There has been a rapid increase in websites being copied, from the overall design and branding assets to the text and photographs, through manual copying and pasting, source code theft, and/or automated bots (also called scraping).
Though advantageous for many reasons, self-publishing is not without its perils, one of which is the misappropriation of content. Increasingly, many bloggers and content creators are finding their work being used without their permission. Some websites are copied verbatim while others are tinkered with just enough to bypass automated plagiarism-checkers. Thankfully, U.S. copyright law protects against such egregious violations, mainly through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. However, the burden to find such violations on the Internet is on the site owner, which makes it both time-consuming and unduly burdensome. It is unlikely that you will be able to find all cases of copyright infringement out there, but you can take certain necessary precautions such as Google Alerts and anti-scraping plugins to minimize such occurrences. Astute, loyal readers of your blog can also help to police your copyrights.
What should I do if my website content is stolen?
If you find a case of copyright infringement:
- Make a good faith effort that the alleged violation is not covered under fair use.
- If there is no designated DMCA Agent and/or the website does not respond, file a DMCA Takedown Notice with the infringing website’s hosting provider. This information can usually be found on websites such as Who is Hosting This?. You can find a sample DMCA Takedown Notice here.
- File a DMCA complaint with Google to ensure it doesn’t get listed in search results.
- As a last resort, consider your legal options — cease and desist letter, lawsuit, etc.