Copyright Infringement: How to Protect Your Content Online

It happens every day online. Content is copied and stolen and passed off as belonging to someone else. Sometimes it is an image, a paragraph or a whole post. People see a post and think that they probably would have written something like that anyway, so what is the harm, right? The truth is, if you would have written something like that, it would already be on your site now wouldn’t it?

Copying someone’s work/design or content in any way is wrong. Don’t do it.

This post is going to be long and it is going to cover a lot. I am going to share tips for how not to copy someone’s work, how to protect yourself with copyrights, what to do if you’ve been copyrighted and, for those of you on WordPress, I’m going to share some plug-ins to help deter copyright infringements against your site.

I’m going to start with this: Whether someone has copyrighted their creations or not – DON’T STEAL!

When you first set up your website, there is a lot to do. You want to create an ‘About Me’ page, and if you are getting in to review blogging, you may want to also create a Review/Giveaway Procedure page, a PR Information page, a Disclaimer page, a Media Kit page, a Terms & Conditions page, etc.

This can be overwhelming and the thought of quickly copying someone else may cross your mind. Again, Don’t do it. You may think, “they covered everything so nicely and it’s what I would write it that way anyway” – wrong! Your page and your site needs to be in your words first.

I have had a couple of emails on this site asking if someone can copy my PR Info page because it was well written (thanks for the compliment by the way!).

First, I completely thank the people who emailed to ask. I have even remained in touch with some of those fellow bloggers as I respect them because they asked – it shows good character and honesty.

Second, my answer was, and always will be, no. My reasoning is this; if we are both being looked at by the same PR company or brand for a new campaign and they check out our websites, what are they going to find? They are going to see that one copied the other and it will make both sites look unprofessional. Get where I’m going with this?

One tip I have to writing any of your pages is to write first, read later. If you need to make a PR Info page, make one. Put all of your own thoughts down in a post first, then try to organize them in to a nice looking page. Then, down the road, if you are on a site and you see that something is missing from your page, then go back and add it – NEVER use the highlight, copy, paste function on anyone’s blog EVER! Just go back and add what was missing in your own words.

Copyright and License Your Work
There are numerous sites out there to help you copyright and license your creation, and to help you search to see if someone else has ever stolen your work and posted it as their own. Here are a couple that I use and like:

Creative Commons – They provide free licenses that will allow you to share your work and maintain the copyrights that you feel comfortable with. To set up a Creative Commons license, you just answer some questions and then the license will be created and you will get a button to display on your site telling others what they can and can’t do with your work.

You can see on my right sidebar that I am using the one of the most restrictive of all the licenses. You can use my work, but not for commercial gain and you can not change any part of it and you must link back to me stating that this site is the place of the original content.

So decide what you want before you just throw a license up as you may end up screwing yourself and your site if you don’t choose properly.

Copyrighted – You can easily create an account and quickly copyright your work.

Just because you have joined and put up a banner, these two sites can’t guarantee that no one will copy your content. What they will do is provide some support in the event that someone tries to steal from you. This will go a long way in either determining who owns the rights to the original content and what you have and have not allowed.

Finding Duplicate Content
So now you’ve taken steps to safeguard your creations. But the world wide web is a monster, how will you ever find out if some has copied your stuff?

There are numerous websites that will do the dirty work for you. Either by entering in a few sentences of text, or complete web pages, these sites will shoot through millions of sites trying to match your content to someone else’s. Here are a few sites I’ve used:

Copy Gator – This is a free service that will monitor your site’s feed against everything else on the web and will email you if there are any possible duplicates. This will save you time because you do not need to manually check your content on various sites.

Plagium – On this site you can copy a section of your post or the whole post and check it against everything else that has been posted.

CopyScape – This site used to be mostly free, but now it will only show you the first three websites that have similar content and then you will have to pay for a premium account in order to access more. Worth checking out for the first three sites though. It’s about 5¢ per search.

Search Engines – You can also check your content on searches such as Google, Bing or Yahoo by copying and pasting a sentence that is unique to your post. Try it with a couple of sentences to be sure.

Help – My Post or Content Has Been Copied
If you find that any of your material has been stolen, you will first need to have had it copyrighted in the first place (see above). If your work wasn’t copyrighted, you can still send an email requesting it be taken down, but you have a stronger leg to stand on if you took precautions before hand.

If your material has been stolen, there are a couple of sites that have basic cease and desist letters that you can send out to ask that they remove your work immediately:

Plagiarism Today – Has a great sample Cease and Desist letter as well as sample DMCA letters to hosts and search engines (scroll down the page).

Free Legal Documents – Has a good Cease and Desist letter and you can take out the sections that don’t apply to you or your situation.

In addition to contacting the perpetrator directly, you can also contact their host, search engine, blog platform and fill in their DMCA notice (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) to try to have their content and or site removed. You can look up the website on who.is and their hosting information will be listed.

WordPress Copyright Plug-ins
Sorry Blogger users, but WordPress does have some great copyright plug-ins that I’ve come across to deter stealing. For Bloggers, you can use the search terms “disable right click blogger”, there are some good tutorials in there, but it doesn’t protect you against copying words.

As for WordPress, here are some plug-ins to protect your copyrights (I was able to load all of these right from my plug-in on my dashboard):

Copyright Proof – You can get a digitally signed and time-stamped certificate of content of each of your posts. this helps to prove your copyrights. There is also optional anti-theft feature to copy protect your content.

No Right Click Images Plug-In – This disables the right click option. When you click on the image, it keeps the image on your website so trying right-click a second time will not work. This is perfect for sites who may like some of their words referenced, but want to keep their pictures as their own.

