Turn Stolen Copy Lemons Into Link Lemonade

This is a long one, you might want to freshen up your coffee and get comfy!  :)

99% of the time I’m pretty easy going, I don’t particularly care about industry drama nor do I get too caught up in over-analzying the latest algorithm shifts. Whatevah.  But.  I do get a little testy when I find someone’s taken content from my site without asking and without linking back to me.

I’m not a good writer, some of it I blame on being dyslexic, some on lack of time, some on lack of talent.  When I do manage to string three words into a cohesive sentence, I’m proud and extremely protective of what I’ve written, it’s why I get upset when I find my content being used without permission.   This stealing of content is what’s known as copyright theft, and it’s against the law.  The minute you create original content, you become the copyright owner which means it’s yours and yours alone, even if you share, rent, or pass it out.

Last week I found a website using almost all of the content from my training pages.  Because the site is in an ancillary marketing niche, I  made courtesy contact via Skype, pointed out my content  and  nicely asked the webmaster to remove it.   The webmaster (a woman) acknowledged my comments and promised to look into it after meeting a deadline.   After a couple of days and no action, I contacted her via email (twice) and again requested my content be removed.  I made sure to include copies of my site from the Way Back Machine (which pre-date hers) and my contact information.    No response to either email so I went into action and started DMCA proceedings.

Now….what’s sad here, beside the fact she stole my copy and then repeatedly ignored me,  is the hosting provider not only removed the page I was complaining about, they also removed the rest of her site after receiving and checking my DMCA notice.   Her entire site was taken offline for a couple of days, think about what that means in terms of lost potential.  Hosting companies don’t fool around when DMCA’s are submitted to them, they have to act since it’s the law.  If the woman had just responded to me and taken down the page hosting my content, I would not have used the DMCA against her.

Like I said, hosting companies take the DMCA seriously, here’s part of what her host (GoDaddy) sent to me 48 hours after I submitted my DMCA complaint:

 

Thank you for contacting Go Daddy’s Copyright Claims Department.  We have suspended the site in question pending a resolution of this matter. Please allow up to 30 minutes for these changes to take effect. …. We have provided the specifics of your infringement claim to the owner of the site, along with your contact information… If the site owner indicates they are prepared to remove the infringing content, we will re-activate the hosting account in order to allow that to happen….

 

Bold/red mine.  It’s really too bad the woman didn’t listen initially, not only did her entire site go offline but – she may have lost inbound links to her pages as well.  Once I knew I was going to write this post, I checked for links pointing to her main page plus the page I wanted removed.  She has several hundred inbounds, plus a couple of dedicated deep links pointing to the page hosting my content.  Those two deep links were from directories which are known to run broken link checkers regularly on sites in their index.  If they ran the checker while her page was down – POOF – there go two inbound links to internal pages on her site.   And. then. there. were. none.  :(

 

 

If you’re developing content and want to make it exclusive to your brand, you need to protect your material.   Here’s a step by step outline for how I deal with copyright infringement and sometimes build a link or three in the process:

Step One – Discovery

Run your pages through a plagiarism checking tool like CopyScape or Plagiarisma ( I use both)  The tool brings back a list of sites hosting your content.

 

 

If the pages are hosting stolen/duplicate content, you’ll see highlighted text.  Here’s one I ran on the LinkSpiel, as you can see someone lifted the entire post!

 

Tisk tisk.

Once you’ve found your content you have two choices: be nice or go straight for the jugular. If you’re nice, you can send an email and point out they’re using your material without permission and want it removed immediately.  You’d be surprised how many SEO’s, even well known SEO firms, lift content. Don’t be swayed by the “ we hired a copywriter and they must have taken your copy” nonsense,  the site owner is responsible for what’s on his/her site.  (Sidenote: next time you see me at a conference or meetup, ask about the well-known New Jersey SEO firm I had a scrape with on this issue, it’s a juicy story)

Step Two – Nice or Not?

If you decide to go straight for the  jugular, you can use the DMCA to fight your case.   Start by finding out where the site is  hosted, I use  Who Is Hosting This Site .  Here’s a screenshot:

Visit the hosting company and use the search box (or site map)  to find their “Copyright Infringement Policy” section.  On Godaddy you can find it by going to Site Map -> Legal Agreements -> Copyright Infringement.  There you will find a step-by-step outline of what you need to provide in order for the hosting company to act.   Here’s what I open with when I contact the hosting company:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you to avail myself of my rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This letter is a Notice of Infringement as authorized in § 512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Law. I wish to report an instance of what I feel in good faith is an instance or Copyright Infringement. The infringing material appears on the Service for which you are the designated agent.  You are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office as the Designated Service Provider Agent to receive notifications of alleged Copyright infringement with respect to users of the Service for which you are the Designated Agent.

My quote is taken from http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/stock-letters/, you’ll find other helpful verbiage and form letters there.  You’ll also need to provide the following information to prove you are the rightful copyright owner:  (these are the questions/statements the hosting company asks you to answer to prove copyright)

An electronic signature of the copyright owner, or a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of an exclusive copyright that has allegedly been infringed.

