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Copycat Blogging – Open Mike

Ok – I’d like to start an ‘open mike’ discussion in the comments of this post on a topic that I’ve been wondering how to raise for a while now. I’d honestly like your opinion on this (I’ll keep it as a ‘hypothetical’):

If (hypothetically) you started a blog on a niche topic and started to get some popularity around it but then found that a number of your readers were starting blogs with not only on the same topic but using the same blog name and variations of your URL – how would you react?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Chris Owen says:

    I’d be downright shitty and calling for a lawyer!!!

  2. Jon says:

    Pissed! Thats the sucky thing about the internet, there is so much information and everyone is ready to take what they want. If they want to start a blog or website on the topic, they should have something new to bring to the table, not just republish some one else’s work. Thankfully a lot of the time the word gets out about the stolen content and the site gets rejected by that niche community.

  3. Darren Rowse says:

    I should say – they have not stolen content or design. All they’ve done (hypothetically speaking of course) is set up a blog on the same topic, name and similar URL.

    And before we start a witch hunt on this – I’m not wanting this post to be attacking of anyone who reads this blog who might have something similar to this one – I’m just honestly interested in what people would do.

  4. Jenstar says:

    Especially if the domain name difference is only in the tdl (.com versus .biz, for example), it is not cool in my eyes. Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery.

    If the person got the idea for the niche AND domain name from your site, especially when there is no doubt in anyone’s eyes where the idea came from, it shows that person cannot stand on his/her own merits… and others who might have been potential readers of that site or blog will know that too.

    There will always be people competing in the same niche… but choosing a very similar name to compete in that space is not the way to go. And that person will never be as big as the brand they try and mimic, so why not just go for a different name in the first place.

  5. Stuart says:

    There’s probably not a great deal that you can do. Of course if they have broken some form of copyright and C&D letter to them and to their host usually gets very fast results.

    But if it is something that is a bit more vague and they don’t have the same ‘name’ in the industry or the same experience then probably the best thing is to do nothing.

    To jump up and down and wave your arms around would have the exact opposite affect to what you want to achieve.

    They probably won’t be able to attract the readers and they probably won’t have the determination and stamina to stick at the task till they do gather some readers. It that’s the case then they’ll just fade away.

    Small businesses often face that kind of competition and as long as your doing everything right with your business the carbon copies generally go out backwards fairly quickly.

  6. BankLocater says:

    Similar name and content is fine as long as they are not stealing your content. Blogs gain popularity through their content not through topic or name of site.

  7. Mike says:

    The entire idea of consulting the lawyer sounds like the killer for yourself, your money, and your reputation as blog author. Don`t you think that the original idea-giver has one of the most powerful weapons at hand on which the copycat has hardly an influence?

    As a blog author, I consider the moment where I’m being kicked around by copycats as the moment on which I have to rely on my blog and networking with my blog. If I have a few readers, they will surely hear about the abuse of my name/ideas, and most of them have blogs. And besides this, wouldn’t I inform the more or less well known blog-authors of that misery to make the case even more public? There’s always time for a bombardment by the lawyers, but who can survive a war of blog authors?

    I might rate the “power” of blog authors quite high, but that’s one thing I learned: If you fight blog authors, you don’t fight one but a bunch of people and their opinions – all the dirty stuff gets revealed.

  8. Darren Rowse says:

    Interesting thoughts so far – I too am probably not a ‘go to the lawyers’ type person unless there is a direct theft of content. I’ve threatened this once or twice with plagiarism but never had to resort to it.

    My concerns (hypothetically) in these cases are less about the competition aspects – I think that there is plenty of room in most niches for multiple blogs/sites on a topic, rather for me I’m more concerned about the confusion that it has the potential to cause readers of my blog, and the those of the others.

    It’s true that it is the content that differentiates blogs from each other – however if the niche is small having two, or three (or four as in the case I’m thinking) blogs of the same name it’s just plain confusing. I also think it’s just plain rude to be honest…..

    interested in others thoughts….

