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How to Defend your Blogs Copyright

copyright.jpgIn this guest post Gary from DevOracles (follow him at @methode) continues his examination of the topic of copyright as it applies to bloggers.

In my previous post I explained what is copyright, presented two copyrighting processes and told you one-two things about the Creative Common licenses.

In this post I will tell you the steps I followed to take down my copyrighted work from the infringer’s blogs. This is my own process, I made this process for myself but since I found it very effective, it would be a real guilt to not share it with other bloggers. As always, if you know a better way, please let me know because I’d be very interested.

First of all, some myth-busting: to remove your copyrighted content from 3rd party websites is NOT expensive, it’s NOT time consuming and you do NOT need a lawyer for it. Forget those advices which say that you will go bankrupt if you want to remove your content from the search engines or 3rd party blogs, that’s only true if something is fishy regarding the copyright. I removed almost all the posts I found and which infringed my copyright from dozens of blogs and I spent not more than 6 US dollars which represented the cost of sending traditional mail in the United States. I didn’t need an attorney to contact the copyright infringers or their host and I spent less than 1 hour in total to write the take-down notices.

Let’s see the steps, I will comment on each one to help you better understand everything:

Step 1: Gathering data about the website which infringed your copyright

What you will need firstly is contacting methods. You will have to contact somehow the copyright infringer or their host. So look for a contact form, if you don’t find one then for an email address. If you find no contacting method, go to a WHOIS lookup service (I use nwtools.com but it doesn’t really matter) and look at the domain’s WHOIS data. There you should find the author’s email address, or if the WHOIS data is protected, then the service’s email address which protects the registrant’s details.

You will need to identify the content which violates your copyright on the 3rd party blog. Note down all the URLs, you will need them in the take-down notices. Also identify and note the URLs of the stolen posts on your own blog.

If you know how, you may also want to identify the date when the copyright infringing post has been published. This is not really needed, but the more exact information you enclose in a document the higher its credibility is.

Now that you have these details, proceed to Step 2

Step 2: Contacting the copyright infringer

If you ask a lawyer that will say this step is pointless and you should always start with a DMCA takedown notice addressed to the copyright infringer’s webhost. I think starting with the big guns is a bit too much. My advice is to contact these people in a friendly(ish) manner. Let’s not forget that we’re humans and no one likes when it’s threatened. So put together a few lines in a way that it’s not so harsh, but neither too friendly, something like this:

Hi,
I noticed that you copied one of my articles, MY_ARTICLE_TITLE from MY_ARTICLE_URL, and published on THE_INFRINGING_CONTENT_URL on HIS_DOMAIN_NAME. This is my intellectual work and under the current law I’m the copyright owner of the article. You are using my work without my consent and this is illegal as per the copyright law and legal action can be taken.
Please remove the infringing article from your website immediately!
Have a nice day,

MY_NAME

And now wait let’s say a week. Have no rush, do not force the envelope because you can cause more damage than you expect, just stay calm for about a week. My experience is that since these publishers are not too rich they will take down the content since they don’t want legal action. They realize they are guilty and they remove the post and you won. But what if they not? Read Step 3.

Step 3: Contacting the web-host of the copyright violator

To learn who the webhost of the blog’s which violated your copyright is, do a WHOIS lookup on the IP address of the blog. That will reveal the webhost’s URL and the contact methods. Most likely the email address you will have to contact the host is [email protected] or [email protected] Obviously, replace the example.com with the webhost’s domain name. If you need help with this, ask in the comments section, I’d be gald to help.

Now a bit of bad news: this step involves a bit of legal stuff because if you send the above letter to a web-host, they will ignore it. You will have to compose a real DMCA take-down notice. Since I already composed one and used it with success here’s a template:

Date: DATE_OF_SENDING

To: DETAILS_OF_WEBHOST
Ladies and gentlemen,
This letter is a Copyright infringement Notice as authorized in the US Copyright Law – paragraph 521(c) under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The infringing material appears on a webserver which IP has been assigned to you, thus you are the responsible of the material which appears on this server.
1. The copyrighted material, which belongs to me and appears illegally on your server, is the following:

Blog post titled “MY_TITLE”, published on “DATE” by “MY_NAME” and can be reached on the following URL: “http://MY_BLOG/THE_SLUG_OF_MY_WORK”
2. The material which violates my copyright is situated under the following URL

“http://COPYRIGHT_INFRINGES_URL”
3. My contact information is:

MY_NAME

MY_ADDRESS

MY_PHONE

MY_EMAIL
MY_EMAIL is a working e-mail address and is the preferred contact method
4. I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
5. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
YOUR_NAME_PRINTED

That was the big deal. Note that every detail you supply in this letter has to be accurate else you will be ignored. Send this in an email to the copyright violator’s webhost. When I did this, I encountered three results:

  1. They informed me that the material was removed from their service
  2. They asked me to send the letter to a specific address as ground mail
  3. They asked me for proof

The third situation is unlikely, but it happened with me once. At that moment my content was already registered with the US Copyright Office, so I had proof and they kindly removed the content which violated my copyright.

