Close
Close

Is Blogger Copyright Dead?

If you’re reading this blog post anywhere other than ProBlogger.net, you’re reading an illegal rip of the original.

Content scraping—by automated programs that pull entire posts from your blog for republishing elsewhere—and autoblogging—where sites regurgitate whole articles from your RSS feed on their pages—are the most common content ripping practices. They are illegal.

Any reproduction of your content without permission is illegal (attributed quotes and brief excerpts aside).

There’s no two ways about this. If you made the content, you own it, and you have the right to say where it’s published.

copyright

Image by stock.xchng user Spiders

As an old-skool content creator, I’ve been astonished at the things I’ve heard and read in recent months on this topic, particularly among the blogging community. As content creators, it’s up to us to learn, understand, and, if needed, fight for our rights—and those of others. It’s your job to protect your copyright.

There seems to be a growing sense of despondency among bloggers either overwhelmed by the amount of content ripping, or so used to seeing it that they begin to question their understanding of the concept. This post intends to set those misunderstandings straight—and, I hope, to inspire you to protect your rights, and the things you create, as you see fit. And from an informed position, rather than one in which you feel you have no option but to suck it up.

First, I want to talk about some of the objections I’ve heard to copyright enforcement lately, and give a few rebuttals. Then I’ll outline what bloggers should do if they find their rights have been infringed.

The arguments against

I have to tell you, it surprises me that there are arguments against copyright enforcement, but here are some of the ones I’m hearing.

“It means more eyeballs for my content.”

Ripping my article onto another site may mean more people see it. But so would a well-penned piece that responded to, added to, or argued against my article, and linked through to it.

Come to think of it, that kind of article would likely attract more eyeballs than a straight rip, because the second type of blogger would likely be active in marketing his or her blog, unlike most blogs that simply rip content for the sake of having something to display alongside their ads. And we all know the search engines work actively to penalize such sites anyway.

“But it’s a really big, well-known site.”

So a Fortune-500 publishing company ripped your post, and sent you a truckload of traffic yesterday? See point one above: it’s still illegal, and had they had something intelligent to say about your content, you may have received even more eyeballs, and more lasting interest from a more qualified audience.

Frankly, big sites are the last ones who should either undertake or get away with illegal content reproduction. Today, a big site. Tomorrow? Well, what if you found your hard work was ripped onto shonky looking, ad-emblazoned, overtly cheesy, poor quality website?

To say it’s okay for a big, good-looking mega-blog to rip your content, but not for below-average Joe to do so on his design-by-the-cat, ad-swamped site isn’t just hypocritical: if you let one site rip your content, you send the signal that it’s okay for everyone to do it.

“I don’t mind if my site isn’t the exclusive location for my content.”

A guest post you’ve penned specially for publication on another, carefully-chosen site is one thing. Having others reproduce your content as they see fit, without your knowledge, is another.

Often, the sites that rip content rip it relentlessly: once they find an author they think is good, they’ll simply republish everything that person writes. Maybe so far they’ve “only” ripped three of your articles. This time next year, they may have republished them all. Is that still okay with you? I know it wouldn’t be with me.

Note: If you actively want others to reproduce your content freely, that’s great—but for the sake of those who don’t want ripping to become the norm, display a Creative Commons license notification on all your posts. That way, people who read that content on other sites will have some indication that what looks like a rip is actually legal and welcome.

Ripping remedies

So someone’s ripped your post? I say: take action. Given the fact that many people online actually think this practice is legal, I encourage you to take an active role in protecting your rights, rather than (as one blogger recently said to me) “shutting up and taking it.”

Each of these steps takes no more than five minutes. You probably won’t need to complete them all—I find a concise, direct, but respectful email to the offending site’s owner usually does the trick.

  1. Contact the website, point out the rip, explain that it’s illegal, and ask them to remove the offending content within 24 hours. Explain that you’ll contact their host if the content remains online.
  2. Perform a WHOIS search and find the site’s host. Prepare to contact them and submit a DMCA takedown notice if the ripped content is not removed from the site within 24 hours.
  3. Perform a Google search for your name, or the topic of your post. If you find the offending site in the results, report it as a “duplicate site” to Google.

Don’t badmouth the offending site on your blog. Don’t make snide comments on the ripped version of your post on their blog. Write to them, and wait to see what happens. Then take the steps above. This is the most dignified path.

Is it worth the effort?

Yes. You’re a blogger. Your content is your product. Seth Godin wouldn’t let anyone reproduce his latest book online. Why? Because it’s his product. He made it, and he deserves to make a living from it. You made your content, and you deserve to reap the rewards of those efforts.

Allowing others to rip your content without your permission:

  • sends the message that bloggers have no rights around how their content is used
  • perpetuates the growing ignorance of copyright among site owners
  • devalues your blog, and your content
  • devalues blogging and online content in general
  • is a violation of your legal rights as a creator.

