As with most of my food blogging posts, I have a lot to say on this subject.
If you are a food blogger (or any kind of blogger), you know exactly how much work goes into publishing a blog consistently and with integrity. One blog is a full time job.
You cook, you photograph, you write, you edit/format, you publish, you market and inevitably, you also hunt down stolen content. It’s just part of the job as a blogger. And even if your blog is a “hobby blog” that you update only occasionally, you can probably bet that your work has at some point been used in a way that infringes on your copyright. That’s part of having a presence on the web unfortunately, and it’s not going away any time soon.
We as bloggers need to fight for our content and our intellectual property. Only when we all defend our work will we maybe get the point across that plagiarism is plagiarism. Regardless of where the content lives. But how do you do that? Here’s how to find your stolen work online.
There are a few sources that I have found incredibly helpful over the years at tracking down my stolen content. It’s a constant part of what I do in my week. It’s not something I can ever relax on because there is always somebody willing to steal what is not theirs.
On my other blog, I have an article that is hands down, my most stolen content. I find it everywhere despite the copyright warning at both the top AND the bottom of the article. In fact, I often find the entire article posted WITH the copyright notice on other blogs and web sites.
Recently, a reader brought to my attention an ebook she found for sale on Amazon. The author of this ebook had taken this very article, pasted it into her ebook, changed only a few words (it’s still very obviously my work), and used a self-publisher that distributes to every single online bookseller you’ve ever heard of online, and even some you probably haven’t heard of. So this woman is making a killing off a $2.99 ebook using my work to do so. She actually represented my work as her own. She never even gave me credit. She then went on to do a second edition of the book where she changed a few more words, but it’s still my article. Some people truly have no integrity.
It’s a pain, but you can bet I’ve gotten a lawyer involved and it won’t be long until she is paying me a portion of her gross profits and removing the entire book from the internet. Sadly, these things take time. So patience is key, despite the frustration of the added work you have to go through not to mention the expense!
Ladies and gentlemen, NOTHING on the web is up for grabs unless it specifically states that it is in the public domain. And even then you may have to publish a small disclaimer with that image. And if something has a copyright symbol on it or there is a copyright policy in place (which any web site worth their two cents will have), you darn well better get written permission to use that content or image before you go posting it everywhere. Using the web is no different than using a book as reference in a report. Plagiarize a book and you fail the report if not the class entirely. And so it is with the web, except the “F” you get is getting caught.
The web is a big, big place. But the blogging community is very small. We know when our work gets stolen, even if it takes a while to find it. And today, I’m going to share with you how to hunt down your stolen content on the web.
WHY LOOK FOR STOLEN CONTENT?
- Page rank – Google is a fabulous thing, but it can also be your worst enemy. If enough people copy your work, google will drop you down in it’s search engine for duplicate content (even though they say that they give credit and rank to the original source, that is proving to not be the case for many bloggers. Some of which have been blogging for years!).
- Violated rights – Then there is the not-so-small matter of your intellectual rights. We may live in a free country, but we still have to fight for our rights in many cases. And this is a perfect example. People will steal your work. If you don’t fight for your own work, nobody else will.
- Lost revenue – If your recipe is posted in full on another web site, even with a credit link, do you really think every person who reads that recipe will click through to your web site? Why would they do that if the recipe they want is right in front of them? Let me tell you. They don’t. You may get one or two that click through, but when hundreds or thousands are seeing it on somebody else’s web site, that one or two won’t pay your bills. I always ask that they share the ingredient list and then place a link where the directions would be that says, “get the directions here”. That text is then linked to my site. So any person who sees my recipe on another site, must click through to mine to get the entire recipe. And in all frankness, I deserve that traffic. And so do you if you are blogging! So set your content usage rules and stick to them!
FINDING STOLEN CONTENT
You have a few options here, and I highly recommend using them all if you are serious about maintaining your copyright. I’m sure there are other ways as well, but these are what work best for me.
