On Twitter tonight, Sue Adler (@sueadler) says nonchalantly:
Shocking to find MY town pgs & photos copied exactly on another’s site. Hoping this agent, who I know well, hired someone & wasnt aware. hmm
That ain’t a “hmm” Sue — that should be a, “I’ve been robbed!” That’s outright copyright violation — a theft of your intellectual property.
I know it happens. Copyright violation on the Internet is not a matter of “IF” it happens, but “WHEN” it happens to you. A lot of the violations are these automated spam blogs (“splogs”) that go out, scrape content, put it on a page to drive Google rankings and make a few bucks off of advertising. In less common cases, it’s someone who just really liked your post or your content or something and thought it’s no big deal to copy the whole thing and put it on their site, as long as they link back to you and give you credit.
Except that it’s not okay, since Google punishes duplicate content. To be sure, there is some dispute as to whether the original copyright holder gets hit with the penalty or not… but since anyone who claims to know exactly how the Google algorithms work who doesn’t have a valid Google Employee ID is probably talking out of his ass, why take the chance? It isn’t as if the plagiarist is doing something legitimate to begin with.
As it happens, there are others who are far more expert than I in this area of what to do and how to protect yourself. So here are a few links you might want to browse if you think someone (or multiple someones) is copying your content wholesale:
- What To Do When Someone Steals Your Content by Lorelle. This is a fantastic, detailed post, with helpful tips, even a form email to send to the offending party, useful links, and just a wealth of information. Start here.
- Copyscape. This is a website that can simplify the effort of tracking who out on the Web is stealing your content. I’ve managed to find quite a few of my blogposts on random splogs through this tool. It also has helpful links right into WHOIS and other tools to simplify gathering information you’ll want and need to pursue the matter further.
- Chilling Effects. This is for those who want to get a bit deeper into some of the legal issues in copyright infringement and piracy. They also provide a great FAQ on copyright on piracy.
- Splogs: Spam Blogs and Stolen Content. More of a call to arms, but there’s a lot of great information on this post, as well as links to other useful sites and tools.
I’m certain there are other great resources on the Web and elsewhere. I’d appreciate any comments sharing ones you’ve found.
Fight Back; Content Theft is NOT Sharing
I know the spirit of sharing on the Web generally and in the RE.net more specifically are very strong. Many of us are constantly sharing ideas, giving away “intellectual property”, and go to REBarCamps where we give stuff away for free all the time without any expectation of (immediate) gain.
But stealing content outright is not sharing. I’m not talking about excerpting a paragraph or two to make a point here. I’m talking about copying entire blogposts, pictures and all. I’m talking about taking another agent’s local market information lock, stock and barrel and passing it off as your own. Even if you include a token link to my original post, or put up some little piece of crap like “originally posted on XYZ blog”, you’re stealing my traffic, stealing my ability to interact with readers, and should anyone actually comment on your copy of my post, preventing the community from sharing ideas with each other.
As in all things, you can go overboard with trying to fight content theft. You can’t live with paranoia all the time. You have to use your judgment as to whether the offender was trying to steal your intellectual property, or made an honest mistake.
But fight back. For all of us. I for one plan on starting. Have sent one letter so far tonight to a splog operator. We’ll see if he takes it down.