Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog

When do you throw the book at Content Stealers?

Last night I received an email from one of my clients….he shows me 2 links to other websites who have stolen his content. (one just changed the location of the business to their state and locality on the pages, and the company name). To say my client was angry was an understatement. There were lots of $%*& in his email, and he wanted to know what to do.

To be honest, my first thought was….yea, it happens all the time…is there really someting you can do that’s effective? I’ve kinda given up on fighting that battle personally with…but hey, he sounds like he wants to fight, so I gave him this advice.

I found a few nice artilces from KEYT Law, written by Richard Keyt.

One is called 
Internet Copyright Law: 
A Rat Pilfered My Web Site Cheese – What Do I Do?
Remedies for Web Site Copyright Infringement

In the artilce, Richard says that for better future legal standings, he recommends copyrighting your site. He has an article about the benefits of copyrighting your website (and throws in his plug at the end ($300)).

Richard has has an awesome resource page called "How to Obtain Web Site Copyright Protection" that’s quite detailed (detailed enough that I’d pay him to do it.).

Then he talks about what you’d want to include in your Cease and Desist Letter (about 1/2 down this page).

I wanted to find an example of a Cease and desist letter and I found a nice pdf on here – page 6-7 of this pdf. I also found this cool web page that gives a nice template for a cease and desist letter.

….but I’m not sure if you can really stop people who are stealing your content…

I have some version of that emails me each week with copies of part of my paragraphs on other websites.  I see it weekly…and I’ve kinda grown numb..and thankful that google was doing a good job of tossing others.

I see tons of scrapers…most with adsense on the top….some take sentences….some take paragraphs…some take whole pages….some take whole site….95% are done with computer scraping programs. A few will go in by hand and change the name of "We Build Pages" to "whatever SEO company" and replace the "Jim’s" with "whoever’s"….

I guess it’d be impossible to go after the scrapers (and 90% of scrapers are on subdomains of older domains….with adsense on top…and left…and bottom)….pray that the engines know which content they found first, and hope they supplemental the others…(and don’t get me going on how this will effect the current Supplemental issued going on for when they do come back).

The ones I take any action on are the ones where whole page were scraped….a few are people even have the balls to actually go in by hand and just replace the name of "We Build Pages" to "whatever SEO company" and replace the "Jim’s" with "Whoever’s". (My new wording on our homepage should make this harder for them (comments anyone?)).

It’s those people that I think I’ve got a shot at, and that I’d go after. To be honest I’ve only had to send them emails requesting the content be down in 24 hours or I’d involve my attorney and I’d be seeking damages. I’ve never had to grab my lawyer, and there’s no one burning in my mind who’s stole my content and still has it published….maybe I’ve been lucky so far.

At what point to you take steps if someone stole your content, and what steps would you take?


16 Responses

  1. Filing a copyright is really easy and you don’t need a lawyer. It’s one
    form 2 pages and $30, it’s really pretty simple, even I’ve done it

    For the stuff that I really care about I lump it all together into one
    big document, (from more than one website) and register the whole thing.Takes longer to merge the copy than to fill out the forms. $30 a year
    never had to go after anybody, but pretty cheap for some piece of mind.

  2. preface this with – i am not a lawyer. however, i have been down this path more than once, so i am fairly well versed.

    copyrighting is such an easy thing to do – cheap and quick. if you apply for your copyroght quickly enough (i think within the first 30 days of publishing) then you can sue for legal fees as well.

    also, you don’t have to actually have the copyright to sue – you simply need to have applied for one. with an hour and $30 you at least have some form of defense – as long as the perpetrator doesn’t live outside of the US.

  3. Thanks Guys! Something so simple…I’m betting that I’m not the only one out there who’s been kinda in the dark about this. Great info!

  4. Great thread and great resources.

    Anyone have any suggestions on similar processes in Canada, i.e copyrighting your site?

  5. Those are awesome resources. Thanks Jim! I like the new WBP homepage too.

    Last summer, one of our business competitors decided to lift entire posts from our blog and post them in his own, after manipulating the appropriate post date/time to make it look like he was the original author. Since we didn’t want to waste time, money and energy on litigation (and since we knew that this guy was our only reader at the time), I simply put a Copyscape banner on the blog’s homepage and posted a few paragraphs with a lot of “inside jokes”. Our competitor came back with a few vitriolic posts on his own blog (the exchange is truly funny – guess you had to be there) but after that, he completely abandoned his blog in favor of automatically “generating” content at a different URL. Apparently he didn’t realize how tough it can be to come up with new and exciting things to say about blue widgets several times/week.

    The funniest part: whatever “snippet/linkback, repeat if necessary” autoblogger program he’s using will pull up some of our content, giving us a backlink each time. Sometimes I catch myself wishing that more people would rip off our content.

    My point behind this story is twofold:
    a). Even if one’s content is copyrighted, if it’s good enough someone will eventually steal it.
    b). I think “Don’t get mad, get even” definitely applies here. There are more fun ways to handle stuff like this before getting the lawyers riled up. Even if the offending site’s webmaster doesn’t respond to a “cease-and-desist” letter, you can call up their hosting company and ask them to shut the site down. Obviously some companies will be more helpful than others, but I’ve heard from a few places that this approach can get fast results.

  6. I’m usually fairly quiet online but steal from me and I’ll react loudly. Being dsylexic , it takes me ten times longer to read OR write something so when I do, I take special ownership in it. I follow the guidelines outlined by the DMCA and send the ISP hosting the stolen content my copyright (graywolf is right, buy a copyright from the Library of Congress, it’s the best $35 you’ll ever spend) AND a copy of the page in that shows my site has been online since 2001. (the last part isn’t necessary with the copyright, but I like the added punch – such a bitch;) The pages will be down in less than 24 hours… the ISP has to pull them. Sorry to rant, but this is really one of the few things that bugs me. Fading back to quiet…

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  8. What happens if you have to change any of the copyrighted material later on, do you have to register it again? Even if you change something as small as a sentence, change a url, etc.?

  9. And for blogs, that’d be a nightmare….you’d think someone could come up with a way that would protect content the moment it was published….little link on all pages saying something like “Site copyright protection and legal by ABC Attorneys”…oh the backlinks!

  10. Jim technically you do have copyright the moment it’s published, however finding an attorney willing to take the case when an official copyright hasn’t been filed is going to cost you more, and probably not something they would take on a contingency basis.

  11. Do what Getty Images does, send them an invoice for $2,000 for using your content. If you actually have it copyrighted, thats a deal for them compared to getting dragged into court — but that is assuming you can actually track them down.

    Scrapers don’t bother me because I’ve actually gotten some pretty good traffic from them for sites where my CPMs are in the hundreds of dollars. When someone copies an entire article, removse the copyright notice, and inserts their own name they’ve committed criminal copyright infringement and I don’t see any reason to feel sorry for them and play nice. (and yes I’ve had it happen to me, that was before I learned the dramatic differences in registering copyright vs. not doing so.)

    However, there is another alternative approach you can take depending on the level on infrindgement. I am aware of at least one business owner who has gone after sites copying his content and gotten them to hand over ownership to their sites rather than getting taken to court.

  12. 1. Do a WHOIS on the domain name
    2. Do a WHOIS on the nameserver info – that will usually lead to a hosting company
    3. Send a polite e-mail to the hosting company, pointing out that they are hosting copyrighted content on their server that you wish to see removed

    That will commonly deal with such issues, before even touching on actual legal avenues such as DMCA

  13. Great information ty. My understanding is that if you change the material in the future you do have to reapply. Do you know for sure Jim?

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