What to Do When Someone Steals Your Content

You’ve worked hard on your blog posts, articles, sales pages and other writing, as well as your graphics design, website design, and logo.  They’re yours.  But online many people think it’s “fair game” to borrow and profit from your work. It’s not okay unless you’ve given your permission.

I saw a video online last week from EzineArticles.com I wanted to share:

Now, here are some tips to help you protect your intellectual property
(since you can’t slap people through the internet…).

You can keep tabs on where your content is being used with Copyscape.  They also offer a paid service where they’ll monitor the web for your content automatically.  (I haven’t tried the paid service.)

If you find a site that’s stolen your content and reprinted it without attribution to you, or if someone alerts you to your content being used elsewhere, you can follow these steps:

1.  Document that it’s your content

If it’s published online you can use Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine to see what date you posted it on your site and what date they posted it on their site.

If you had the work produced by a ghostwriter or graphic designer you can contact them for verification of the date they created it and that it was exclusively licensed to you.

2.  Contact the website owner and ask them to take it down

Look at the website to see if you can find the contact information for the site owner.  If you can’t find it, you can do a whois search to check the details of the domain name.  Go to http://www.betterwhois.com or http://geektools.com/whois.php (any whois search site will work) and type in the domain name that has copied your content.

It will show the contact info for the domain owner, unless they have privacy protection enabled.

If privacy protection is enabled and there’s no contact information on the website, you may have to move on to step three.

Side note: this is an example of why it’s so important to make it easy to contact you through your website – if someone needs to contact you over something like this, you want them to, you don’t want them to go to your web host!

3.  Contact the website’s host

If you aren’t able to contact the site owner, or you try and get no response, the next step is to contact their website host and file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) take down request.

To find out who is hosting a website, try searching here: http://www.whoishostingthis.com/ If no results come up, it’s a little tougher to find out who’s hosting it, but what you can do is look at the WHOIS record  (from the search in step 2) and watch for the “Nameservers” line, then see who controls those nameservers.

Here’s what happens when a DMCA take down request is filed:

  • the web host will remove the content promptly and notify the site owner
  • the site owner can file a counter claim and prove that they did not infringe on your rights
  • if they file a counter claim then you have 14 days to file a lawsuit and notify their host it’s been filed, or the host will restore their website files

You can find more information on DMCA and how to write one at these links:

4. Get the content removed from the search engines

Contact Google and other search engines to report the violation and get the site removed from the search engine’s index.

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  1. I am in this situation right now as we speak. Somebody is using an article of mine from an article site but they are not abiding by the terms of service which says that they must include the resource box with all links active. Those links happen to have my keywords and so they de-activated the links.

    I contacted the site owner with no response over 4 weeks ago and contacted google at dns-admin@google.com and requested that they enforce their AUP policy and take the content down 2 weeks ago.

    Nothing has been done so far. So frustrating.
    Jeff recently posted… Tips On Keeping Your Head Down When Hitting The BaseballMy Profile

    1. I’ve had similar issues. EzineArticles once temporarily suspended my account there because they thought I had plagiarized an article. They found it published on another site without my attribution/byline. It was frustrating, the site owner never did respond to me, but the site was taken offline later (I didn’t file a DMCA takedown notice, so it was just karma in this case, but in the future I will). I was able to prove to EzineArticles that the content was mine since I had published it elsewhere earlier and then reinstated my account.

      You might try a registered letter to the site owner, if their address is available in the whois database. That might be enough to get them to respond. It’s difficult when they blur the lines by publishing our content with attribution but either remove our links or run them through those horrid article spinners that make them come out nearly unreadable. I’m not sure what protection we have under DMCA for that.

      Good luck with it and I hope you’re able to get a response and resolution for the situation.

  2. This was very informative. I’ve always wondered about this. Now I know how to monitor and handle it, if it ever occurs. Thanks much.
    Kazi recently posted… Removing the Obstacles to Health and Fitness SuccessMy Profile

    1. Thanks Kazi, I appreciate the comment and am glad it was helpful. May you never need to use the information. :)

  3. Thanks for this information. I try to check on my content from time to time, but perhaps not as much as I should. This is a great reminder. I’m going to bookmark this information for future references.

    1. Thanks Barbara, glad it was helpful.

  4. I sometimes wonder if it’s worth all the time and energy chasing a rabbit down the hole.

    I spent over 20 years in the craft and gift industries. Talk about stealing… I would design products, have them produced in China to sell to the craft industry and a year later, I would see the product in someone elses booth at the gift show…. with their name on it. Complain… complain… with no results!

    I’ve been out of the business 8 years and last Christmas, I saw Christmas ornaments that I designed 10 years ago with another company taking the credit. “Hummmm! Glad you liked it” was about all I said.

    I worked with other designers who got all excited because one of their designs would show up on someone elses product. They were spend so much time fussing about it and tracking it down… they lost valuable time that they could have used designing new product. (The money was up front anyway)

    I can tell you… it’s not worth the time, money and energy. Most complaints never go anywhere. Copyright only keeps the honest at bay.

    I say… let it go… don’t let your ego get in the way of time, energy and profit. Someone thought your article was wonderful. Pat yourself on the back for doing such a great job someone thought it was worth taking.

    I figure… what goes around… comes around. Perhaps not in this life time… but I know someone is keeping score.

    I know this sounds like “giving up” and letting the criminal get by with it. But, coming from experience, you waste more time, energy and money chasing the rabbit than it’s worth. On the net… you’re fighting a loosing battle.