The second situation is very likely as they need to keep this letter for their records. That’s not a problem though, you simply print the letter and send it to the address they specified.

And in the first situation, you obviously won.

Following these steps I was able to remove almost all the content which violated my copyright from 3rd party blogs. Except in one case when I was so unfortunate that the blog was not hosted on US servers and they ignored all my notices. But just like most of the websites which rely on content theft, this website also had AdSense advertisements all over the page, this was their source of revenue. I thought it was time to be a bit more evil and sent two DMCA take-down notices to Google, respectively to Google AdSense.

Google respects copyright, even though sometimes it doesn’t looks so. I guess what I did was extremely unexpected for the owner of the blog which copied my article because Google removed from its search results the infringing blog post and AdSense simply banned the publisher. I got later an email from the infringer saying that he was about to remove the post I mentioned and it was really unnecessary to ruin his revenue.

Well, my answer is, that he could think before acting.

Note: Nothing in this article should be considered a legal advice. Problogger.net and its affiliates should not be held responsible for any loss caused by misuse of the information presented in this article. If you need copyright related legal advice, please consult a specialized attorney.

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. I never think more about the copyright issue previously. But since now I will start to think more about the intellectual property of all my published articles and how to protect them. Thanks Darren.

  2. Most of these icopyallyourcontent dot com sites usually have no contact form and are hosted on Googles server thats blogger. If thats the case, then what should be done?

  3. Hning says:

    I’ve been wondering about the stuff you mentioned up there for a while. Thanks for summing it all up for us, Gary.

    I realized that the risk of geting infringed increases with more attention drawn into one’s creative work, especially if it’s any good. There’s a saying that imitating is a form of expression of admiration. But sometimes it can hurt to be so admired, huh?

    I’ll definitely bookmark this for future refrence. In case I really do get THAT big.

  4. Malice says:

    Thanks a lot for this post!

    Will definitely bookmark this cause I know I’ll need it someday =)

    (Had plenty of scrapers stealing my content already in the past, will need it again in the future for sure).

  5. I’ve had a good amount of luck simply posting a comment on the stolen post stating that the material was my copyrighted material and should be removed immediately before legal action is taken.

    It works 9/10 times, and in fact, the scraper/adsense blog removes my feed from their list so it doesn’t ever happen again.

  6. Writer Dad says:

    I loved this two part series. Thanks, Gary. I take my words very seriously, and am glad to know the best way to protect them.

  7. This is the first time in my memory that one of your headlines has made me cringe – my blog owns its copyright therefore it is my blog’s copyright with an apostrophe!
    Love what you do, though. And no backlink required since whilst I have an interest in what you write you are not going to be interested in careers guidance information in the UK!

  8. tom says:

    This is excellent, thank you.

    I will definitely bookmark this article for future purposes

  9. berryblitz says:

    I do a blog post on the email message (pictures) I received. I did note in my post that I got it on an email message.

    Then there’s this guy who copied that blog post of mine, even my comment on the pics. My comment is just one word “Amazing!”. And he copied the whole pics plus the word “Amazing”.

    The guy didn’t notify me, and didn’t even note on his post that he saw that from my blog.

    Should he be guilty from what he did?

    I think he got into trouble from someone where he copied his content.

  10. Excellent advice. Posts from my blog have been copied in the past and also the entire design. I haven’t received a reply from the people managing those site in any of the cases, but the moments I sent my emails to their hosting companies with proof of copyright infringement, they took action and even shut down the websites.

    It’s a good method to take action.

  11. Interesting point. I think the most important thing is to stay calm and just play your cards right. This way you’ll never get frustrated and in the end you’ll win anyway

  12. Daniele says:

    I have found several articles, pages, content theft from my websites.

    But I had an idea: I’ll make a page in my website titled “About who copy me” and I’ll put in all of the websites who stole my content. A sort of pillory.

  13. mike says:

    Great tips to use. Why do people do it though if they get taken down eventually? I don’t see the point. It is so easy to write your own content.

    I seen blogs on pictures of peoples pets get loads of hits. It isn’t rocket science to make your own content.

  14. Bobbi says:

    I need to read these again, so that I can get things going, so I have added them to my links on my blog for reference and if anyone else needs the info it is there.

    Bobbi

  15. vivien says:

    Thanks for this really useful and helpful article. I’ve had this happen and did manage but wouldn’t have known how to proceed if they hadn’t reacted to a polite but firm request.

