Copyright theft and blogging

Copyright theft is a problem for all types of freelance writers, but when you write for the Internet, you become particularly vulnerable to it, as most professional bloggers will probably be able to testify.

Although most of my income these days comes from blogging, up until this weekend, I’d never experienced copyright theft. Well, there’s a first time for everything, I guess…

On Friday night Terry and I went out for dinner at my parents’ house. When we got home, I decided to quickly check my blog stats, because, yes, I AM that obsessed. It was lucky I did, though, because there, amongst the referrers for Big-Blogger was a URL I didn’t recognise. I clicked on it, out of curiosity – and found myself reading my own site. But it wasn’t my own site. No, some bright spark had decided to set up a blog, and copy all of my content – every last word of it. Well, why do your own hard work when you can steal someone else’s?

Needless to say, I was absolutely furious, and let me tell you, hell hath no fury like a blogger who discovers that someone has stolen her content. This dummy site (I could think of stronger words to describe it, but will refrain) was running Google Adsense, so basically, they were attempting to profit from my writing. I don’t like that.

Luckily for me, Google don’t really like copyright theft either, and neither do most webhosts, who, as I mentioned in this post will often remove a website found to be infringing someone’s copyright, rather than risk becoming embroiled in a legal battle. So, had I not been drinking wine that evening, my first steps would have been to:

1. Contact the company hosting the website in question (it took Terry just a few minutes to find out this information for me)

2. Contact Google, who may or may not have been able to help, but who do at least have the power to remove the offending site from both their search engine results page and from the Adsense programme.

Unfortunately, though, I had been drinking wine, so before taking either of these steps I had a quick look around the site for some contact details and, not finding any (surprise, surprise!), left a comment on the first stolen post I could find explaining that the content had been stolen from my site, and that, as a professional writer, I charge $1/word for this kind of content, so they could be expecting a hefty bill through the post for it. Oh, and a court summons, to address the issue of copyright theft.

Two minutes later, an email popped into my inbox:

“i’m the administrator of those wordpress instalations a haven’t know about ilegal content. i’m sending emails to get down all content inmediatly. thanks for the advice. you will be notifiel soon as posilbe.”

You can see why they felt the need to steal someone else’s content rather than writing your own, can’t you? I replied to this, saying again that, as well as reporting them to their hosts I would be charging the site owners for the content they’d used, and that it would be expensive.

A few minutes after that? The site was deleted. A small victory, but only a small one, because I have no idea how long my content was being used, or how many other people had also been targeted by these thieves. Another lesson learned for me, though, and from now on, I’ll be checking and double-checking my posts on Copyscape from now on to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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