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Fun With Content Thieves

As a blogger your job is to continuously produce fresh, useful, and engaging content. That’s the fun part, right? Oh I know, it’s actually the work centered part. At least for those of us with pesky character flaws like ethics and morals. It turns out that not everyone is as hampered by morals as you and me. There are many people out there who aren’t driven to build a community, all they care about is ad revenue, here, now, and today. Rather than taking the time to develop a body of content, these unsavory characters scour the web, grab RSS feeds and republish to their shriveled little heart’s content.

What is a blogger to do?

The good news is there are several things you can do. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act helps content owners request removal of stolen material. I should note that there are critics of the DMCA that suggest it is too easy for content owners to serve a takedown notice to those who may not actually be infringing on copyright, but that is an entirely different conversation for another time.

You need not have filed for copyright to hold the copyright on work you publish. You would not be able to sue for damages, but you can certainly stop a thief from using your work.


If you find your content stolen on someone else’s website, your first move should be to try to contact the site owner and request removal of or payment for the content. Don’t scoff, I know a lady who has picked up several gigs from that very tactic. Not only that, but as hard as it is to believe, some people do not understand that everything on the web is not free for taking and resharing.

If your first contact is ignored your next move is to file a DMCA Takedown notice.

You can find stock letters at Plagiarism Today. Just change the details to fit your specific claim.

Unfortunately, neither of these are necessarily quick solutions and sometimes that’s all we want, a quick solution to an aggravating problem like content theft.

Chances are the person who has stolen your content from an RSS feed has done so without taking any additional steps. They aren’t like a college kid trying to get away with plagiarized content, they just want to slap it up and call it good. Chances are they have not copied any images in your post and are just serving the images from your host.

To take advantage of this easily, you’ll need FTP or file manager access to your site and a photo editor.

First download the stolen image from your post if you didn’t bother to keep a copy around. Change the name of the file, but keep the old name handy. Upload it to your site and replace the old image.

Create a new, ugly picture, preferably with the text “This Content Stolen From [YourDomain].com.” Make sure it’s big and garish, preferably big enough to break the thief’s template. Now save the picture with the same file name as the stolen image.

Upload the file via ftp into the appropriate folder in your site. Most of the time, for WordPress users,  it’s organized by date under the wp-content folder. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to break anything just adding this file. Typically it’s the deleting of files that causes problems. Your ftp software or file manager will ask if you want to overwrite the existing file. The answer is yes. Close out of your FTP or file manager and head over and take a peek at the content thief’s site.

Sometimes it feels good to take matters into your own hands.

Photo Credit: Horia Varlen

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