Blog Protector – This will protect everything on your site from being copied. You have the option of just disabling the right-click, or disabling selection of text as well. When you try to right-click on an image or anywhere on the site, you also have an option of adding in your own personal message.

One thing to keep in mind when disabling your selection of text is links. For example, if you type out a long link on your site and the link to it is broken, people will try to copy the link you typed in and they won’t be able to. It protects EVERYTHING. Also, if you do tutorials and part of a step might be to copy some text and place it in their HTML, your readers will not be able to copy it because of your settings.

CopyLink – If you choose not to block your right-click on your site, you can use CopyLink. When part, or all, of a post is copied, a link back to your site will be added to it that will link back to your site for more information.

Lastly, you can search your plug-ins for a lot under the term ‘copyright’, but I find putting a simple line in your footer like I have here is sufficient and it saves you having to download another plug-in (which can slow your site if there are too too many).

The truth is that if someone really wants your content, they will get it. The only real way to ensure that no one steals from you is to keep it off the internet, but then it never gets seen, read or enjoyed by anyone other than yourself.

Stay vigilant with protecting your content by implementing some or all of the ideas above (even I don’t do all of them) and if it ever happens to you, then you know what to do.

My Experience
I’ve had a post copied word for word once. It is a post that, to this day (1.5 years after it was written), still brings me a lot of traffic to my website. I wrote it because I saw a lack of information and I wanted to offer advice to people.

I worked really hard on my post. It took me three days of writing, reading, correcting and rewriting before I posted it, and I was really proud of it.

Then, in a matter of 15 seconds, someone came by and copied/pasted it on to their website without a thought.

I ended up emailing them and requested that the material be removed. After no reply, I looked up their website on who.is, found out who their host was and filled in their DMCA form to request that they handle the matter. In my case, I had the dates of my copyright for that particular post, and provided the link to my notice that my content was copyrighted.

Within hours, the offending site was gone. The host took their site down until they removed the whole post in question. The site was eventually activated again, minus my content.

Only YOU Can Be YOU!
I love reading all of the blogs and websites out there today simply for the fact that everyone is different. Some bloggers inspire me while others make me laugh or cry.

Everyone brings something to the table when they are being themselves and only you are the best at being you.

Have you had this happen to you? What did you do?

Do you have any other great sites for copyright / licensing that you use? Share it in the comments section.

So in a nutshell, my advice is: Protect yourself and don’t steal!

Sheri Landry

About Sheri Landry

Sheri owns and writes at This Bird's Day and shares all of the thoughts in her head without the voices. Sticking mainly with content for Canadians, Sheri shares family stories, product information and anything that fits into her (and her family's) daily activities.
Categorized in Life, Online & Tech

{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Suzanne Daigneault December 6, 2011, 11:31 am

    I must say this is a great article i enjoyed reading it keep the good work :)

  • Londia December 6, 2011, 12:04 pm

    I know i still need to learn alot about blogging and i think i must do wrong on mine. But no one ever has said anything to me. I have had my blog removed for a period of time. I think because it has Win or Giveaway in the titles. Not sure.
    But if you do see my blog i do not take credit for things. I do say go over to a blog or for a contest i will write please read rules for further information. I am not trying to be wrong at what i am doing but maybe i am doing wrong. I like to share blogs and contests.
    If you do have a problem with mine let me know if you check it out.

    Thank you for your information also.

    Blog here
    http://silverneon2000.blogspot.com/

    Thanks again
    silverneon2000 at yahoo dot com

    • Sheri Landry Sheri December 6, 2011, 7:10 pm

      Hi Londia. I’m not referring to anyone who visits here. My post was stolen from another site that I own. For reference, the best way to make sure that you are not infringing on anyone’s copyrighted material is to never use highlight/copy/paste when you are on any website. Copying one line to tell your readers that someone is holding a giveaway is allowed.

      • Londia December 6, 2011, 7:46 pm

        Thank you for responding back to me. I think that i still have alot to learn and think i might not be doing things properly as i have copied and pasted the prizes into my blog. I thought that was okay. So for who ever else reads this and if i have entered your giveaways i am sorry for the way i do it up on my blog.
        Still learning and hope to get better.

        :)

        • Sheri Landry Sheri December 6, 2011, 9:40 pm

          Just to clarify, if it is something like just the list of prizes, then that isn’t a problem (in my books). It is when someone has created original content for their site and someone else copies that. I’m still learning every day too.

  • Sheri Landry Sheri December 8, 2011, 11:32 pm

    Thanks Bee. It is horrible when stuff like this happens.

  • Jenn @therebelchick December 11, 2011, 5:35 pm

    I need to bookmark this post because I need look into copywriting…I hardly even remember to watermark my photos!

    • Sheri Landry Sheri January 8, 2012, 1:54 pm

      It does suck when someone copies you, but if you have a solid proof of copyright, you will have a leg to stand on if it happens. I don’t remember to watermark all of my photos either, except the ones of my kids, I am strict with those – lol.

  • Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell January 2, 2012, 10:50 am

    Excellent advice, and like you, I had a post copied before. I couldn’t believe someone would do that so it was a real awakening to me.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri January 2, 2012, 11:22 pm

      Crazy isn’t it. I just don’t understand why someone would go through the trouble of creating their own place on the web just to fill it with someone else’s belongings.

  • Christina January 4, 2012, 4:38 am

    Excellent post! Just happened to me over Christmas. I will be saving this with Evernote so I can reference it. Thanks!

    • Sheri Landry Sheri January 4, 2012, 6:48 am

      Thanks Christina. I hope you were able to have it removed.

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