  9. If your url is http://www.problogger.net and your title is “problogger” and you consider that Problogger is a popular topic (and the name of the topic), isn’t it logical that there are going to be people with similar URL’s and Similar names on the same topic (assuming you are refering to this blog (hypothetically)?

    Plus isn’t this whole Blog thing about links and copying anyway?
    Check this link list out:
    http://jkontherun.blogs.com/jkontherun/2005/08/synctoy_10_rele.html

    http://office.weblogsinc.com/entry/1234000250056758/

    http://wickedstageact2.typepad.com/life_on_the_wicked_stage_/2005/08/microsoft_relea.html

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=e0fc1154-c975-4814-9649-cce41af06eb7&DisplayLang=en

    I thought this funny. The first three about the only value added was the link to the person before (PS. If your after a really good Sync tool, I use one that has great auto syncing, check out my review of it here:
    http://mollyzine-podcasting.blogspot.com/2005/08/allway-sync-perfect-sync-tool-for.html).

    Anyway, I guess to sum it up, who’s to say what draws the line of Copy Cating.

    JMTC
    Molly

  10. Tim Yang says:

    Go GoogleBowling!

    They’re obviously clueless enough since they can’t make their own niche — ie they won’t know what a Google Bowling attack is so they’d never suspect you.

  11. Joe says:

    I would imagine that an author who has spent many hours developing ideas and acccumulating information would be very annoyed if it is plagiarised without permission or credit.

    I have been thinking of commencing a blog but am concerned that once my data is uploaded it can be stolen and dressed up so that my original readers are diverted to an opposition site. I would be interested to learn if a blog can be protected in anyway.

    Perhaps this could be the subject of a future article ….. if it hasn’t been written already.

  12. Fabian says:

    I think there are two questions here:

    1. is the alleged copycat copying content without appropriate attribution? and/or

    2. has the alleged copycat created a blog that gives readers the impression that it is, or is affiliated with, the original blog.

    The first one is simpler I think – unoriginal content is uninspiring and readers will not hang around (best for them to go to the horse’s mouth). Technically may still be a breach of copyright, but in the blogging world, as some have already observes, a certain level seems to be tolerated.

    The second one is far more serious and may amount to passing off, a tort actionable under intellectual property law. See here for example:
    http://www.bizhelp24.com/business_law/passing-off.shtml

  13. J.Cohen says:

    I know of a hypothetical blog that might be ripping off another hyopthetical blog. I would get lawyer to insist that they stop immediately. Especially if the other site is not making it clear that they are a different site from the original and not affiliated in any way. I would take screen shots and use HTTrack to get a local copy as a record. If a hypothetical site is making an obvious attempt at spoofing another site in order to get PPC revenue it should be stopped.

  14. Ben says:

    I would balk at getting lawyers involved as this will just lead to financial ruin. Maybe a carefully crafted email stating your concerns (if you have a lawyer friend, ask them to look it over, though not in a formal capacity). After that, simply forget about them. They’ll die a natural death soon enough.

  15. Andy Merrett says:

    People are using the word hypothetical a little too much now. C’mon guys, we all know it’s happening.

    It’s hard to comment on vague issues like this – surely every case needs to be assessed at the time, based on what may or may not have been infringed, what the spirit of the alleged ‘copycat’ blog is, etc. etc.

    At what level is a URL deemed a copy of another? If it’s on a niche subject, it will not be unusual to have that word in the URL. Unless the URL is owned by a company, in which case unauthrosied use of brand names in the URL could land others in trouble, then it’s hard to see how words in URLs can be protected.

    The content is slightly easier, though if the original blog is taking sections of content from other sources, the whole issue becomes blurred.

