Or is it? Yes, it happens. Someone comes along and copies your online material – the writing you worked so hard to craft and did rightfully and with care. Through either ignorance or laziness or lack of ethical character, someone has stolen your work and passed it off as their own.
The minute you document your creation (on paper, online, in Word), you own the copyright to that work. You do not have to register your copyright. Doing so, however, may be required to pursue legal action but can be accomplished online at the Electronic Copyright Office at any time after creation.
So what does one do when they find their online content has been stolen?
It’s possible the misuse is an innocent mistake and a simple email to the site administrator will suffice. If not, though, wiping out the thief isn’t as difficult as you think – partially because these online thieves aren’t overly bright.
- Gather documentation. Check the page source for the offending website and get copies of their Page Source code. To do this, click View on your browser and Page Source and you’ll get all the CSS, HTML, and content viewable for that page. You may find that the offender is even linking directly to your pictures through your server or has obviously copied your material from the Page Source of your own site, including your exact formatting, alt tags, and post comments! That’s pretty strong evidence on your side…and so darn easy to snag.
- Find the hosting company. Use a whois lookup service to find the owner of the domain and the hosting company. If the website owner has invoked any privacy from their hosting company, this will simply show the hosting company name. That’s fine because that’s really all you need. Go to the hosting company’s website. Under their Terms of Service, you’ll find their rules about copyright infringement. Almost all hosting companies forbid their customers to use their product in violation of copyright laws. Terms of Service usually contain an email address to which you can send a copyright complaint regarding a website they host.
- Submit a complaint to the hosting company. This can include copies of your blog post showing the date and time stamp you published the material, any statistical logs or tracking showing dates and times when your material was indexed or spidered, along with any Page Source information you may have collected. Most hosting companies will eventually shut down the offending website with sufficient proof of copyright infringement.
- Notify the offending site’s advertisers. Note the offending website URL, and provide supporting documentation of the copyright infringement. Inform the advertiser that you will continue to pursue your rights under applicable copyright laws and that you are certain that the advertiser does not want to intentionally do business with someone who is willfully violating those laws.
It’s advised that you not post a comment out of frustration on the offender’s blog nor provide a link to them from your own blog. Don’t give them any additional visitors or backlinks. They don’t deserve the traffic or the Google plug. Granted, there are times someone uninformed may not have realized they were in the wrong and a simple email request to them can have the issue corrected. Others are blatantly copying material, know it, and try to cover their tracks. An email isn’t going to stop them. (On a current example, for instance, the administrator has turned off comments on the website and left the About Me page in default mode. Waaaayyy too busy copying and pasting to deal with visitors.)
WordPress users, if you happen to catch the thief in the act and grab their IP address, use this WordPress PlugIn to ban the IP from being able to visit again. Not that they can’t find a way around it, but you can at least make them work at being a criminal. (Can you see them sighing at the end of a long day of copying and pasting and hunting for IP addresses to use? How was work today, honey? Ugh. I’m exhausted. Creative website owners kept blocking my every move making it so difficult to rip them off. I swear, thieves today just don’t get any respect. What’s for dinner?)
I actually feel some pity for them, those Copy/Edit/Paste professionals, because the rest of us are capable of coming up with our own, great ideas, but they are obviously not able to do the same. They either think it is okay to steal written content from others (which means they’re sadly uneducated about online rights and copyright laws), or they do it on purpose (which means they have no moral code and don’t mind breaking the law). In either case, they deserve our sympathy because it means they’re likely to learn ALL of life’s lessons the hard way.
(This material is copyright protected. If it shows up anywhere other than SquidLog, then it was copied without permission.)