The internet is a vast place with all sorts of people: there are content authors who strive to create unique and interesting articles and videos, there are people reading or watching the said content, and there are people who steal it and use it for their own purposes. Sadly, the internet is rife with copyright infringement. Some people still believe wrongly that once something was put up on the internet it is fair game for anyone who wants to take it.
While photographers are the most common victims of copyright infringement (“I got the photos from Google Images”), business websites and blogs are not safe from this form of theft. You must be aware that at any moment, an unscrupulous person may copy your website design or your written content and use them for their own gain.
Google Protects Your Ranking and Penalises Copycats
This is the first thing you need to know, before you start panicking that your carefully enacted SEO strategy may go down the drain. Google is able to differentiate between the web page which first posted the content, and the second page which posts the copied content. And it penalises the duplicate content.
Still, you need to take measures and stop the thief from gaining traffic and even sales from the content you created or paid for. Here are the things you need to do:
- Gather Evidence of Your Ownership and of the Theft
Establishing the so-called paper trail is very important in order to prove your case, especially if you decide to take legal action. Collect every piece of evidence proving that you are the creator and rightful owner of the content:
- The initial text editor document in which you wrote the content piece
- The internet history proving your research on the topic and the date when you made the research
- Communication with the hired content writer, all correspondence up to the delivery of the final content piece and the bill you paid for it
- Screenshot of the backend of your website, indicating the date when you uploaded the content on your site
After you have completed this part of documentation, take a screenshot of the copycat website, as well as proof from an internet tool like Copyscape that their content is not original, but duplicate.
- Contact the Offender
In many cases, a message sent to the copycat website owner through the contact form or using the email address they provide is enough to solve the problem. Be polite, but firm and describe the evidence you hold proving that they stole your content.
On many occasions, the offenders will remove the duplicate content – they don’t want trouble and only did it because they thought they could get away with it because “the internet is huge”.
- Send a Takedown Notice to the Web Host
If you do not get any reply and you continue to see your stolen content on the copycat website, it is time to take things further. Using a service like WhoIsHostingThis, you will find out the name of the hosting company on whose servers the offending website is hosted.
Once you find their contact information, send a Takedown Notice (you can find free templates on the internet). Include all the evidence you collected. Hosting services are more proactive in removing stolen content than website owners – it is bad for business to gain the unsavoury reputation of “top hosting service for copyright infringing materials”.
- File a DMCA Complaint
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows copyright holders to report infringement through the Google DMCA Dashboard or directly at DMCA.com – for a fee. The usual result of such a filing is the takedown of an entire website, or blocking it from appearing among the Google search results.
This is a drastic measure, but if you have no luck even with the takedown notice to the web hosting service, it is the next but last option you have to remove stolen content from the internet.
- Take Legal Action
This step is not to be taken lightly, because it will cost you, both in terms of money and time. You will have to hire attorneys and sue the website owner for copyright infringement and the case could take months before you get a final court order.
However, if you are losing traffic and sales due to this copyright infringement, and if the offender consistently steals content from your website, it is a step which you must take in order to protect your business.