I've spent the last few days dealing with some people who were blatantly stealing my blog content and posting it on their own websites without my permission. This, as you know, is copyright infringement - and it's illegal. Aside from that, it's also extremely irritating!
But some of these websites are not "really" websites, nor are they "really" blogs. They're what's known as scraper sites and they steal your content by webscraping. This basically means that they use an application like a webcrawler to take (scrape) content from your site feed, then publish all of your content on their own websites.
So the first thing I did was stop running full content feeds for this blog. My feed now only consists of blog post excerpts (For those of you who are subscribers to my feed you no doubt noticed this change a few days ago). This will eliminate the amount of content that can be "scraped".
How To Combat Copyright Infringement
What do you do when you discover someone is stealing your content? Here are the important steps you can take.
1. Contact the website's owner - Get in touch with the owner of the website and let him/her know that he/she is in breech of copyright, which is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Most of the time this will remedy things rather quickly.
Note: In my next post I'll provide a copy of the Copyright Infringement Notice I send to those violating my copyrights.
If you can't find an email address or contact form on the website, you can do a WHOIS lookup to find out who owns it. To do this just go to Whois.Net and enter the website's domain name. That'll give you the owner's email address, physical address and phone number.
Note: If the domain name is registered by proxy, this information will be unavailable. However, it'll give you the information needed to contact the domain's registrar.
2. Contact the website's registrar and host - If you made contact with the website's owner and he/she still has not removed your content, the next thing to do is contact the website's registrar and/or hosting company (this info. can be found via a WHOIS lookup as well). Let them know that the website is in breech of copyright and that you've attempted to contact the website's owner without success. They'll generally contact the site's owner on your behalf. Whenever I've had to to this the companies were of great help.
If the content still has not been removed you can request that the hosting company take the site offline completely. So be sure to let them know that they're "actively and knowingly" hosting a site that is infringing on your protected copyrights. Trust me, hosting companies would much rather remove a site than go to court for supporting one that is in breech of copyright.
3. Contact the website's advertisers - Get in contact with ALL advertisers on the site. And if the site is using or displaying any affiliate links, contact the companies that run those affiliate programs as well! Let them know that the website is illegally publishing your copyrighted content. Make it clear that you've sent copyright infringement notices, and that your copyrighted content still exists on the infringing site.
Some advertising mediums (like Google AdSense) provide forms for such notices and ad feedback. With Google AdSense, for example, just click on the "Ads by Google" portion of the AdSense ads on the copyright infringer's site. The page that pops up will have a feedback link at the bottom that will allow you to report copyright infringement and such.
Once you report copyright infringement, Google will then email you asking that you provide a written communication (by fax or regular mail, not by email) that describes and details the copyright infringement.
Important: Be absolutely sure that the website is indeed violating your copyrights (not just exercising the right of "fair use") BEFORE you send such a communication to Google. Why? Because you are actually liable for damages and attorneys' fees if you misrepresent that an activity is infringing your copyrights.
So be sure you know the law as well as your rights! The U.S. Copyright Office and Chilling Effects websites are your best friend when it comes to copy infringement info.
4. Get them banned from search engines - If you've followed steps 1 thru 3, but find that the website is still illegally displaying your copyrighted content, then you can file an "infringement notice" with Google and the other search engines. This may get them banned from those search engines completely.
Here's the direct link you can use to file a DMCA complaint with Google, letting them know that someone is violating your copyrights that are protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA):
Infringement Notification - Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Again, make sure that the site is truly in breech of copyright before you file such infringement notices as you can be held liable for damages and attorneys' fees if you misrepresent that an activity is infringing your copyrights.
5. Take legal action - If nothing else has worked, you can always take legal action against the copyright infringer.
Remember, your blog content is protected by copyright law. Your blog content is no different from the words that are printed in a novel or from the music that's burned on a CD. It's considered legally copyrighted the very second you write it. So don't let anyone steal your work. Fight back!