FINDING STOLEN IMAGES
- src-img bookmarklet – This is a button you install in your toolbar that, when clicked, will use google image search to find where else on the web your image is being used. Word of warning, you will find a lot of Pinterest links if you have a good following there. But you will also find links to regular sites using your photo(s).
- Tineye – This works in a similar way, but you have to either upload the image or paste the url to your image in their search engine. I do not use this but know many bloggers who do. I think the above mentioned bookmarklet is just fabulous and has been a very useful tool. But Tineye is also great for those who prefer it.
- Google Reverse Image Search – This is the most used simply because it’s google. But since the first one I mentioned interfaces with google images, I find it’s not always necessary. That said, if you want to be thorough, use all three!!
FINDING STOLEN CONTENT
- Copyscape – Hands down, the best way to find stolen content on the web is through Copyscape.com. You simply enter the URL of your article on your site, and copyscape will tell you in seconds, every place on the web it finds similar/copied content. It’s a fabulous tool. And the best part is, if you have a large site like my other blog, you can send in a batch of URL’s for only $0.05 per ulr and they will check every page on your blog or web site! The way I see it, it’s worth $100 for the peace of mind. (Note that entering a single URL is free. It’s only the URL batches that they charge for)
- Pingbacks – Make sure this option is enabled on your web site. It’s a fast way to keep ahead of your content and where it’s being used.
A word on pingbacks. Most often, you will get a pingback in your comments when somebody has done one of two things. Either they are purposely stealing your content and copy/pasted without looking at what they were copy/pasting (yes, many “scraper” sites do this) OR, they are bloggers who just want to share your recipe.
If it’s the latter, I highly recommend a soft approach. While it can be maddening to find your work used incorrectly, there are a LOT of new bloggers out there that simply do not know any better. In fact, the reason you got the pingback in this case is most likely because they were actually trying to give you credit. So it’s up to you to approach them and let them know that the way they are using your content is not the way you allow your content to be shared.
Early on, when I first started chasing down stolen content, I would get really upset and basically “attack” these bloggers via email for using my stuff, not realizing that they were honestly unaware. It’s never a good idea to verbally attack a fellow blogger and I learned that lesson the hard way.
So keep in mind that pingbacks are an area where you want to really look closely at who is sharing your content and how before you proceed.
WHAT TO DO ONCE YOU’VE FOUND STOLEN CONTENT
This is where your time will get eaten up a little bit. But there is a process you can follow to get stolen content removed. As a blogger, you are not helpless and the law, in most cases, is on your side.
- Contact the site/blog via email if you can. Wait 2-3 days for a response. If you get one, great! Work it out with that person. Sometimes they will apologize and completely cooperate, and sometimes they will get mad and give you the virtual finger. If you experience the latter, or there is no response, move on to step 2.
- Search for their WhoIs information. This will tell you everything you need to know to get the removal process started, even if they have a Privacy Enabled listing.
Here is my WhoIs information. You will see that I do not have a Privacy listing because I list my business address. But in a case where privacy is enabled, you will see the address and contact information for the registar. This is okay. You WANT to see this information because you want to contact them for content removal. Usually there is an “firstname.lastname@example.org” email. Just be sure you are contacting the host and not the domain registrar which are often two different companies.
And just an FYI, yes, that is my business phone number listed there. I do not take calls for anything other than business. If you want to contact me with questions, feel free to do so. But please do so via email. If I get calls for random questions, I will have to change my phone number. And I really don’t want to do that. A business phone number is for business. Thank you.
- File a DMCA complaint. DMCA is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and every hosting service in this country must address a complaint of this nature. Just be very aware that you are legally responsible if you file a false complaint. So be very sure that your complaint is valid and the content being used is in fact, 100% yours. Many hosts have an online form you can fill out, and every single social media platform also has that option in some form. Simply google “DMCA and the social media platform concerned” and it will pop up for you. Typically, it takes a few days at most for them to remove the content. I do this often on Pinterest. It’s amazing how many people out there will use your photo and change the link so that traffic is directed to THEIR web site. Not yours.
So that, in a nutshell, is where your power lays as a blogger. Defend your content people! You’ll be glad you did.