  16. Hi

    you talk about this guy http://www.problogger.ca/

    PROBLOGGER.ORG

    Website Title: ProBlogger Blog Tips to help you make money
    Meta Description: Helping Bloggers earn Money
    Meta Keywords: ProBlogger, Pro Blogger, Professional blogger, blog, blogger, blog money, blogging for money, money, profits, blog income, adsense, affiliate program,

    or this guy

    PROBLOGGER.BIZ

    Website Title: ProBlogger Blog Tips to help you make money
    Meta Description: Helping Bloggers earn Money
    Meta Keywords: ProBlogger, Pro Blogger, Professional blogger, blog, blogger, blog money, blogging for money, money, profits, blog income, adsense, affiliate program,

    in fact the same “………..” !!!!!!

    well Daren, doesn’t mater, your are the original source of information

    regards

    Claude

  17. Wayne says:

    (hypothetical) That is just ridiculous, you can clearly see that the similarities in the posts…..(hypothetical)

  18. Ray says:

    I saw that guy a few weeks back Claude and was quite confused about his site. He has changed it a bit now but it used to have almost exactly the same tagline as you as well as almost all the same posts. When I worked out it was not Darren I got very pissed off. Very Sleezy.

  19. duncan says:

    I’d rather not say, because I know this is a family blog in terms of language :-)

  20. It’s always helpful to buy up all the domains deriving from your key brand. But usually in blogging it starts small with one domain. It’s only later that we realize we should have covered the whole marketing niche. That’s the essential difference between even “pro”-bloggers and big corporations. As for all the other probloggers, I doubt they’ll scratch the surface of AdSense. If they have to plagiarize someone else’s ideas in such detail, it just proves they’ve got no original talent of their own. I wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep over them.

  21. Vix says:

    I’d be angry especially if the difference was the domain extension. Now if they were copying your layout and content now then that would be the time to call the lawyers or get postal on them.

  22. Andy Merrett says:

    If we are talking about the .ca and .biz and .org variants (all of which lead to one site) then I don’t much see the problem.

    Maybe the design has changed now, but he’s not using Darren’s tagline. The information is always going to be similar as a lot of blogs about blogging link to the same breaking news about AdSense, networks, services etc.

    What makes Darren’s site stand out is the personal commentary, plus the fact that he is actually a successful blogger. There’s not much original content on the other site.

    Maybe p**blogger.ca will be successful in some niche, maybe not. At the moment it’s pretty darn obvious who is the original.

    As an aside, I gave up on my original blog site idea because, although I was coming at it from a different angle, it had the danger of being a pale imitation of sites like this one. (I still have a pretty funky domain lying idle though!)

    I do have an idea for a more regionalised and more wide-ranging blog about blogging, which hopefully will stand distinct from this and other excellent sites, but time will tell.

    I’m concentrating on other niches right now, which don’t seem to have so much competition.

  23. ChrisH says:

    Pizza businesses are everywhere. Each tries to outdo the others. There are a lot of similarities between them all.

    If I open one called PizzaHutt and it’s in some small town in the middle of no where, I’d probably get a way with it.

    On the other hand, if it’s in downtown Melbourne, then I’d have the Pizza Hut lawyers on my doorstep before the paint was dry on the signage.

    Apple went after websites using “pod” in their name earlier in the year. eg iPodlounge changed to iLounge.

    But if you’re just a little guy, do you go to lawyers? Do you want the bad publicity? Can your business survive bad publicity? Apple obviously could.

    It’s hard to know until we’re actually in the situation. The first reaction would be to call the lawyers. But for a small business, more effective is quality of service. The copycats won’t succeed as long as you continue to do a better job than them.

    There is one exception. If it’s a big guy (eg and MS, Google or Apple) who are stealing your branding, then sue the b’s!

    You can also use the classic “The original and best site!”

  24. Damien says:

    Interesting you should bring this subject up, and I would like to talk about the flipside of the coin. What if you are accused of copying another site, ok well not copying- actually BEING another site.
    Here’s what I mean….