    1. Kathy,

      Thank you for that insight. I hear you and know deep down that you’re right. I too believe in reaping and sowing. I’ve done the right thing and am glad that this video was produced but that hasn’t stopped me from writing a new article each week from scratch. Hard work will pay off.
      Jeff recently posted… Tips On Keeping Your Head Down When Hitting The BaseballMy Profile

      1. There are definitely situations where it’s not worth the time/energy to focus on – especially in certain industries where, unfortunately, knock-offs and copycats are the norm. :( I’ve worked with a lot of crafters and work at home moms and there seems to always be issues over who is using whose patterns or ideas. It is sad. There is so much creativity out there, and we could all create amazing, unique things.

        But in some cases I do think it’s important, which I probably should have gone into a bit more in the post. :) Legally, in some situations, it’s critical that we defend our intellectual property or we may not be able to later. That would take us into trademarks vs. copyright vs. patents though and one heck of a tangled web. LOL

        Here’s my two cents. I don’t generally go searching the internet for my content being used. I do have Google alerts setup that tell me when my name pops up, or a couple of phrases specific to my branding. When I see my content online without attribution to me, if it’s one article, and it doesn’t punch me in the face with negative effects, I probably won’t bother. (The site that got me temporarily banned from ezinearticles I needed to try to contact so that I could get my account back – in that case I had to step up and take some action because it was affecting my ability to share my other articles online.) If it’s a consistent pattern of a site stealing my content and my fans are pointing it out to me, then it’s causing an issue and I would probably take 5 minutes to attempt to deal with it.

        Everyone’s got a different comfort level though with these types of issues and I completely agree… it all comes back around somewhere along the line… so take the high road and do the right thing. (Preaching to the choir here, I know!)

  5. Excellent discussion – from an eBay seller standpoint – we deal with this a lot on photos and descriptions. In most instances, I tend to agree with @kathryn that it isn’t worth the hassle. This article showed me other areas where it really does need to be followed up. Fantastic video also, LOL
    Kat Simpson recently posted… Weird Shoes, LOLMy Profile

    1. EzineArticles always does a great job with their videos, don’t they? I love them. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Thanks for the info on DMCA. I’ve had a few of my articles stolen in the past and tried contacting webmasters. I wasn’t sure of my next stop so I just ignored it. Now I know what to do.

    Rodney Daut recently posted… Does Kissing Lower Cholesterol?My Profile

  7. Hi Michelle,

    Sometimes the website owner doesn’t even have a clue that he/she is hosting stolen material. One time while googling a subject I came across a site that had MY free report offered (years ago). I contacted the owner and asked him to remove the copyrighted report from his site. He was more stunned than I was, I think. He had outsourced the work and paid a writer to provide him with the giveaway! He profusely apologized and removed it from his site immediately.

    You just never know!
    Deb Augur recently posted… How Much Money Do People Make Online?My Profile

    1. I saw a similar thing happen last week. A business owner saw someone else in the same line of work using her custom created Twitter background – the designer had switched photo and text but it was clearly the same image. Once notified the lady corrected it very quickly. I can imagine what type of conversation followed with the designer.

      You bring up a good reminder to always check references on ghostwriters and designers – but even when we do due diligence things can go wrong, it’s so important that we make it easy for others to contact us on our own websites, and when our content pops up elsewhere to always contact the webmaster/site owner before going to their host.

      I’m glad to hear the site owner made things right in your situation, Deb! :)

  8. What a great subject to tackle. Drat, you beat me to it. :) Seriously, you have highlighted a real issue that’s gotten worse with the Internet. I agree with Kathryn that it’s not always worth the effort, but you bring up a good point – it could impact your business down the road. That’s never a good thing. My takeaway – keep good records and track relevant material. I like your idea of using Google alerts for simple things like name and taglines or other information specific to your business. Thanks for making me think! And – I’ll have to reference your post over at my site. I know a few folks who will be interested in this topic. :)
    Lisbeth Tanz recently posted… Triglycerides and Heart Health: Part 5 Heart Healthy LifestyleMy Profile

    1. Thanks for sharing the post, Lisbeth.

  9. When submitting articles and on my blog, I use my name as a keyword. Then I have a Google Alert for my name. I have picked up people who have stolen my content this way.

    I’ve gone on to there site and made a comment that the content is stolen and where it was stolen from. I also tweet about. It is an easy way to get my message across.
    Sheila Atwood recently posted… Making Money On The Internet – Put Money In Your AccountMy Profile

    1. Sheila, that’s a great solution. I would never have thought to use my name in the keywords. But I will from now on.

      Thanks for the great idea!
      Lisbeth Tanz recently posted… Triglycerides and Heart Health: Part 5 Heart Healthy LifestyleMy Profile

      1. Good idea, Sheila!

        You might also like these posts, Lisbeth (and I’ve got an article on the topic on EzineArticles available for reprint if you want to share). :)


  10. […] Michelle Shaeffer – What To Do When Someone Steals Your Content // Share| […]

  11. Thank you so much for this post Michelle! Now I know who to send people to when they ask me this question. Hey…. would you be interested in (legally and legitimately) guest posting this on my blog?
    Nancy Marmolejo recently posted… PR in a Social Media WorldMy Profile

    1. I’d be honored if you’d like to use this post, or the more recent one I followed up with: https://www.michelleshaeffer.com/i-can-borrow-a-copy-of-that-right/2011/06/14/ :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… The Problem With Conventional WisdomMy Profile

  12. […] Option Five: Use DMCA and contact the website host of the infringing content to have it removed.  Here are the details: What to Do When Someone Steals Your Content […]

  13. Interesting post Michelle. I always learn something from what you post. Have a great weekend.

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