It’s a horrible feeling, the first time you find your content on someone else’s website. A google alert was how I found out; whoever lifted my content failed to remove my name and my blog post in all its glory appeared on their site, with comments from the readers addressing them as if they’d written it.
Sadly, it’s easy to lift content from blogs – it’s simply a matter of cutting and pasting. So what can you do to protect yourself?
First, let’s discuss the various kinds of content thieves so you know what, exactly, you need to protect against.
This happens when an automated program scrapes all of your original text and posts it on their site. They often subscribe to your RSS feed and post moments after you post. Content scrapers don’t credit the original author, but they may leave links that will take readers back to your blog.
• Article Spinning
When this happens, a program is used to swap out key words in your content to give it a thin sheen of originality and fool programs like Copyscape (which checks the internet for content thieves). This is a common practice for sites that are trying to get a lot of content up at once so they can load up ads and outbound links.
This is where someone sees a post, copies it, and then goes in and edits by hand in an attempt to make the post their own. There’s usually enough editing done to fool bots and spiders, and is probably the most hurtful of all because it’s done deliberately and isn’t just a random program picking up your work and copying it. Plagiarists never site the original source, don’t put anything into quotes, and edit out all your links. These posts can be hard to find.
So what do you do?
First, you can contact site owners. Plagiarism Today has a great sample of a cease-and-desist letter you can customize and send to the website to get them to stop using your content. Most scrapers and articles spinners will respond to this simple threat; there’s a world of content to steal, why steal from someone that’s causing trouble?
Secondly, you can protect yourself in the first place. If you’re on WordPress, you can use a simple plug in that states “This is a post from my blog and here’s a link” or something like that; if you’ve been scraped this will appear in the scraped posts, and lo, Google will see it and bust the scrapers. Matt Cutts (of Google fame) suggests that the footer actually include a direct link to your post, not your home page – this will alert Google even more quickly.
Otherwise, you just have to live with it. Yep, I said live with it. It’s one of the sucky parts of being online. Good luck, and protect your content the best you can!