Help! Help! Some very pale creepy character is trying to feed off of me. The offense goes by the name of plagiarism. I’m not all that easily offended, but stealing my story is right up there with stepping on my blue suede shoes.
You would think a wordsmith of 25 years would be familiar with the crime of blog burglary by now. (Or you might read my stuff and say, “Who’d want to steal that?”) Perhaps I haven’t policed my work to the degree I should. And at the risk of exposing my overly vulnerable veins to these evil spirits, I have to admit I’m somewhat new to the blogosphere.
Clearly, command-C-slash-command-V (as in “vampire”) gives these bloodsuckers a powerful weapon and they’re not afraid to use it. I’m told it happens all the time. Who told me? Nicholas Cardot did, that writer/designer/positive thinker guy who created Site Sketch 101. When I discovered a post we published was being ripped off, I gave him a call. He told me these Internet outlaws are called scrapers, and then, he enlightened me on the effective way to take back what’s mine.
Ha! Scrapers don’t scare me now.
‘Twas the night before Halloween when Nick treated me with his trick. But first, we interrupt this lesson with a little legalese. Feldman & Cardot may sound like a law firm, but attorneys we are not. We’re just a couple of good guys who prefer not to be taken advantage of by bad guys. So now back to business…
Want to have a bit of the law in your arsenal? Open to Title 17 of the U.S. Code and school yourself on copyright matters. You’ll learn the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) delivers protection not only to the rightful owner of the copy, but to the guilty party as well.
You see, the culprit might genuinely believe he’s doing you a favor. Writers want readers, right? That’s fair. However, re-using someone’s material in its entirety, without permission and without credit? Not fair. In fact, it’s offensive.
How to enact the act.
In legal circles, they used to say “throw the book at him.” In this age of all things electronic, there’s no need for a book—or even paper. You can protect trees and your rights as a writer at the same time, usually with just an email.
The copyright holder must create and send a takedown notice containing six essential elements. Get a template takedown notice here courtesy of SiteSketch101. Both the owner of the site and its hosting company can be held liable for copyright infringement, so Nick recommends sending the notice to the site’s host, who in turn, alerts the site owner of the notice.
Good intentioned or bad, the copyright infringer must then immediately remove or disable access to the stolen property. When he or she complies, the case is closed. No prosecution takes place. Of course, it’s possible, but rare, the infringer will fail to comply. Should this happen to you, you will want get legal advice.
Meet the plagiarism police.
Is your content being scraped? Perhaps you don’t know. If so, here are a couple of valuable things you really should know to quickly and easily police your work and protect yourself from plagiarism.
- Copyscape.com—At this site, offering free and tiered levels of paid services, it takes just seconds to search for copies of your work across the web. You can also help yourself to free banners to warn potential plagiarists to keep their hands off.
- The DIY approach—Simply paste a paragraph of an article you suspect might be illegally published into Google and it’ll hunt down any instances where your work appears.
No need for cops when your post earns props.
Having your blog or sections of it highlighted in another writer’s article tends to be a good thing. More often than not, the author is giving you props for your insights or attempting to expand the conversation.
Pingbacks or trackbacks, different versions of a similar thing, are the terms used to describe what is essentially a notice from one blogger to another. When you create a blog post containing a link to a post on another site, an excerpt of the original post shows up in the blogger’s comments section. The original author then has the ability to moderate it like any other comment. Trackbacks are likely to increase the visibility of your site, so they are a good thing.
Of course, in your quest for a larger population of readers, another good thing is to share your content via syndication sites and social media. I’ve found this to be a fun and rewarding way to entice a lot more eyeballs. We’ll save detailed explanations of these practices for another day, but I’ll mention a few sites that publish my articles as examples: www.business2community.com, www.socialmediatoday.com, and www.ezinearticles.com.
Have you had experiences, good, bad or otherwise with spooking away scrapers? Don’t be afraid to share them here.