If you write online content, someone is going to steal it sooner or later…
There are a lot of dishonest people on the Internet who want to make money from a website without putting in the work to create original articles themselves — they are called, “content scrapers.” Someone might reproduce a few of your paragraphs without citation or even scrape one of your articles in its entirety without your permission. This has happened to me more times than I can count. It’s a real problem in the freelance and blogging world.
I hate when my content gets stolen, especially when parts are reworded poorly and my name is left as the author. When your content gets scraped, it can be damaging to your online reputation. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to try and get the offending articles taken down.
1. Write an Email to the Website Owner Explaining the Situation
The first thing you should try is to politely ask the website owner to remove your scraped content. Simply explain that it is against the law and you don’t want either of you to suffer the consequences. Be careful not to be rude in your email because that’s a quick way to get ignored. Some people truly do not understand copyright law and they will remove your content if you ask nicely.
Carol Tice has a nice copyright infringement email template I like.
2. Send a Second Email to the Website Owner Threatening Legal Action
After you’ve sent the first email, wait a few days for a response. If the website owner is willing to take down your scraped content, great! If you get no response, you can try sending a second email that is a little more strongly worded than the first. Make sure you point out the specifics of copyright law for online content and threaten to take legal action against the website. Sometimes the threat is enough to scare the website owner into complying with your wishes. I also find it helpful to leave a comment on the scraped article requesting it be removed.
3. Report the Copyright Infringement to the Website’s Host
If you can’t find an email or contact information anywhere on the website, your next step is to contact the website’s host. You can (hopefully) find this by doing a WhoIs Lookup. Most hosting companies have policies against plagiarism and copyright infringement and can get the offending website taken down. They may even have an easy DMCA form you can fill out. Of course, the website you report typically has to get several reports before any action is taken.
4. Just Forget About It
If you’ve completed steps 1-3 without success, you should just forget about it. I hate telling people to give up, but sometimes it is the only way to save your sanity. It isn’t truly worth your time or money to hire a copyright lawyer over one article because you won’t recoup your costs.
Keep in mind that most websites that scrape content don’t get very much traffic and many go out of business quickly. This is because search engines are now smart enough to recognize these websites (duplicate content penalty) and take them out of the search results. So, the problem might solve itself if you wait it out.
Has your content ever been stolen? What did you do? Leave a comment below.