    2 months ago I started a little f**k around on the net called “The Burning Question”, at a blogger address. I lifted the idea from a radio show over here in the UK where people wrote in with their questions and “Elvis Presley” answered them in a humorus way. I thought “hmm, cool idea for a blog- fresh content every day and not the usual news etc”.
    After a week, this little mess around suddenly started getting quite popular, so I had to take it seriously. I bought the domain burnquest.com and designed it as you see it now. Everything is going great and I even stuck a forum on the back of it…. And that’s the problem…..

    A week or so ago, a new thread was started by a new member who is (still) totally convinced my site is the latest incarnation of TBQ Forums aka the-burning-question.com. This site is currently on indefinite hiatus (despite announcing various relaunch dates) and has been since (it turns out) around the same time as my site went live. If that wasn’t funny enough, their site is run by a guy called Damian, and my name is Damien. I can see why this guy thinks we’re one and the same.

    So far, I have had no contact from the owner, though I have reason to believe he is now aware of my site. I hope it stays that way. I’m doing my own thing, and so is he (or not as the case may be).

    Of course, I was worried that all this could turn ugly (lawyers etc) as I have little evidence to prove that I didn’t “steal” the TBQ forum concept, or whatever was on that site before it was torn down.

    On the upside, I welcome with open arms anyone pee’d off with their site being shut down and might be looking for an alternative.

  25. Joseph says:

    Well, I can’t say that I am surprised to see it, because there seems to be a distinct lack of originality on the Net these days.

    So many people want to make a quick buck, but don’t actually want to put any effort into it. Hence, the sudden appearance of all the sites that are ‘scraping’ content and the sudden influx of ‘automatic content generation’ tools.

    I firmly believe in finding something that works and modelling (copying) it and hopefully, improving upon it. The owner of those other sites clearly fails to do that and cannot even be bothered to design his own theme.

    If you want to stand out from the crowd, then some kind of design element is essential, because content just isn’t enough these days. Unless you were the first of course, and have already got an established reader base.

    It is quite clear that this is one of the more informative and useful sites for bloggers and is a daily read for me, because of the excellent writing and the distinct design.

    I am new to blogging and PHP, but I actually took the time to modify the WordPress templates and do my own graphics for the header (they are not great, but I tried).

    I also added an ‘About Me’ page with a photo for all to see. It is embarrassing, because I hate having my photo taken and talking about myself, but I think it is essential for establishing online credibility.

    The Net is becoming less anonymous these days, due to the widespread use of broadband and digital cameras. So I do get a little curious if there isn’t a picture of the author on their site. Maybe it is because they don’t have access to a camera, are camera-shy, or are just plain ugly and doing us all a favour (yes, I know that I am no oil painting!), but a photo imlpies that you are not afraid for people to know who you are.

    I personally wouldn’t be too bothered about his choice of domain names, because most people wouldn’t think to use those domain extensions anyway and would soon move on, because of the distinct lack of interesting content.

    With regards to the copying though, have you considered the possibility of turning your site name and/or tag line into a trademark? I am not to up on this, but it is something worth considering.

    At least then you would have the law on your side.

  26. Peter Brady says:

    Interesting quandry.

    Firstly – I would say that blatant plagiarism is infuriating and I think in this hypothetical case it would be well and truly overstepping the mark.
    Secondly – plagiaristic activity is quite different from properly referenced and accredited material appearing on other sites. Afterall what is the blogosphere if you can’t create and exchange knowledge.
    Thirdly – overlapping of content and competition on sites is inevitable. It is the distinction between properly accredited material and plagiarized material that matters.

    RE lawyers. A web CEO friend of mine who encountered a similar problem, new that his product and service were vastly superior and simply traded the plagiarizer into the ground very quickly. I think in your hypothetical problem you would have no problem in doing the same.

