Content Theft

If you're a blogger, writer or anyone who puts anything up on the Web, someone is going to steal or copy your work and not give you credit.

It sucks, but it's very likely to happen.

Content theft is incredibly frustrating. 

It's your stuff and someone is using it without permission - and here's why it hurts:

  • Traffic that could be coming to your website is going to someone elses'.
  • You took the time to craft engaging content and someone else is acting like they wrote it.
  • Other people might be making money that should belong to you.

There are, however, a couple precautions you can take to deter lazy content thieves.  (The ambitious ones will find a way - but the lazy ones will move on and copy someone else's stuff.)

Identifying Content Theft

The first thing you should do is set a Google Alert for your information.  At the very least, you should set Google Alerts for: 

  • your name.
  • your company name.
  • your Web address.

If you're so inclined, set several alerts based on each piece of content you produce. 

You can also use search engines to find your stuff, but Google Alerts are much easier because they're automated - once you've put in a term, Google lets you know each time it crawls a site with your info.

Content Theft Precautions

Like I said, you can deter the lazy content thieves.  To make it more difficult for people to steal your stuff, you can:

  • alter the content of your feeds.
  • disable copying of your text.
  • add a copyright symbol to every piece you produce with a link to your site.

Content Theft: Alter Your Feeds

A lot of content thieves use feeds to automatically update their own content with yours.  Doesn't that suck?

Wherever you have feeds enabled, you can change the preferences so they don't deliver the entire piece in someone else's feed.  They'll have to click a link - like "view article" or "view entire post" - and be taken directly to your website if they want to see the whole thing.

I like having people be able to read my entire post in their feed reader - I figure if it's convenient, they'll keep reading.

If you're the same way, most blog services provide a way for you to include a copyright and a link that only appears in the feed. 

Mine says, "Copyright 2010 Angie Papple Johnston - if you're reading this anywhere but on Freelance Writing Tips, it's been stolen. Feel free to email me and let me know - I'll go get 'em."

Content Theft: Disable Text Copying

You can disable copying of your text by editing the code that makes your site work.  Before you try making any changes to your code, save everything - that way if you mess it up (I've learned that the hard way!) you can go back to square one without much headache.

I disabled the highlighting function on this blog this morning.  Try to drag your mouse across my text - see how nothing happened?  Lazy content thieves who copy and paste can't do that to my content any more, and I suspect a lot of it was happening that way.

Microsoft has the code to disable visitors' mice (that doesn't sound right, does it?) and simple instructions on how to implement it into your site.  Again, before you monkey around with anything that makes your site run, save!

Content Theft: The Copyright Symbol

If you add a © to your content, it doesn't necessarily stop content thieves from taking your stuff.  However, if they're dumb enough to copy that part, too, it at least lets their readers know it doesn't belong to them.

On Microsoft operating systems, you can find the symbol on your Character Map.  Here's how:

  1. Click the Windows logo at the bottom left of your toolbar.
  2. In the search box, type "charmap"
  3. When the Character Map opens, browse through the symbols until you find it.  (If the font is set to Arial, the symbol is 6 rows down and 4 columns in.)
  4. Put your mouse pointer on top and click.
  5. Hit "Select."
  6. Hit "Copy."
  7. Go back to your document and paste the symbol - either by right clicking or hitting CTRL + V at the same time.
You can also simply press and hold the ALT key while hitting the numbers "0169" on your keyboard.  After you've typed the numbers, release the ALT key and you'll have a nifty little © symbol in your document.

When Content Theft Happens to YOU

It really is frustrating - and you might feel like there's nothing you can do about it.  While it's true that foreigners don't have to follow US Copyright law, many of their hosting companies are here.  You can file DMCA complaints with their hosting company and generally make a lot of noise... and if all that fails, complain to Google.

Why complain to Google? 

When they find out someone is stealing, they'll disable their AdWords account and very likely blacklist their site - that means it won't even be recognized by Google's little bots.  Same goes for Yahoo! and bing. 

Yes, it's time-consuming to complain - but at the least, it'll make you feel better.  At best, it'll wreck the content theft ring's tidy little profits.

What do you do when you're the victim of content theft?

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"Bank Robbery 1" image courtesy of Reverte at stock.xchng

© Angie Papple Johnston, 2010; if you are reading this anywhere but on, it's stolen.