Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is also the most destructive, at least when it comes to online content. When other websites steal (i.e. republish without permission) content from your blog, you are hurt in several ways:
- Your content becomes duplicate content in the SERPs. While search engines try to determine which copy was the original (yours!), they aren’t always accurate, and your content could be ranked lower or even de-indexed.
- Other sites deliver and profit from the content you should get credit for.
- Your brand is diluted. When other sites publish your content, your site no longer has the advantage of being the only source internet users can get the great content you produce.
Yes, it IS illegal!
Many people try to claim that copying your content is not illegal because they are not using it for profit, or because your content did not have a sufficient copyright notice on it. Don’t believe them for a minute. Here are the facts:
- In the USA (and most countries), original content is copyrighted the instant it is published in any medium, whether it has a copyright notice or not. Point them to this answer on copyright.gov to see for themselves.
- Copyright infringement is still infringement, even if no money is made from it. Under fair use laws, certain exceptions are made, but these usually apply to referencing or quoting a small portion of a work for “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research”. Copying an entire article or blog post for republication with or without credit is NOT fair use.
Note about copyright registration: Your work is copyrighted whether you register it or not. However, you will need to register your copyright before you could take legal action to defend or protect it.
How to stop content thieves
There are a few very effective methods you can use to discourage, stop, and prosecute people who are stealing your blog content.
Place a copyright statement prominently on your blog. This will discourage many people from stealing your content in the first place. A copyscape badge can also help.
Use copysentry to detect websites that have published your content.
Email the site owner. Send a polite email informing them that they have published your content, which is copyrighted, and ask them to remove it.
Send the site owner a DMCA cease and desist letter. This formal letter is sent via registered mail and will communicate that you mean business. Here are some examples.
Send the site’s webhost a DMCA letter. Webhosts are required by law to take action when they are notified that a site they host is violating a copyright. Each webhost has it’s own procedure to file a DMCA complaint (see Yahoo’s), but most work about the same. Once they get your complaint, they will give the site owner 3 options: Remove the offending content, file a counter-notice (i.e. claiming that they own the content), or the website will delete their site. Since you own the content, very few site owners will have the nerve to file a counter claim saying they own it, so this method is usually very effective.
Initiate legal proceedings. In the rare instance that none of the above steps resolved the issue, you can contact a lawyer and file a lawsuit. You may be able to sue to not only force them to remove the content, but also to pay restitution to you.