  27. Andy says:

    I’d take ‘em out. You need help? Everybody else has a posse no reason you can’t.

    I think full preventive, pre-emptive unilateral aggression is the way to go. :P

  28. Mahesh says:

    Hi Daren,

    Off late, I have been reading your problogger.net. I read every bit of information you provide here. It seems you are really concerned about the websites/blogs mushrooming on the same topic or with similar name. First of all, my view is that Nobody, I repeat, Nobody can beat the ORIGINAL. So if you are original, there is no need to worry. Consider the Net a broad platform, so everybody has the right to express his thoughts/expression the way he or she wants. So mostly all people pick up the idea from here or there at one time or the other, think about it and then express it in their own words, which gives an impression of Copying. So in my opinion, this is not a copy.

    Regarding URL, nobody can use your unique website/blog name. You are using problogger.net, so anybody is free to register Look-alike URLs like problogger.ca, problogger.us, problogger.org, problogger…..blah blah blah. It is also not a copy.

    Finally, it seems to me that you are not comfortable or perhaps ready for the competition (forgive me for this). In my opinion, once you start facing the reality then you will go and explore and diversify to write on other topics. would like to have you opinion here.

  29. You raise many issues here, Darren.

    Firstly, similar content – that’s the nature of the blogging world – if you have a decent sized newsfeed going you’d more than likely see that many blogs post the same stories – it’s the editorial comment of the blogger that counts and that what makes a geat blog from one that simply links to others without comment. You have a unique editorial component to your blog which is what makes you so popular.

    Similar Name – that’s a fine line. If you’re a professional blogger and earn your living from it then you have a right to protect your name to some degree – more so, (and this is important) if a similar type name is being used together with the same kind of layout and colors as yours. To me, that’s basic deception., and you should act on that.

    To me these kind of bloggers are pathetic – they have no orginality to do it their own way – and I’m not talking about not doing the same niche .. that’s fine, competition is fierce, but do it in their own way.

    The problems with some of the comments before saying that you are the original and people know that, but is that true? As more and more people get into blogging they don’t know you from a bar of soap. They come to a blog looking for quality information – if they don’t know you and visit these other sites, you loose out and they are seen as the expeets – that;s what these sites are playing at.

    Going the legal route should be the last choice, but because you are a “professional” blogger and it’s your livelihood at stake it’s a viable way. Possibly shaming them is another way, word of mouth and the blogging community go a long way. That kind of pressure might work. Other than that simply keep a close eye on them and record all suspicious activity.

    Maybe you should add/change your tag line to read: “… the original problogger”. And seriously look at trademarking, if that’s even possible now.

    If it was my blog that was essentially being copied – I don’t really know why anyone would bother -;) I’d act fast and decisive. Maybe you’re just too much of a nice guy Darren … maybe it’s time to get tough ;-)

  30. Mike Sigers says:

    I think that the fact that the person has ” 0 ” readers to his feed is proof enough that they are no threat.

    They don’t identify themselves and have no original content or thought. I don’t read anonymous blogs, no more than I’d read an anonymous book. Proof, testimonials, etc are reasons to read. Words on a page are not.

    Not much chance that they will be any competition.

    This happens offline all the time.

    You can steal a variation of a name, BUT you cannot steal the spirit of the person behind it. Without your thought process, energy, determination and contacts, they have no shot. Otherwise we’d all be pro’s and making $15 gazillion a day.

    Listen to Paul McCartney…” Let it be, let it be…”

  31. A lot of apparently copycat blogging is the result of various blogs trying to present important news items to their readers. A blogger should not blindly assume that just because a topic of interest is covered on another blog that their own readers have seen it. Many return visitors to popular blogs depend on the site to provide topical information of the day.

    The best way to combat true copycat blogging, i. e. another site that is basically running your exact posts somewhere else is to write some totally original articles that can easily be called out. Original material is necessary to develop a cult following of readers anyway.