An alternative approach

As I mentioned earlier, if you actively want others to reuse your content, you could publish everything with a Creative Commons note, signalling that your posts are free to be reused by others.

You might consider this option if, for example, you want to have your content seen by the largest number of people possible—a mass market, rather than a niche audience. Perhaps you’re selling products exclusively through your site, and you believe that spreading your content through Creative Commons is a good way to get access to a wide audience who will come to your site, see your product, and want to buy it.

In that case, you’ll want to consider:

  • your in-article linking and promotional strategy (to get those readers over to your blog and sales page)
  • a marketing plan for promoting your quality, freely available content to appropriate potential publishers
  • the implications of the possibility of having your articles appear on some less-than-reputable sites
  • the challenges you may face in targeting the right audiences through this strategy
  • the implications for your own site’s SEO, if it’s mistaken for one that published “duplicate content.”

What do you think? Is blogger copyright dead? Does your copyright matter to you? Do you enforce it? I’d love to hear your feelings on this topic in the comments.

About Georgina Laidlaw

Georgina Laidlaw is a freelance content developer, and Content manager for problogger.net. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. Kelly Young says:

    Brad,
    Individual bloggers cannot fight this battle. But if Google would penalize the scrapers by putting their duplications of our content on page 100, that would make a difference. Google claims to be able to distinguish original from duplicates.

  2. Megan says:

    Wow — I’ve been reading ProBlogger posts regularly from a subscription to http://www.dailyblogworld.com/ (Have no idea how I got subscribed.)

    Because their website and emails look like a big-time online newspaper and they publish a lot of highly respected blogs daily I assumed it was legit.

    I just unsubscribed from them. I honestly didn’t realize they were illegally scraping your content without your permission. I thought bloggers used this kind of secondary distribution simply to bring their posts to the attention of more readers.

    Thank you for a great article! I am just about to start my own blog and really appreciate the straight talk!

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding something else…. I thought I subscribed a couple of times to ProBlogger but I still don’t get your blog posts delivered by email, which is what I thought I was signing up for.

    Maybe the “newsletter opt-in” is for something else?

  3. Christine says:

    While we have the legal right to our own content, in practice it’s very hard for an individual blogger to go after the scrapers. It’s time-consuming and often not successful, since the people doing the scraping have no respect for the law or for anyone else. I’ve had a tacit policy of just ignoring the scraping and hoping it doesn’t damage my traffic too badly, but I’m not sure this is the right way to go.

  4. Georgina and I ran into this with a company that was actually located in the same town as ProBlogger.net. I accidentally found the site that had copied it – I needed the URL of the article I wrote on How to Brand Your YouTube Channel on ProBlogger.net – so I Googled it and found an exact copy. Couldn’t believe that someone had the guts to copy it.

    Georgina and I both contacted the webmaster independently and he did end of removing it, but tried to convince us first that having my content on his site was a good thing because it was more exposure. Crazy business.

    I will never think Plagiarism in any fashion is cool. Is it worth it to have Copyscape on your blog then?

  5. jezza101 says:

    I totally agree that we all have the right to chose how and where our content is published. I don’t get the argument that copyright is an evil concept and all content should be shared freely, if an author can make money from their content it gives them the freedom to invest more time in creativity – and I’m happy to pay for good stuff.

    What I would question is whether we should always excercise our right to copyright.

    For example, I have two hobbiest photographer friends, one who uploads their content to flickr under an attribution license and another who insists on full copyright. Guess which one of them has seen their photos used far and wide building up a solid reputation that has allowed them to springboard onto greater things?

    Sure, so it’s illegal even it’s a big site that rips your content. So your choice is to invest time in trying to get that content removed over the principle, or you can chose to take the free publicity. I know what I’d go for!

    Given the amount of effort people put into getting guest posts or building back links it seems astonishing that anyone would spend even more time removing exactly this from other sites just because of the “principle”. As I track clicks on my affiliate links using my own WP plugin I can even see when people click through my affiliate links on other sites earning me money! Perhaps they get the odd adsense click out of it? Who cares, any site that wants to publish my affiliate links is welcome to :-)!

  6. Jon says:

    Just searched google for “If you’re reading this blog post anywhere other than ProBlogger.net, you’re reading an illegal rip of the original. Content scraping” – 47 results so far.

    What Google should do is allow you to submit new content to Google Webmaster Tools before publication. That way you can prove it is your content. If they allowed this, and also provided an option to “only index my copyrighted material” this would solve a lot of scraping and thieving problems.

    I suggested a similar thing on the Google Webmaster forums about pdfs. I publish some pdfs, so my content does not appear on my domain at all, but others may buy the pdf and then republish to their MFAs and make more money and reduce my sales page in the index. Just not on.

