Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bloggers: Have you been copied? What can you do?

Not long ago, I wrote a little rant about bloggers who copy from other bloggers. I got a few nice responses and thought I'd follow up with a few tips on finding out if you've been copied, and what to do about it.

Copyscape

This site is simple. Plug in your site's URL and Copyscape will find content that matches what's on your site. It won't crawl your entire site looking for copies, so you'd need to type in URLs for individual pages that you think might have been copied.

This tool also works in reverse. If you happen upon a site and you think you've seen the content before but don't remember where, you can type in the offender's URL and see if you can find the original source.

TinEye

TinEye searches for photos on the web. Depending on the browser you use, there's an add-on that lets you right-click on a photo and go directly to the Tin Eye search. Not only does it search for an exact match, but it can find photos that have been cropped or adjusted.

Google

We all know Google, but did you realize that it's a darned good tool for finding copies of your words on the web? Choose a sentence or two that are unique to you, and use Google to search for that snippet.

When it comes to recipes, "stir until combined" is going to get a lot of results, so that's not going to be a useful search. If you have a unique way of phrasing things, search for that instead. Or search for your list of ingredients. Then click through and see if the recipes actually are the same.

If your recipe is simple - like white bread, for example, just about every recipe is going to have flour, water, yeast, and salt. But the amounts will likely be different, so an ingredient search is still useful.

You can also use Google to set up "Google alerts" that search for particular keywords. I have searches set up for my name, my blog name, and my URL. Even if you don't find sites that are copying you, you might find sites that are mentioning you. And that's a good thing.

DCMA Takedowns

This site is in the business of taking down websites that are copying. This might be a bit much for the average blogger to pay for, but the service is there if you need it.

Remove content from Google

Here's a simple tool provided by Google for reporting sites that are using unauthorized content. If you can't convince another site to remove your content, at least you can keep that site from getting Google hits for content that you created.

Plagiarism Today

Of course, the goal is to get the content taken off the other site, and maybe throw a few punches as well. The guy who runs this site goes after plagiarists for a fee, but he also has some great information about how to do it yourself, including a handy form letter where you can fill in the blanks.

Networking

Sometimes all it takes is a polite email to get your content taken off a site. There are some people who don't realize that copying web content is illegal, and they might learn something from a polite note. If email doesn't work, then you can also leave comments on the site pointing out that the content has been copied without your permission and that you want it removed.

If the content is still there after a reasonable amount of time, then you might need to use a bit more force.

A single blogger might not have the resources to get content taken down if the thief is particularly pig-headed about it, but if a blogger has blatantly borrowed your content, chances are there is other unauthorized content on the site besides yours. A few searches using TinEye, Copyscape and Google might find articles copied from other bloggers.

Once you find the original blogs, you can email those bloggers letting them know that their content was stolen. When you send the emails, give a link to the copied content. If you know what it is, also provide the email address of blogging thief - you've probably done this research for yourself, so you might as well save the next blogger a few mouse-clicks. In your emails, point out that this is not a single occurrence and that you're trying to get you own content taken down as well.

If you're really lucky, one or more of those blogs will be big enough to have a lawyer on retainer or have a vast number of loyal followers. That might make it easier for everyone, but even if all the content was stolen from small blogs, you can work together to get the content removed or get the site taken down.

With enough emails coming from enough angry bloggers, it might be enough to get the stolen content removed. Because, really, there are some people who don't understand that it's not nice to steal until they've been told a few dozen times.

If the multiple emails don't work, you can used the combined resources of your new blogging friends - including everyone's Twitter and Facebook followers - to get the word out about the thefts. Sure, it might get a few extra hits for the blogger-thief at first, but if enough people get on the bandwagon, the thief might relent and remove the offending content.

If the site has badges for blog groups, you can see if those groups have rules about copied content. Most of them do. Contact those groups and explain that the site has copied your content and is refusing to take it off. They might not help you fight your battle, but if those groups are providing traffic to the offending blog, at least there will be a little less traffic.

If the blog has ads or lists sponsors, you can contact the advertisers and sponsors.

Each time you send an email, make sure you provide a link to the copied content on the thief's blog as well as a link to the original content on your blog. Mention that you have contacted the blogger and asked that the content be taken down, but don't make it a lengthy dissertation. Keep it short and simple. "This is my content on his blog, my content on my blog. I have emailed him 3 times over the past two weeks, and have not gotten a response." That's enough.

And if that doesn't work, you can look into the other resources to get the offending site taken down.

In the end, we all need to look out for each other. If you think another blogger is being ripped off, let them know. And maybe someone else will do the same for you. We all work hard to assemble our words and make our photos look pretty. It's not fair - or legal - for someone else to use them without permission.

1 comment:

chefpandita.com said...

Thanks for this info, Donna!

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