  32. ~Dawn says:

    I also echo Banklocator’s opinion:
    “Similar name and content is fine as long as they are not stealing your content. Blogs gain popularity through their content not through topic or name of site. ”

    In the end it the best content that brings them back- and also the other guy might not have the stamina you do! If they have no original ideas of their own, they may not last long anyway, before they start stealing your stuff word for word- keep an eye on them.

    Frugal for Life

  33. Content, content, content.

    I have had people “steal” variations of my domain names, and some have even stolen my content (though almost every single bit of it is free to “steal” with attribution).

    I only go after them if they have taken content and haven’t attributed it back to be. I’ve had that happen fairly often, and most of the time it’s easily straightened out though now and then there’s some jerk who ignores me and keeps on doing it.

    If someone is stealing lots of my stuff and running Google ads, I would complain to Google, of course.

    But lawyers? No, not worth it. Too much trouble for too little gain and if out of the country, little chance of success.

  34. Cary says:

    Hmmm, I have the sneaky feeling that the copy-cat blogs Darren is referencing in this post are ones that copy his consumer blogs…not problogger. But I might be wrong. It sure shows an absolute lack of originality to blatanly copy one of these successful blogs, and yes, if it was one of my readers, taking info I offer up for free and then using it to copy-cat me, I’d be pissed. Is it legal? Sure, in most cases…but that’s not really the point. The point is that it’s lame & pathetic. Luckily most of these won’t get anywhere because the reality is you still need massive incoming links to get anywhere in the search engines. Without search engine traffic they won’t make a dime.

    One of the things I’ve learned about the internet though…it’s just as ugly as the real world. And sometimes uglier.

  35. Steve says:

    I can’t really agree that someone starting a site on the same subject as yours is stealing. No one has a claim to a niche site.

  36. HART says:

    In my books, the “.com” is always the first one that counted .. I am from Canada and do not have any .CA domains. So, I would be more concerned about something popping up from problogger.com than a .ca or .org or .biz . As long as they are not stealing content, or mimicking your design, I think the onus would have been on you to register all the domains to protect your name. Yours is a tough name, because it’s turned into a common verb.

    But, it’s all about branding, right? just like coca.cola and pepsi.cola .. They both can be good. You aren’t the only one that can help bloggers earn money.

    I’m with SYNTAGMA .. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it either .. you probably have more subscribers to your feed then they do in total hits for the month. Even so, I think bringing it to the attention of your readers every once in a while is perfectly O.K. There are a lot of comments on this post. Your readers won’t get confused.

  37. Tim says:

    This happend to me about two weeks ago. I threatend legal action under the tort of “passing off”. It worked.

  38. Thom Singer says:

    I had never thought it a big deal, until I ran across a blog with the a very similar same name (although I use “/” and she used the word “and” in “The Business Development / Networking Blog” title)

    I immediately looked at the archive, to find my blog was older by about three months. Besides, could just be by chance…not like the title is that creative.

    I have no grounds for legal action, as titles are not protected. She is not taking any of my stuff and putting it under her own name. And finally, she only posts on rare occasions (three times since she began in June). That being said, it did make me a little pissy.

  39. Leanne says:

    I’d be filing a DMCA, that’s what I’d be doing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMCA#Example_of_DMCA_Takedown_Provision

  40. bernie says:

    There is a site that copies my content every day – links, photos, tags, text – exactly without change, I’ve notified google ads that they are in violation of google adsense policy.

    To get a flavor of what they copied here is one of my posts:

    http://plancksconstant.org/blog1/2007/02/dinner_tuxedoes_and.html

    Here is the ripoff:

    http://politics.boogietrain.nl/1970/01/01/dinner-tuxedos-and-the-eiffel-tower/

    I changed the photo they hotlinked to, so you could see it was stolen from me. The idiots don’t even bother looking at the posts they just want ad revenue.

    So far no reponse from google.

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