  16. You did a great job covering this topic. Lorelle on Word Press also has a great series on the topic.

    This last year I began tracking down copyright infringements and have had great success.

    I found that copying the more official letter into comments or emailing it works better since being nice doesn’t always work.

    The other thing I do is take a screen shot of the violation.

  17. Isn’t it simpler to simply release your writings? If someone else wants to take the effort to make money off my writing go for it. Eventually s/he’ll be found out as an imposter, and I’m sure we all share the same opinion of imposters. I think its too much work to be worrying about copyrights etc.

    I simply want to wrtie good content to help my readers. If someone else can publish it else where and make a buck, bravo. Hopefully it reaches more readers and helps more people.

    -Nate

  18. Gary says:

    @mike: :) It’s not rocket science but is easier to write an RSS scraper in PHP than to write your own content daily.

    @Nate: I was aware of the partial scrapers since I started blogging, and I definitely have nothing with them, they are even good because they are linking back, usually. I got mad only when a post of mine on a 3rd party domain outranked my own post for specific keywords. Now I know though that the outranking issue was traceable back to the fact that the post I wrote didn’t fit in my niche, not even a bit, but it did in the splog’s niche perfectly.
    Anyway, I hate when somebody takes something from me, it irritates me to hell and I feel like I’ve been ripped off, and sincerely I don’t really want to forgive anybody who steals something which is mine.
    Maybe it’s just me though.

    Thanks for the feedback guys.

  19. Angela Mills says:

    I can only imagine the day when someone wants to steal my writing! I think I would be flattered…but for a professional I understand how it would be unacceptable. Thanks for sharing so many resources!

  20. priceless information. Having templates handy is a great idea. Always having handy a number to a good attorney even better. :)

  21. Gary says:

    @Make Money Online Tips: DMCA notice of infringement to google or blogger on traditional, ground mail

    @berryblitz: absolutely, though the copyright owner of the images should be the one who sent you the pictures if you didn’t agree with him on whos the copyright is.

  22. This happened to me recently and while waiting for Google/Blogger to take action I contacted other sites that they used, Technorati being one of them and they got booted from the network for ‘not enough original content’. They were also stealing content from some very popular bloggers so I’m flattered in a way, and were smart to not have a way to contact them. This is good as I can add that to my claim to Google. I’ve been posting the Scraper Site Updates, results and instructions in my own site. Maybe they are a subscriber and will read it!

  23. Brad says:

    This is really great advice! Thank you for posting this!

    While I haven’t yet had a problem with copyright infringement (knock on wood), now that my blog is over 2 years old it is becoming a bit of a concern. My blog has a lot of content!

    Hopefully if enough bloggers are vigilant about protecting their content, then people who steal will be less inclined to do so. However, I also tend to believe that such people do so more out of ignorance than actual malice.

  24. I have been looking forward to this article since the first one came out yesterday. It lives up to the hype I had in my head and has been one of the most practical articles I have read on ProBlogger. Thanks!

  25. SEO Tips says:

    Great tips once again. I was looking forward to your second part because its a topipc which isn’t covered much but one that should be.

    Thanks

  26. I think contacting the blogger himself is the most effective step. Most of the time I’ve gotten a good response from this.

  27. Lin Burress says:

    What perplexes me most about copyright protection are the so-called Aggregator sites that publish full posts and images rather than a brief snippet of the post with a link back to the full content.

    Not only do these Aggregator sites and translation sites (like Elanso.com and fav.or.it.com) publish complete posts with images, but Google Ads surround MY content wherein these sites are able to make money from MY posts.

    Sometimes these sites rank better in search engines and the stolen/aggregated content receives the traffic that I as the originator deserve.

    Elanso is located in China, which makes it that much more difficult to get something done by Google, and emails to the owner by way of the Contact Us page and DMCA notices are ignored.

    Some bloggers have the opinion that as long as there are inbound links within the posts leading back to the originating site, there isn’t much else that can be done to stop the copyright infringement especially with aggregator sites.

    I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really believe that Google cares one bit about these copyright infringement issues, otherwise there wouldn’t be the need for so many posts about how to defend your blogs copyright and content, how to find sploggers and scrapers stealing your blog content etc.

  28. Glenn Abel says:

    What really burns your ass is when the scraper or other thief outranks you on Google. I had a top 10 list that did great, until it disappeared and was replaced by the scraper’s copy of my work. I did some of the steps above, including notifying Google’s legal unit (you have to fax it in). They actually responded. Then, the original top 10 post was trumped in the SERPs by its Digg entry. Then, the post disappeared completely for months in any form. No fun at all!

  29. Hi there, I’m having troubles with one particular scraper at http://www.dancesportsuperbowl.com. He has no contact details and I was forced to leave comments, which he simply ignores (I know he reads his comments because other people have left positive remarks on my stolen content and he approved those). He’s ignored me many times, and continues stealing.

