Website plagiarism is the thorn in the side of authors and website owners. If you have been creating content for any amount of time and publishing it on your website, you have most likely had an encounter with this dark side of the Internet.
If you have not battled this beast yet, envision discovering your work on someone else’s website. Imagine working all those countless hours perfecting and polishing the words on your website. When you are finally satisfied with the result, you publish your jewel online. Months or even years later, you stumble on a website that has copied your work, word for word. Your heart races and your palms sweat. Your masterpiece has been stolen.
Internet or website plagiarism is defined as the illegal use of written work, photographs, or graphics on a website. Elements are generally taken from another website without permission from the creator of the original work.
A quick search on Google for the search term “website plagiarism” returns countless articles on how to combat website plagiarism. What are the most effective strategies to fight and stop others from stealing your work?
Website Plagiarism Battle Case Study
While we are not legal experts at R & R Web Design LLC, we have been spent time in the plagiarism battling trenches.
Our biggest plagiarism battle was when a company in Africa copied our entire website a few years back. They replaced our logo with their own and our company name throughout the text with their company name.
It took some time, but we were able to successfully have the scrapped copy of our website removed from the Internet. The owner of the website emailed us back with an apology stating that he was unaware that his developer had copied our website.
This experience and many others have helped us come up with a strategy in plagiarism defense and counterattack. Here is a six-step strategy that you might find helpful in your quest to fight content theft.
6 Steps to Protect, Detect and Fight Content Theft
- Get Legal
The first line of defense is to have your work officially copyrighted. Visit the U.S. Government Copyright Office and fill out the online registration for Form TX or download the PDF for mail-in registration. Registrations fees vary and are subject to change. For more information, please call the U.S. Government Copyright Office at: 202-707-3000.
- Get Armed
It is difficult to find out if and when your website’s work has been plagiarized. With an arsenal of online tools to monitor your site for content theft and plagiarism, you are better armed.
Copysentry offers standard and professional services that scan the Internet for stolen content. It works great for website copy and will send weekly reports of copied content. You do have to input specific page URLs and 10 pages are covered with the base fee with additional fees for more pages. This may not be practical for authors of multiple blog articles.
- Get Informed
Once you have discovered a website that has plagiarized your content, it is time to put your Sherlock Holmes’ hat on. Start with determining the contact information of the website including email address, web hosting company and domain name provider. One tool to use to help you with this is:
- Domain Dossier by CentralOps.net
It will make it more difficult to determine the website owner’s contact information if the offending website’s domain name has private registration. You may need to make the first contact through the website’s contact form or published email address.
- Get Straight to the Point
Contact the owner of the website using the website’s contact information by using the email or an online form with a notice of copyright infringement. This notice should include that copied work that has been published on their website without permission.
If you have had your work registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, include this information and explain that it is protected by Copyright Law of the United States. Ask them to remove the copyrighted text within 24 hours.
For an example, Plagiarism Today provides a free cease and desist stock letter that is available on their website.
- Get Fortified
If your first attempts to contact the offending website owner do not bring results, contact them by certified postal mail. If your requests still go answered, fortify your defense by contacting the web hosting company and domain name registrar.
- Get Serious
Peg Fitzpatrick has a great suggestion in her article, How to Protect Your Blog Content. After discovering that her content had been plagiarized and receiving no response from the website owner, she filed a take down notice with Google. Peg explains that according to the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), if your content is taken, you may submit a claim to Google to have the content removed from Google.
Peg does state that she is not an attorney and strongly recommends that this is not legal advice and you should read the entire legal agreement before submitting it. She also makes a great suggestion of having a Republication Policy on your blog. In this policy, you can specifically spell out your republishing terms to make it crystal clear.
For our copyright notice and republication policy, please see R & R Web Design LLC Copyright Notice.
We learned the importance of a legal U.S. Government Copyright after one website owner’s web host refused to consider our copyright infringement take down request. When the owner did not respond, we contacted the web host and asked them for assistance. We were told that we needed a U.S. Government Copyright to move forward. That is when we registered our website with the U.S. Government Copyright Office.
Another reason to register your work is in the event you decide to file a copyright infringement lawsuit. According to attorney Richard Keyt, copyright litigation can be very expensive. If you feel that you have a good case, Keyt suggests that you could “win damages equal to lost profits plus profits derived by the infringer from the copyrighted material and an injunction prohibiting future infringement.”
The United States Copyright Office states, “In a case where the copyright owner sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000.”
I am not an attorney and this information is not to be taken as legal counsel. If you have legal questions about website and/or Internet plagiarism, please contact an attorney who specializes in this practice area. The information provided in this article is based on experience in dealing with website plagiarism and is offered as general information.
My hope is to help you on your way to becoming armed against this Internet dragon and to encourage you to fight the good fight.
Discovering that your website’s content has been plagiarized can be compared to having your house broken into and its content stolen. There are steps that you can take to protect against, detect and fight website plagiarism. With patience and the right tools, you will be on your way to spending less time in the plagiarism trenches.
Have you ever had your website’s content plagiarized? What steps did you take to fight against it?