
Psst… Although my original plan was to discuss copying content and ideas in this post, I realized that there was a lot to be said about stealing content. Additionally, I have a lot to say about stolen IDEAS, which I have dealt with recently and feel the issue deserves its own post. I’ll be back later this week with another Blogging 101 tutorial, which will talk about stolen ideas and the fine line between creativity, originality, and similar concepts.
Can plagiarism hurt my SEO/SERP for my website?
Yes, absolutely! Copied content from your blog will actually be the first to get indexed by Google, but you will be at risk of losing your SERP (search engine rank position) and putting your page rank at risk when that content becomes duplicated. Google might lower your ranking, or may decide to not index your site altogether. Your thief will not only receive credit for your content, but your blog will also suffer in search engine rankings!
Here are a few important factors to consider on WHY it is important to protect your work and HOW it will hurt your blog:
#1 Your thief can outweigh you rankings even though you are the original source: There are black hat SEO tricks and methods used that will help thieves outrank your site when publishing stolen content. They can easily send a significant amount of traffic to YOUR stolen work on their website in order to get ranked on search engines and overpower your site as the original source. The only exception might be if your site already obtains a high pagerank and receives significantly high traffic, but you would still be at risk anyway.
#2 Thieves will pressure your hosting service with a take down notice for YOUR site: With the knowledge that most hosting services and ISP’s will take immediate action once they’ve received a take-down notice, thieves will apply pressure and claim your content as theirs with the simple request of a take-down notice sent to your ISP. Thieves will have your work removed as they claim it as their own and actually make you look like a thief, which will significantly impact your SEO and ranking positions.
#3 Thieves will monetize your content and outrank your blog, too: Content thieves will monetize the work that they have stolen and use their earnings to reinvest in stealing even more content, which means higher rankings for your thief! They can essentially use your content to make enough money to rank higher than you while using YOUR content.
#4 Claiming your content through Indexation: Let’s say you publish an article on your blog and someone comes along fast enough to steal it – and make it their own before it’s indexed on your site. That means.. it will be indexed on their site first. Search engines will see the copied content first as the original version and give your thief full credit, which means your site may not receive traffic for any search results at all.
How can I prevent someone from copying my content?
Before you think about finding or stopping someone from stealing your blog content, think about how you can stop it from happening altogether. Unfortunately, there isn’t a foolproof technique that will ultimately stop thieves from taking your work. Copying your words and placing them onto another website is very simple and there is sadly nothing we can do to prevent it from happening. However, we can make it harder to copy content (and images, too) from our sites.
So long as there is someone writing an article – there will always be someone looking to take it and claim it as their own. These methods can help and try to prevent blog plagiarism, but they are not going to end content theft.
TYNT.com: TYNT is a free service that will track all of your blog posts and automatically add a link back to your original content post. Their publisher dashboard will also show you copies of your content used on a thieves post and exactly where you can find it. This also helps to get some additional traffic, but also improve your pagerank since the content includes a link back to your site. Test it out and copy/paste this sentence. You’ll see that TYNT adds "Read more at http://www.mamanyc.net….."!
DMCA: On top of offering a service that will help you with a content thief takedown, DMCA also provides free and paid service options to monitor your content. Place a DMCA tracking badge onto your site in order to keep track of your pages and detect any similar or exact matches that pop up on the Internet.
Prevent Right-Clicking: Using this idea really depends on the type of site you are operating and personal preference. Although I have installed scripts to prevent right-clicking on other websites that I own or manage, I decided to allow right-clicking on MamaNYC. There are plugins available for WordPress platform users, such as WP-CopyProtect. You can also insert the following jQuery snippet into your header.php file directly above your closing </head> tag, which is generally easier than installing a plugin:
How do I find out if someone is stealing my content?
Just as I stated in my Blogging 101 tutorial regarding stolen images, locating stolen content won’t necessarily happen in a flash. It’s going to take some legwork, but luckily it is going to be a little easier to find content versus images on the Internet. You will need to set aside a good amount of time if you plan to check a lot of your work, or make a plan to check at least 3-5 articles a day, or week. Random checks for your content help, too. You never know when someone has decided to use copy and paste in order to reclaim your work and label it their own!
