Have Vampires Sucked Blood from Your Blog?

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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.

HAVE VAMPIRES SUCKED BLOOD FROM YOUR BLOG?

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.

Have Vampires Sucked Blood from Your Blog?

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.

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About Barry Feldman

Barry Feldman graduated from his portfolio workshop and a brief career in the agency business to become a freelance copywriter, creative director, and marketing consultant. If you’d like a piece of his mind, visit Feldman Creative and his blog, The Point.

17 Comments

  • Aaron says:

    Plagiarism is not new in blogging, often many new bloggers do this without doing proper research so that they can earn quick money. Sending warning notice to culprit blog owner and hosting company can is best option and can resolve the issue. As hosting company won’t like to induldge in any unneccessary case and they can force blog owner to remove the copied content.

    • Nicholas Cardot says:

      That’s exactly right. Most hosting companies are a lot more familiar with the law than are their clients and as such they provide the perfect point of contact to get the ball rolling.

  • Praveen Gowda I V says:

    I really like the way you write.
    In fact Google now removes some search results based on DMCA.
    So that’s also a good step by Google

  • Jimmy Cataldo says:

    Smart idea to contact the hosting company about someone using your content without permission. Haven’t thought about that option, i think its the best option there is because when a website owner gets a warning from his/her own hosting company its a lot more serious i think… thank you for the great share! I have not found someone who copied my content but if i do i will contact his / her hosting company! Thank you Barry

  • John Lier says:

    really great post u perfect connect every point of vampires with blogging…star point is plagiarism police connect with copy scape…

  • david k waltz says:

    Thanks for the post, I have been blogging for about 4 months now, and have not really considered this topic before, so it has been a good “envelope stretcher”.

    Given the “Wild-west” nature of the internet, I have always assumed that some stuff would be stolen, and for that reason always write with that consideration.

    Given that there is some recourse for this, this might open up other opportunities. Thanks!

    • Barry Feldman says:

      David,

      Sounds like we’re both pretty new to blogging. How’s it going for you? What challenges have you come across? Also, share a link so me and the readers here can have a look at your blog.

      Thanks for chiming in.

  • Emily Cullen says:

    I feel like an idiot. I was totally plagiarized several months ago but I was too busy to do anything about it at that moment and forgot where it was. From now on I am going to deal with it whenever it happens and am going to make a habit of running a check on my blog at the end of every month!

    I had another experience where someone stole my avatar which includes the title of my blog. This lady was using it as her profile picture on FB and it took a few “gentle warnings” to get her to stop.

  • Steve@Earn Money Online says:

    I just wish scrapers could be warded off with lots of garlic and crosses. I would festoon my site with them if it would work.

    But they are a hardy bunch of living dead.

    Thanks for the practical advice of clearing these guys out.

  • Shannon says:

    I admit that I am not familiar with this blog or your work. But honestly, unless you are posting content you intend to publish (like in a book) or for some reason wrote something that is/will make you money or the person stealing it money, I can’t see why you would bother “going after” the plagiarizer.

    MOST people online are still very naive about online etiquette and don’t understand what copyright is or even means. That said, usually a friendly letter to point out their error will result in their taking down said post. Then again, some people will laugh and figure what could you possibly do to me if I don’t?

    Well, there are legal ways to go about dealing with copyright infringement of intellectual property (which most online content is). But spending time and energy chasing down every person who may or may not have scraped or stolen your content is a waste of time imo. UNLESS that person is somehow profiting – financially or by getting a lot of site hits from your work – then why bother?

    You might say “because they stole it” or because you feel violated. Honestly? Nothing you do online is private. Further, most people think that if they can see it online, it is public domain and they can take it. So they do.

    My point here is yes, you will find your content “scraped” and posted all over the internet – forever! It will continue to happen no matter what you do. All anyone needs to do is set up an RSS feed of your blog and it can be repeated on another site automatically without them ever seeing it again. Even if they lost the password to the site and never use it again. You could be chasing your tail forever trying to get said content removed or even reach the site owner. let alone the hosting company that site is physically located on. And remember not all sites are hosted on American or even North American servers (the physical address is where the content is legally dealt with).

    So is it really worth the effort to track down every infringement you can find? Imo, no. Unless someone is profiting from your work somehow. Just sayin’

    • Nicholas Cardot says:

      Shannon, in case you don’t know this, this blog provides my primary sources of income each month. It pays my mortgage and my bills. That happens because when people search for certain terms on Google they are brought to Site Sketch 101. When Google finds content on other sites that is identical, they often only list 1 copy of it near the top of the search results and they are forced to guess which one is the original. Often they get it right. Sometimes they don’t.

      In fact, the very first scraper I discovered was because I was trying to rank one of my articles for a particular keyword phrase, went to google to search for it, and discovered another site outranking me with my article!

      This may seem like a hassle, but with the template provided, you literally just copy and paste the address of your article and the address of their article and then email it off. It takes about a minute to do and it’s very effective if you have a traffic-based business model for advertising, affiliate sales, or whatever monetization methods you might be using.

      I used to send a friendly letter like you mention, but they are not obligated to respond to that, they often wouldn’t respond to it, and it takes longer than emailing a pre-templated form letter that contains the legal requirements.

      And second, there is the princple of intellectual property theft. If someone is offended, and there work is protected by law, why not let them know what steps can be taken? That’s all this article is sharing…and in a very fun way, if I can brag for a moment on Barry’s writing style.

      The point is, this article is here for those that need it. Those who don’t can just mosey along to the next article. No big deal.

      • Barry Feldman says:

        And, I’ll add if I may… A very large portion of bloggers, maintain a blog packed with advice in the interest of establishing credibility and even authority in their field. Allowing someone other than the author to claim the knowledge extends beyond plagiarism. It’s fraud.

        We should hit on this too… If a website owner simply likes the idea of publishing someone else’s IP, they merely need to ask. In most cases, the author/owner is very likely to appreciate the offer and say yes (and of course, require fair attribution where the article appears).

        It’s good to field your counterpoint Shannon. Thanks for investing your time at SiteSketch101.

      • Noel Addison says:

        Blog owners should be wary about how plagiarism could affect their blog or business. At first, it sounds funny that your post was outranked by a content that was stolen from you. But at the second thought, that is so absurd.

  • Shannon says:

    Being a professionally trained SEO, I can tell you that the FIRST instance anything is published online is the one that gets credit with the search engines. If your site is indexed frequently then the odds of your own article being indexed before someone who stole it from you does, is greater. Industry know-how and secrets can increase those odds greatly. So if you are into affiliate marketing then you may know some of those steps.

    Over the years I have come to understand that some things are simply not wasting energy and time on. Control what you can and move on, imo. Trying to control where and how your blog posts and/or articles show up online is not one of them.

    I have seen more than one miffed blogger go on a witch hunt they either cannot win (because it’s hard to track down people to contact online) or succeed only to have it happen again, and again. Not all hosting companies are legit or even care. Especially when they don’t exist in North America. Legal issues become far more complicated when the site and hosting company you are trying to deal with is located in another country.

    I didn’t say don’t waste YOUR time. I’m not saying protecting your copyright is a waste of time either. I’m just saying that your time could be better spent that stressing over unethical use of your created content.

    But hey, it’s only my opinion after all. :)

  • Mel Melhado says:

    I agree, notice from the hosting company to the site which plagiarized sounds more serious than the website owner’s action. Plagiarism really is not something new and all we do as victims is to contact the site owner and ask to remove the copied content, the rest depends on whether the site owner will pull it down or not :(

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