A few weeks ago, I warned the Chronic Illness Bloggers community about a long list of unscrupulous websites that have plagiarized content from several of our members. If you missed the post, then please take a few minutes to check it out here so you can protect yourself and your readers from these harmful sites. As a community, we really need to educate ourselves on how to identify these plagiarized websites so we are not promoting them on our social media feeds.
In that post, I promised a follow-up on what to do if one of these sites steals your content and publishes it on their own site without your permission, so here goes…
When my content was first plagiarized, I read several online articles for advice on what to do and how to prevent it. Some of these articles advised people to contact the offending website and ask them to take the plagiarized content down. Early on, I tried doing this but found it to be a waste of time. I don’t recall a single instance where a site actually removed the stolen content just because I asked them to do it. The fact is most of these sites are well aware that what they’re doing is illegal, and yet they choose to do it anyway in order to line their own pockets, so don’t expect them to all of sudden develop morals and remove your content if you email them and ask nicely.
I have lost count of the number times my content has been ripped off by these sites, and after dealing with this issue for the past couple of years, I’ve developed a system that works pretty well for getting them to remove my content from their sites. Here’s what I do:
- Locate the website’s hosting company – I use two websites to help with this: WhoIsHostingThis.com and HostAdvice.com’s Who Is tool.
- Visit the hosting company’s website and figure out where to submit a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint. The process varies from company to company, but I can typically find instructions under the “tech support” category of the website or by emailing or calling the company’s tech support department.
- Submit a completed DMCA form to the hosting company. Here is a sample form that you can use. Just add in your own information, sign it (this is very important!) and submit it using the hosting company’s instructions. Early on when I was first submitting these, I decided to rewrite the DMCA sample letter to simplify it. Don’t do that! I actually had a hosting company reject my DMCA request because my submission did not sound official enough. They required the legal jargon as part of their approval process.
- Play the waiting game – Most hosting companies should respond to your DMCA within a couple of business days. If not, you’ll need to follow-up on the status of your request.
These steps work pretty well for most of the plagiarized sites that I’ve encountered, but they aren’t foolproof. Some of these websites have gotten savvy and are paying extra in order to have their hosting company kept confidential. In that case, it requires hiring an attorney to handle the matter. I have not gone to those lengths to have my content removed because it’s just not worth it.
There have also been instances where non-U.S. based hosting companies have not responded to my DMCAs. Again, I have cut my losses and moved on.
There is a way to apply to have content removed from Google, but I’ve never gotten a sense for how successful that is. Whenever I’ve filled out the form, it’s just sort of disappeared into the Internet ether.
Another tip… If you find your stolen content has been shared on Facebook, go here to report it to Facebook to have it removed. Otherwise, people will just keep sharing it.
As you can tell, this whole process takes up a lot of time and energy. Frankly, I got tired of sending out DMCAs every month, so I did some research and have found a way to slow the number of sites stealing my work. I installed a plugin called JCWP copy paste blocker that prevents anyone from cutting and pasting the content from my site. (WordPress has other copy/paste blockers, too. Just do a plugin search for options.) I’ve had one reader complain that she couldn’t use the right-click button to navigate my site, but that’s the only negative feedback I’ve received. Installing that plugin has cut the plagiarism from my site to almost nothing. (There is a way for a site to still steal content using the RSS feed, but so far I haven’t had an issue with that.)
I hope this helps those who have been victimized by these unscrupulous sites. I know it’s upsetting and frustrating when you spend hours on a post and then someone tries to profit off of your hard work.