    Google really could fix the whole thing. Maybe one stage further would be a CMS plugin to send the new content to Google first, then once Google confirms it is unique and attributed to your site, you publish.

    Many options, but all they do is release Panda which helps a few people and screws many others.

  7. Mark says:

    I’m rather new and obscure so I don’t have this problem that I’m aware of yet. However, this reminds me of people around me in real life who talk about mailing things they’ve created to themselves to “copyright” them, when there is no law providing for such a method. Most people don’t realize that their creations are automatically copyright once they are created, I think this is because they’re worried about proving it if the time comes. Obviously this should not be a problem online for a few reasons: a) Bloggers are suppossed to be smart and not fall for the “sit down and take it” nonsense or b) the rumors about copyrights (there’s one website with the answers: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/) b) The Internet is supposed to be a place for original, creative, and collaborative content that is a blend of art and science, not thievery and fraud, we cannot allow that as bloggers, because we are supposed to epitomize that vision.

  8. Mark says:

    yeah, the second b should have been “c” lol

  9. Suzanne says:

    This has happened to me far too many times. I have a google alert for my name and various websites so that I know when this is happening. The offender usually has not linked back to my site so I will leave a comment regarding my terms of service. When I check back however, I usually find they have not made the correction. I have resigned myself to this inevitable fact.
    Suzanne

  10. I’m not a fan of simply republishing other people’s content. If your goal is to share interesting content, there are other options. Share the article via Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Publish a weekly list of interesting articles you’ve read. Or summarize the post in your own words and provide a link back to the original text.

    • Sharing information is the reason I blog. My summary allows readers to decide if they want to read the original information in full and so I always quote my source. I’ve had my stuff ripped off, like so may other bloggers. I don’t think the people who do this read your work in detail. Perhaps there is an opportunity to slip in a phrase that identifies who really wrote the article?

  11. Kent says:

    The problem is that there are some popular forums (I wont say which ones) that encourage newbies to use these automated programs that pull entire posts from blogs and republish them as a shortcut.

    They also promote new internet marketers to use automated programs for Twitter too which is why you see so much spam there.

    Its just a the viral effect of bad advice.

    • Georgina Laidlaw says:

      I agree, Kent. Recently on contacting a webmaster about some ripped posts, I was told that he’d paid good money to learn this technique (scraping RSS feeds) from a web “guru”. That’s one of the things that motivated me to write this piece — the fact that the cause of much plagiarism isn’t greed, but ignorance.

  12. I’ve also heard “the more eyeballs on my site” comment way too often. As a journalist and a blogger, I get offended when someone steals my copy. I would never think of doing this, but it happens all the time. And for photographers it’s worse. People think they can lift photos. To remedy the photo issue, I usually ask the people I interview for a photo. If I interview someone about an animal rights issue (my topic is pets and wildlife), I ask the nonprofit for a photo, and I usually add “photo courtesy of….”
    Only one case did I get a call from a photographer who asked me to take down a photo that was on my site. I told him that I got the photo from a certain nonprofit. He said the nonprofit had limited use. So I took it down.
    And if I see an image I really want to use and can’t afford to purchase it, I will send an e-mail to the photographer asking if I can use it, give him photo credit and a link back to his site. Most often, I get a “yes, you can use it.”
    Thanks for this helpful article.

  13. Thanks Georgina -

    I have had an HCG Diet Blog and Forum for a little over a year now – The past few months it has been getting over 1,100 visits per day. But since the boost in traffic a couple months back, I have noticed that my content (Full Posts) are showing up in a few different places. It’s obvious that these sites (I call them parasites not websites) are getting it through my RSS Feed – But I never knew what, if anything, I could do about it.

    So I truly appreciate this post. Thanks again,

    Brian M Connole
    HCG Diet 411

  14. I’ve found my copy scraped and posted on other sites, and I’ve had a bit of success with sending an email with links to the appropriate section of copyright law and a polite request to remove my work from their site (most recently earlier this week-PR 2 site which immediately sent me an apology and took the article down). This seems to sometimes work if someone is genuinely clueless, means no harm, and is in the US.
    I’ve also had scrapers get defensive with me and try to intimidate me. But I still make the effort to protect my copyright the best that I can.
    Meanwhile, I make it a point to put several links back to my own material in each new post as a way of having at least some chance of directing readers back to my site.

  15. welder says:

    Yep, they copy and copy and you fight and fight and in the end you run out of puff.

  16. Tom says:

    I have seen forum pictures printed in the local newspaper without permission of the owner, now that is lazy journalism.

