No matter if you’ve created your web content by yourself investing your own time and energy, or you’ve invested real money and paid a professional copywriter to do all the writing for your website, seeing the same content on someone else’s website can really be frustrating. Some people think what’s on the Internet can be fairly used, but forget on the fairly part when they should credit the original author.
Plagiarism and Duplicate Content
Plagiarism has become a serious problem on the Internet, and recently Google and other popular search engines decided it’s time to put an end of this behavior since it hurts their efforts to bring quality results to the end users. Google’s latest Panda update changed the way webmasters look at content now putting quality among the highest criterions, since duplicates can significantly damage their website authority and search engine rankings.
You can put a stop to it and protect your website copy from content scrappers before your website gets damaged since the Internet has made catching these predators easy, but you have to get familiar with the copy-rights you have in order to be able to enforce them. Some people are not even aware they have copyright rights; that from the moment they first started publishing on their website their work has been protected by copyright laws. Check local or government sources, maybe visit some seminars covering this law area, or get an advice from a professional attorney so you’ll be better informed.
How to Check if Someone’s Using Your Content?
You can check whether someone is stealing your web content if you Google search parts of your most unique sentences, or if you copy/paste your web page URL into duplicate content checker PlagSpotter and read their detailed report on the matching content. If your page is the only one that shows up in the results, your content is safe for now; but if there are also other pages that appear for the same unique text excerpts you should click the links to see how they’ve used your copy. If they’ve properly cited the content and linked back to your original post they are actually helping you reach wider audience, and these backlinks can also improve your ratings, particularly if they are coming from a popular website with good online reputation.
What Steps Can You Take if You Find Out Someone’s Using Your Web Copy?
First try to contact the webmaster or the company behind the website. Check the footer section for an e-mail address and send a nice message providing all the information that proves you are the owner of the original copy and requesting them to remove it from their website. It doesn’t always have to be intentional; sometimes website owners are tricked by their own unscrupulous copywriters. In most cases like this the content will disappear from the plagiarist website and some will even send an apology email, but it’s all fixed with the first contact.
If the email doesn’t work, you can check the domain at Whois.com to find the owner’s name and phone number and directly contact them to immediately take off the copied content. The next step includes informing the hosting company (whose information you can also find on Whois) of their client’s copyright infringement, and if you can prove this content violation most hosting companies will immediately remove the plagiarist website, particularly if more serious. If this all gives no results, you can send a formal “Cease and Desist” letter, or even exercise your rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and file a DMCA complaint directly to major search engines like Google and Yahoo.
The Copyright Protection Basics:
The copyright protection begins at the exact moment the original work was created in a tangible medium, or in the case of online content, the moment it is published on your website. Your content is protected by the copyright laws no matter if you’ve legally registered it or not. The registration process itself is pretty simple and requires only a filled out online registration form and a fee of about $35 (you can get more information on the official U.S. Government Copyright website). It’s natural to ask why would someone bother to register the website when it’s automatically protected since creation, and according to the U.S. Government Copyright website “Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section ‘Copyright Registration’ and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works.”
To prove your web content is the original and existed first you can visit the Internet Archive Way Back Machine and check which content was first indexed.