05 Aug, 2011
When someone steals your words
Posted by andrea tomkins in: The business of blogging
So. Yesterday was a rather interesting. My mother-in-law took the girls to see the Lion King at the NAC, which was later described to me as “amazing” and “spectacular” and apparently “there are no words to describe how awesome it was.” Me, I was looking forward to an afternoon of actually catching up. This was not to be.
Mark emailed me. Subject line: Is this stolen content yours?
Cue sinking heart.
I don’t want to link the offending website here because I don’t want to give it more traffic. I will say this, it wasn’t a fellow blogger. Thank goodness for that. It would be even more depressing if it was. The copycat was a content scraper site, a website builds itself upon content that’s hoisted from other websites in order to gain keyword traffic, search engine ranking, and generate revenue.
This person had taken an entire post (this one) and plunked it into their website, word for word. It was hurtful on many levels. This person stole my time, my words, my work. This is how I support myself and my family. I labour over this stuff and pour my heart into the things I tap out here. When someone takes that, it’s as if they take a little bit of who I am.
I searched the offending website for contact info, but there was none. Gah. What now? Well, thank goodness for Twitter. Twitter friends – far and wide – helped me figure it out how to locate the offending party. People did a DNS (Domain Name Service) lookup to find the IP number first. This is a number is assigned to networked computers. That IP address was plunked into a WhoIs service (like ARIN – the American Registry for Internet Numbers) in order to determine the name of the website’s host.
Once I had THAT information I was able to contact the web host and let them know that a website they are hosting was breaking the law.
Here’s something I didn’t know, there’s a special way to phrase that email. As the content creator you need to hit several points in your communication for legal purposes. Here is a very helpful template that was sent to me by Kev (on Twitter here). (Thanks Kev!)
- 1) Anyone who is concerned about protecting their content (and their name, their brand etc.!) should google themselves every once in awhile. Better yet, set up a Google search alert. If you’re a blogger, website publisher or small business, set one up for your URL, another for your name, and another for your business name. That way if someone mentions any of those things in a post you will be notified. The offending website in my case used the title of my blog in the title of the blog post. I think Google would have picked this up and let me know a little sooner.
- 2) Content creators have rights.
I was going to go into more detail, there is a fabulous post about copyright over here that covers everything I want to say and more. It’s a fantastic post and goes into a lot of detail about how to protect your work and what to do if you ever find yourself in the same boat.
The good news is that I looked at that copycat site today and saw that the stolen content had been removed. The bad news is that this experience was a giant waste of time. But at least I know what to do if it ever happens again. And hopefully now you do too. :)