  17. Joseph says:

    We should protect our work, that’s why I have Copyscape on my site. Content scrapers/forgers have used my site name in bogus MFA sites, a lot of them popped up last summer. So I created a post calling out content scrapers, I specifically mentioned the cities and countries of the offending parties and warned people to be wary of MFA sites and that there’s no telling what their stolen earnings would be used for. I have also filed DMCA complaints with Google. Only once (back in 2009) did they remove the offensive material. But since the problem picked up last summer (2010) and because I’m using TypePad now rather than Blogger, Google has done nothing about it. They respond late saying that they can’t find the infringing sites. Last week I responded to an early April Google reply (where they again said they couldn’t locate any infringing sites) telling them that MORE had popped up. I don’t have any faith in Google, I haven’t for a long time (I’ve always been a fan of yahoo anyway).

    Why is the internet dishonest? It seems as if people have absolutely zero interest in providing quality content, genuinely helping others, and running honorable businesses. There are some folks who have this attitude but sadly, it seems as if we are becoming an ever shrinking minority in business. All the same, I will report infringements and keep providing helpful services to people who visit my site.

  18. karen says:

    How timely (or may be serendipitous??) is this article as my content was ripped right after I read this post yesterday. There was no contact info on the site and it was obvious the site was ripping other articles too. I contacted its host, got the e-mail address from them, and sent the owner a stern message. As of this morning, my article disappeared.

    So, go after what’s yours. We, individuals can fight it. It’s our right!!

  19. bobo says:

    Just another reason why personal blogging will die, only the big guys will be able to defend their own content. Regarding one comment that Google should be the one to punish these scamsters, I hope you’re not suggesting they become the content police. Let’s face it, personal voyeurism (blogging) is past its peak, maybe you could all start walking and exercising again, enjoying the outside and getting to know the people who live next door. Get out of yourself and help us save this country by becoming active in your local communities – we have enough crap online

  20. Ann says:

    Its dead

  21. Usama says:

    we have our own privacy policy and disclaimer regarding it.

  22. I run a podcast called BlogsAloud that takes interesting blog posts and turns them into audio reproductions. I’ve love to run this post as I’ve personally had this happen numerous times. If I can get your permission to air this post, I’d love to do it on today’s podcast.

    You’d get all credits and a backlink to one of your chosen sites.

    Thanks!
    http://blogsaloud.com

  23. Mike Periu says:

    The challenge here is finding the time to play “Whack-a-mole” with the scrapers ona constant basis. The opportunity cost can be quite high. I blog both in English and Spanish and have the problem in both languages. I would note that putting up even small barriers could make a huge difference. When I find sites (using copyscape) that are steaking my content and have done so for more than one article, I obtain the sites IP address and modify my .htaccess to file to include “deny from” code which blocks them from accessing your site. Most rippers won’t bother finding ways around this. They’ll just move on to another easier target.

  24. Haber says:

    Yep, they copy and copy and you fight and fight and in the end you run out of puff.
    Haber

  25. Tauno says:

    Hm, I thought RSS feeds are provided, so you can republish them on your website. It looks like most RSS feeds have a title and an excerpt or a summary of the article that links to original content. A lot of websites provide RSS feeds to be published on other websites. Also, if you are using a feed reader, it would be more convenient to scan for article titles and click and read the ones that caught your attention.
    It looks like problogger competely misunderstands the concept and publishes whole articles in RSS feeds, no wonder they are ripped off in full.
    I am confused.

    P.S. I am referring to RSS Feeds only, of course ripping off full articles is illegal.

  26. Greg says:

    I would be incredibly pissed if someone reproduced my content without permission! And since I wouldn’t give them permission even if they asked…. Yeah, my content is my own.

  27. darkduck says:

    I had similar issue too.
    My post was re-published on another blog. Quite popular one. They only bothered to put my name on there, but no links whatsoever!
    Such a shame from their side!

  28. Jobin Martin says:

    I didn’t know that there were many ways to report content theft other than mailing the offender. Once I allowed a blogger to reproduce a part of one of my posts on his blog, but what he did was copy paste my full post on his blog. Since his blog had a higher PR than mine, his result always appeared before mine, diverting all the traffic which legitimately belonged to me,to his site. Though I wrote to him about this issue, there was no response.As you have rightly,pointed out in this post, there is no use thinking” This guy has more reputation than me”, we have to do we ought to do.

  29. Jay says:

    So would this mean that Guy Kawasaki’s alltop.com would be performing illegal activities?

  30. fathima says:

    What about when people repost your images? I once tried contacting a poster about an image of mine that he had reposted and it had gotten onto several other very popular sites without creditation to me. He insisted that it was a long time ago and he couldn’t find the original post and I couldn’t find any other way to get a link to my original work attached to it :(

  31. Google says that it can differentiate the copy from the original. I think Google should be more strict with the copiers.