A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the Complaining Party is the owner, or is authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works on that site.

Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit Go Daddy to locate the material.

Information reasonably sufficient to permit Go Daddy to contact the Complaining Party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the Complaining Party may be contacted.

A statement that the Complaining Party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

Once the information is sent, the hosting company has three business days to respond.  I find this varies, most of the time they respond within 24 hours, sometimes longer but they DO respond.  From there, the offending site gets a letter and provided you’ve shown the content is yours, the pages go offline.

In order to make my case with the hosting company, I always copy and paste pages of my site from the Way Back Machine (WBM) to show I was  first.  Since there are recording holes in the WBM,  you may need to screenshot posting dates and cache dates to make your case.  I’ve even used comment dates to establish time of creation and show my piece came first.  This is another reason why it’s a good idea to include dates on your blog posts! This might seem like a lot of work but once you’ve done it, you have a template for future use.   

 

So…is there a silver link lining here?   You bet, always is with me ;)

 

I don’t particularly like to reward thieves with a gift but I’m a link builder which means I have almost no shame.  If I find someone using content from my blog, I do demand they take it down but I’ll also offer them a link embedded, alternative piece to put in it’s place provided the page has been indexed and isn’t a piece of crap.  This is a win-win for both of us, I get a new source to host unique, link filled content,  they get fresh original material and we both avoid the DMCA.  Want a cookie with that lemonade?

Don’t let people use your content without being compensated for it, know your rights and always look for the silver link lining.  :)

 

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Comments

  1. Idske says

    Nice post. I would probably check the backlinks to the copied post first to check if there are any quality links linking to it. If so contact these people and mention you are the original owner.. Then ask if they want to link to you instead. You can still offer a guests of course.

  2. Chris says

    Terrific step-by-step to fix this. Thank you! Nice to know how to unleash hell (when the situation requires it).

  3. Juliemarg says

    I’ve noticed a number of my youtube videos being embedded in deceptive ways — My video next to their very prominent phone number asking for the order. One even says that I’m their “partner”.

    I’m torn. Does their embed mean that my vid places higher in Google and Youtube search results? I don’t like them naming me as a partner, but I focus locally on Sacramento search and social media, so if they’re out of my market, does it really matter? And, since they’re using an embed code that I’ve provided, I don’t think I have a standing.

    I am going to start watermarking my vids with my phone # and url all the way through the video, not just at the end.

  4. C.BENOIT / Tyseo says

    When I find stolen content, I prefer be nice with the webmaster that use my content without permission. I ask them :
    – to remove stolen content immediatly
    – or make one or many links (that I choose) from my stolen content to my webpages.

    They often choose the second option, and I gain some backlinks.

  5. says

    Only one question. If it’s a true spammer, why bother notifying them webmaster at all?

    Just serve the DMCA straight to Google or the ISP and let them deal with it. You don’t need to prove your case to the website owner or waste time trying to coerce them. That’s giving them way more power in the situation than they deserve.

    • Debra says

      I do go straight to the ISP at times, if the site is obviously a scraper or just crap but I will notify people I know/have heard of/are in the business. I don’t buy the “my dog ate my homework” excuse but I will give them a break as a professional courtesy.

    • Moosa Hemani says

      I think its not at all bad if you go directly to DMCA but i guess contacting to the webmaster and warnings this all creates the friendly atmosphere among the webmasters all over the globe but i don’t think there is no hard going directly to the hosting company and claim.

      btw… A great write up!!

      • Debra says

        Couldn’t agree more, a world of angry webmasters would not be nice, it’s why I will contact SEM/SEO companies/people if I find they’re using my stuff. But since I’ve given them a professional courtesy I want one in return and expect my content removed immediately. If not – I’m going to use whatever means necessary to have it removed. Thanks for stopping by Moosa. And @Resimleri and @C.Benoit – thanks for commenting. :)

  6. Margaret says

    Thanks for the juicy read! I love how you developed a way to use these situations to your advantage – smart thinking.

  7. Arnie says

    Another awesome piece of information Debra. Love the line “I’m a link builder which means I have almost no shame.”

    Arnie

  8. says

    Honestly one of the best posts I have read all year. Thanks for taking the time to detail all this out. I am like you, I am not a good writer, but when its stolen and there is no link or anything … it get’s annoying. I usually find out via Google Alerts, but nice to see some other tools. Thanks Debra!!

    • Debra says

      All year eh? Seeing at how it’s February 17 I’m not sure I should be pleased or offended. (j/k) I use Copyscape over alerts because of the reporting, easier to just copy and paste links from their highlighting than deal with alerts.

  9. Josh says

    So if I understand what you’re saying, it’s almost like writing a guest post for them. That’s pretty creative. And thanks for sharing how you went about reporting the thief who stole your content, maybe now she’ll respond in a more timely manner and take action. Now if you excuse me I need to refresh my coffee :)

    • Debra says

      Thanks Josh. Truth be told I was more put out at being ignored than the actual theft here. Contact someone 3x and they still don’t bother to respond? On top of being rude, it’s stupid. She got what she deserved.