Google Search Your Content:
This method is one of the quickest and easiest ways to find stolen content, but you need to spend time conducting a search for random sentences and phrases for each post.
Step One: Copy a random sentence or a few words from one of your posts and run a search for it on Google. Be sure to place "quotes" around your phrase to ensure Google results back with exact matches.
Did you find your article? Skip below and find out what you should do to stop someone that stole your content!
Step Two: Repeat this process a few times for the same post by selecting a new sentence or phrase to try in your Google search. Thieves may decide to omit a sentence and keep the rest of your article, so try and pick random parts of the article to ensure there aren’t any results that you are missing. Someone may have copied only a paragraph of your article, or decided they only needed a few paragraphs.
Detecting Stolen Content:
Here is where things get a bit frustrating, depressing, and terribly aggravating for the content writer. You will hopefully find no results of stolen content, but it is fairly important to scan at least one of these services once a month. I like to use a variety of each whenever possible to ensure one of these services isn’t missing something that another site comes up with as stolen from MamaNYC.
[Option #1] Utilize Free Web-based Services & Tools
Copyscape.com: Quite possibly the easiest and most popular way to detect plagiarized content, Copyscape is a powerful online plagiarism detection solution. Use their free plagiarism checker to locate copies of your web pages online. You can also opt to use their premium services for as low as $20/month to help protect content theft and fraud.
CopyGator.com: This free service is designed to monitor your RSS feed and help you detect any republished content in the blogosphere. They can automatically notify you when a post of yours is copied to another feed and an overview page that allows you to view how, when, and where your content is being plagiarized, quoted, or duplicated.
Plagiarism-Detect.com: This site offers a very simple and basic free tool to help you detect duplicate content on websites, documents, essays/articles (upload file or copy/paste). Plagiarism Detect is driven by Microsoft’s Bing rather than Google, so your results may vary as opposed to the other plagiarism detection sites that are available. Provides a summary, which includes the number of words and sentences in the text and provides a ‘plagiarized from source’ percentage score against each result. You’ll be provided with direct links to the result pages and options to save, print or hide less relevant sources.
[Option #2] Setup Google Alerts
Setup Google Alerts with your blog keywords or with your blog post keywords. Google will send you email notification when matching content is found. introduced to web. Once you start receiving alert emails, check them and verify if the content is copied from your blog.
Protecting Your Content & Prevent Theft: The first step for bloggers to consider is how to protect your content. There are many different methods and each one is so unique that I actually recommend doing a few of these ideas in order to keep your results well rounded and avoid missing any stolen content.
[Option #1] Display Copyright Warning Banners & Badges
Place warning message for copyright violation under each post page of your blog, For some extend it can put an end to the content theft. But if its a bot doing the job, then you should look for some other alternative like step #5. Copyscape.com and Copygator provide badges that you can display on your sidebar.
[Option #2] Edit Your .htaccess File
Editing your .htaccess file to include coding that blocks spam bots is a great idea, especially since WordPress is the most popular blogger platform for spammers. These spammers use spambots and other type of automatic tools to steal your content as soon as it is published. You can block some such spam bots from visiting your site by editing .htaccess file of your WordPress.
DMCA.com offers free and paid services to monitor and take-down copyright violation cases. And they also provide tracking badges for your blog which will keep track of your pages 24/7. You can create an account and start protecting your page from here To generate badges visit this page.
Once the DMCA badge is in place, it will automatically be listed in your account. That means you need not manually add the website name in your DMCa account. below is the screenshot of the DMCA control panel of my protected pages listed.
Requesting Removal & Theft Take Down Actions:
Once you have located your content on someone else’s website, act immediately and professionally in order to guarantee the best results possible. I know it’s hard to do, but take a step back and a deep (DEEP) breath before you react. You don’t wan’t to piss off your thief and anger them so much as to ruin any chances of having your content removed immediately. Try to be as professional as possible, but definitely take a serious and stern approach.
