What started as a seemingly innocent looking pingback on one of my articles quickly turned into the discovery that someone had violated my copyright! They had stolen my entire article without giving me any credit at all. There was no mention of an author or of my blog. I honestly felt that I had been robbed. A quick search of the Internet presented me with lots of horror stories from other people who have encountered the same problem.
Steps for Stopping Copyright Infringement
I found a site dedicated to stopping plagiarism including steps for contacting the copyright infringer and notifying their host. Of course, a quick whois lookup for contact information was futile. I posted a comment on their plagiarized version of my article notifying them that I was aware of the theft and to immediately remove it but of course it was ignored. So what do I do? Do I pursue it?
In between muttering to myself and diligently researching online, I started to question if it was worth my time and energy to pursue it further. My next step was to vent on Twitter and Facebook to see if anyone I correspond with could add words of wisdom. The replies included “think of it as a form of flattery” and a suggestion to use “Blog-Protector”, a WordPress plugin that disabled right click and selection of text. (Note: This particular plugin is no longer listed in the repository.)
Since I wasn’t feeling very flattered, I immediately installed the Blog-Protector plugin. It worked as advertised. I couldn’t even copy and paste from my own site! As I became increasingly frustrated, Kimberly Castleberry (@AskKim for those of you on Twitter) left this comment:
“I understand the problem but will caution you at the visitors you will lose by disabling ALL right click functionality. There are a LOT of readers that use right click for things like bookmarking your page and they will NOT be happy”. . . “Disabling text selection is a start, but I suppose I should point out that at this point MUCH of the content scraping is happening by stealing feeds and using them to pipe content into auto-blogs. Be sure you think about this problem from all angles, I know it’s annoying and time consuming but always keep your readers first.”
I had been following Kim for a while and I count her as a valued resource. Since I was frustrated by the plugin, (coupled by the fact that I personally copy and paste info into documents along with the originating URL to keep as a reference), I decided that I would rather risk being plagiarized again than lose a single reader. After all, my main purpose for blogging is to be a resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Why wouldn’t I want my readers to copy and paste?
Will Content Scraping Hurt You?
It got me thinking. Do plugins, (like the WP Content Copy Protection plugin) stop the bad guys or just other people like you and me? What’s this “content scraping” and piping content into “auto-blogs” that Kim was talking about? Turns out that there are WordPress plugins that you can buy to scrape content and automatically feed it into blogs. That’s exactly how my content was stolen! The combination of content scraping and auto-blogs make powerful affiliate marketing blogs. The blog that my stolen post landed on was riddled with Google AdSense ads – probably making someone somewhere money.
When I originally wrote this article (back in October of 2010) I decided to concentrate on blogging and writing good content that my readers would find valuable. If I ended up having my content stolen again (which did happen) I’d mutter to myself again and rant and rave about it (but much less than the first time). People say that the Internet is like the Wild-Wild-West. I guess we just have to put up with a few robbers.
What Does Google Say about Content Scraping?
Today, as I updated this article, I came upon Barry Schwartz’s post Google’s Matt Cutts: That Scraper Isn’t Hurting Your Mom’s Site on SERoundTable.com. Barry cites a response from Matt Cutts, (Google’s head of search spam), to a message thread on Hacker News. In Barry’s article, he embedded a Google Webmaster Help video that Matt Cutt’s published (in 2009). Although Matt hasn’t been updating the comments recently, you may be interested in what he had to say back then:
“. . . in worse case, it won’t hurt . . . in some weird cases, it may actually help a little bit“
Over to You
What are your thoughts? Have you had your content plagiarized? What did you do? Did you spend the time to try to get it taken down? Were you successful? Have you read any more recent updates from Matt Cutts/Google about their take on copyright infringement? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas below.
Note: I first published this post October 28, 2010 and updated it on November 18, 2013.