    The problem is, his web host, which is vivawebhost.com (as stated on Who Is) seems to be a dummy company, as the website doesn’t really exist. I’ve contact GoDaddy which is where he got his domain name from but no response as well.

    Any advice would be much appreciated, thanks!

  30. Nick says:

    Great article. My blog is still very small so I haven’t had the need to do this, but I have saved this just in case.

  31. Jeanine says:

    I had this happen to me just this week. Someone copied my article word for word and posted it on their blog, without giving me credit for having written the article. By the end of the week I realized that person had copied every article I had written for the week. I emailed this person twice and received no response, and the copying continued! I decided to write a letter of complaint to the web host company and they responded quite promptly, pulling the copier’s blog off the internet until all my articles were removed from that person’s site.

  32. Charles says:

    This is a great post. I will bookmark this for future reference. Thank you for sharing some copyright thing. This will be helpful in the future.

  33. Caryn says:

    Thanks for a great post. I am a fervent advocate of maintaining copyright. My writing and photographs are my property. There are prominent copyright notices as well as a page that clearly states my position on my blog and website (www.cimphotography.com).

    For many artists and writers copyright maintenance is crucial to protect income and property rights for ourselves and our children.

  34. JP Holecka says:

    Great advice,
    I will pass this along to a couple of friends of mine that have had their work lifted.

    JP

  35. You have to make sure you have the proper copyright statement or terms of use policy otherwise you could get the a reponse back claiming “fair use” for reporting/review purposes.

  36. Jake says:

    Thanks for the great information here. It’s great to know that as bloggers we have some defense for our content.

  37. Hadley Stern says:

    Do you use a service like Copyscape to automatically search for copied posts? How do you find the content?

  38. Rich Pearson says:

    Great stuff Gary. Hadley – copyscape is a good tool. You can also try out FairShare (fairshare.cc) which automatically displays anyone reusing your work in an RSS feed.

    I’m biased b/c I work for FairShare, but you can also tag your feed with a Creative Commons license which makes the results more relevant to how you want to share your work.

  39. Content theft is a big problem for the Cranky Product Manager, and she thanks you from the bottom of her heart for your two WICKED AWESOME posts. Seriously, they are the two most useful blog posts about blogging she’s ever read.

    All hail Gary!

  40. Amazing two part article! So incredibly helpful! I wish I had read this a long time ago. Thank you!

  41. Sarah says:

    Knowing about copyright is every blogger’s responsible. After all no one likes to being copied by someone else without having credit in any way. Copyscape is doing a great job as it works like 99.9% accurate.

  42. Pat says:

    Fantastic article Darren.

    I will definitely be bookmarking this for future reference!

  43. Ricky C says:

    Plagiarism is sad, I have noticed that one of my blog post was being copied into someone else blog, but i didn’t do anything to stop him, because he stole my blog post which contain a lot of link and i did gives the link back and credit to original author but sadly he (the stealer) didn’t link back or even giving the credit to that site. Sad….

  44. Cyrus says:

    That was a nice one, Thank you for sharing this very interesting article, on how to deal with the infringer. I was wondering how to go about it as well.

  45. Mary Toso says:

    Hi,

    I appreciate what you have shared. If I understand this correctly then if I have an idea that could eventually involve a business selling products, I could just share it and send a copy of the idea in and it’s mine? In the mean time I could begin to blog and discuss it with protection?

    How can I find out if someone else is already doing it without being vulnerable to share it and have it stolen in searching that out?

  46. The plugin called RSS Signature is a great way to tag your posts in emails and readers with copyright protection.

  47. Des Walsh says:

    This is a tremendously helpful post. One interesting result for me the other day was when a scraper had ignored my polite emails until I posted his full address on Twitter: within 30 minutes I had an email saying the posts had been removed. I can only assume he was following me on Twitter!

  48. If the website which steals your content uses Adsense, you can directly report this to Google Adsense. They will contact the webmaster and oblige him/her remove your content from the website.

    Google Adsense accepts only postal mails about copyright infrigments.

  49. PeterS says:

    This is a great post. As a photographer I tend to worry about copyright infringement when it comes to work on my website. Your advice is sound. Thank you.

  50. Suhasini says:

    Being a newbie to blogging I found this article more useful to ensure that our content shouldn’t be a lost art in hands of plagiarists.

    I totally agree with the author that people should be careful before starting their blog and should be aware of copyright laws and act accordingly.

    It’s always painful to know that our content is being stolen by some body else. It’s worse than burglary.

    It’s also wise to cross refer sites like http://www.copyrightsearch.org to ensure that even by mistake we are not using other’s content, especially in the field of arts,music,videos …