[Option #1] Make Contact
Take a look around the website where you found your stolen article and try to obtain contact information for the author(s). Use an email address or contact form so that you can get in touch with the website owner. Although many people may choose to skip this idea and go straight into legal action, contacting thieves can be the quickest and cleanest option.
Compose a professional email with proof and include any details that will show your case. Remind your thief that copying content is illegal and you are the original and sole owner of said work(s). Request removal within a set period of time (anywhere from 72 hours through 5-6 business days is sufficient) and list the steps that will be taken if further action is required.
NOTE: Whether or not you choose to directly email the website owner where you found stolen content, locating contact information is necessary in order to complete these other options listed below. This is the first step that you need to complete when attempting to remove stolen content from another blog.
[Option #2] Cease and Desist Notice
Sit and wait for your thief to respond to that professional and polite email that you sent, or of course head straight into this option if you’ve decided to skip on making contact and proceed directly into legal action. Consider sending a Cease and Desist (C&D) letter, which should be sent directly to the website owner. You can find plenty of examples online to help you put your letter together. Here’s a sample cease and desist letter for plagiarism to help you get going!
[Option #3] Send DMCA Letter to Web Host
DMCA, which stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, is a law that protects and allows us to control copyrighted works. Consider sending a DMCA letter to the host that services your thieves website. Hosting services are required by law to take strict and immediate actions against work that is copyrighted and used from other websites. You’ll also find plenty of sample DMCA Take Down letters online!
[Option #4] Send DMCA Letter to Google Adsense
Check out your thieves website and see if they are using Google AdSense for monetizing their site. You can send a DMCA letter to Google AdSense, which will actually ban the website owner from posting and making money from their ads. Your thief will lose all revenue that has been made through Google AdSense.
[Option #5] Hire a Lawyer
If you have tried all other options and reached a dead end, consider hiring a lawyer that deals with plagiarism and copyright infringement. Most plagiarism suits are considered a misdemeanor in the United States. However, your thief could be up against a felony charge if your stolen content provided a large profit to be made. Consult with a lawyer to ensure that your intellectual property rights have been violated. Also, make sure that your work is protected under U.S. copyright laws.
"Protecting your content should be like protecting your paycheck or bank account. As a blogger, our words and ideas could lead to partnerships, full time jobs, and more. Most put lots of time and thought into content creation, so stealing should be prevented as much as possible." -- Southern Girl Ramblings
"When other bloggers take your hard work and pass it off as their own, it hurts the blogging community as a whole. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and it is wonderful to feel inspired by others. However, content theft is not a good way to gain the respect of other bloggers." — Nap Time Is My Time
"I’ve had a post stolen before. I at first found it odd that all her favorites were my favorites. Then, I realized she had basically copied my entire review. Not a good feeling. I read blogs to get your opinion not read my own." – Strange Dayze Indeed
"I’ve had content stolen before and it’s upsetting to see that someone took something I was proud of and called it her own. It’s nice to hear that you’ve inspired another blogger to come up with her own unique ideas but copying content is not a form of flattery." — Moms and Munchkins
"When I saw a picture of my boys on another blogger’s site I completely freaked out! When I confronted her she swore up and down that my boys were her kids!! Needless to say it got nasty quite quickly and had to take legal action. I now watermark all of my images and I have a copyright notice on my blog too. You have to protect yourself, your business, and your content. — Adventures of The Mommy Homemaker
"I used to do a coupon insert listing for my area so that people around here could stop getting let down by seeing coupon match-up’s and planning shopping trips for coupons we didn’t get in our paper. I had it as a google spreadsheet linked to my blog. One of my fellow bloggers and readers copied my spreadsheet, changed some coloring and then claimed she had done more than a year’s worth of insert listings in just one day. I was so mad that all of my hard work had been stolen and claimed as someone else’s. I wouldn’t have minded if she linked to me or even asked, but she just copied it and posted as her own." – SW Virginia Saving Money