Copying Articles and Getting Duplicate Content Removed
Copying Internet Articles
This article is primarily intended for those people that write on HubPages, but most of it is also applicable to anyone writing on the web. Authors writing on HubPages are no different than those anywhere else; they have their hard work stolen for reproduction elsewhere and I'm sure that there are a few of of the thousands and thousands of writers that are willing to steal as well. Unfortunate but it is a fact of life we all have to live with.
This article is a departure from my normal writing; you won't find pretty pictures and you won't find Amazon products to buy. What I hope you will find is help in understanding what duplicate, copied content is and how you can help stop the thieves stealing the content you have worked hard to produce.
The article is broken into three sections; a short discussion on using copied material yourself, instructions on how to find your content that has been published by someone else and a final section on how to get that stolen material removed from the web. I will apologize in advance if the next section seems a little like a rant - I've had a considerable amount of my work stolen by content thieves - but many people don't understand the ramifications of copying web content and what it means to do so.
Copying Content for Your Own Use
The Digital Mellenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a US law that protects the copyright of digital mediums; for the purpose of this article, your work published on the internet. It is coordinated with the European Union and is accepted throughout most, but not all, of the world.
Simplifying considerably, it says that your publication on the internet is automatically protected by copyright law; that without specific permission no one else can reproduce and republish it. It also clearly protects the work of others; you cannot legally copy their work and use it in your article. Additional information can be found on Wikipedia as well as other locations.
It doesn't stop there, though. Most of us have been subjected to the idea that plagiarism is wrong in our school years and that concept very definitely applies to the theft of web content. In some ways we may be losing our ethics and this is one of those ways in that many writers see nothing wrong in stealing work that someone else did for their own gain. It is wrong, unethical, and no amount of claiming otherwise is going to change that. It is no different than someone breaking into your home and stealing your TV set or the picture you painted and hung on your wall. To steal someone else's work makes you a thief, and simply because it is on the web won't change that.
Nor does it stop at text; images and photos are included in the DMCA as well as in the ethical concerns of stealing those things. HubPages has recently made somewhat of an issue of the use of stolen photos and they are entirely right in doing so. If you do not have specific permission to use a photo or image, and it's not in the public domain, don't do so. Because you can't find what you want for free and don't want to take your own photo isn't a reason to steal someone else's. The HubPages learning center has a section on how to properly use photos on HP, although not all of that information is applicable to other sites.
Shortly before writing this article I found some 30 instances where entire articles were stolen and posted elsewhere. Of those, 27 were taken by thieves for SEO purposes, to earn them money. Two were posted in forums where someone was asking a question and my article provided the answer (while crediting someone else for providing such a good answer) and one was copied by school kids building a site as a school project. Certainly the thief stealing 27 articles knew better, and the other 3 should have known better but may not have, thus this section. Please, don't steal other's content; it is neither legal nor ethical.
Usable Web Content
Certain material is considered to be in the public domain. Images over 100 years old. Government funded documents or images (at least in the US; other countries may and do differ). Public domain material can be used by anyone for any purpose.
Some authors voluntarily release their work, usually photos, into the public domain where it is freely available. Others permit the use of their material only if attributed to them, if it is unmodified or if it is not used for commercial purposes. Make sure that you understand the permissible uses for content before using it, and realize and respect the fact that if you can't find permission it means you are not free to use it.
Relatively few images or articles are available for your use. Simply because you find an image with a Google search or on a website somewhere does not mean it can be used.
Finding Copied Content
Thieves that have copied your content can most definitely damage you - it is not uncommon to find the stolen work being listed above your own on search engine results. After all, many of the thieves are quite knowledgeable about writing on the web and have had considerable experience at promoting traffic. When they do they are siphoning traffic that should legitimately have gone to you and it is therefore in your best interest to find and remove that stolen content.
One of the easiest ways to find that content is to do a Google search for it. Open your article and block in a random phrase, a dozen words or so. Copy that phrase and past it into a search engine, with quotes around it. For instance, I'll look at my own article,
go down a couple of paragraphs or so and copy the phrase "to clean the track out - remove any debris, small rocks or gravel, etc. Vacuum the track thoroughly and see if" (including the quote marks) into a Google search. The search result below is what I find.
The first result is my own article, and expected. The other three, however, are all something that I certainly had nothing to do with. If I open those links and take a look I find my article, or at least the phrase that I searched for. Sometimes the site is large and difficult to find my work in; by pressing Cntrl F in FireFox (other browsers may have a different "find" procedure) I can get a search box to put the same phrase in and the browser will then locate that and show it.
Take a little care here and verify that a good portion of your article has been stolen, not just a sentence or two. If it is just a sentence, that is considered acceptable and you really have no rights to demand it be removed. If it's a short paragraph I will often request that it either be removed or a link to the article inserted; a backlink is probably an acceptable tradeoff to using a small portion of my article.
But what if you have many articles to check? I recently checked at least one phrase, often two or more, from 175 articles and it's neither easy nor quick. There ought to be a better way, and there is. There are quite a few sites that will do the work for you, for a fee. Of course, it's that "fee" part that turns away most people, but as you grow it may well become just another business cost, the same as maintaining an internet connection or a computer. At some point you will have to either give up and allow the thieves free access to your work (and accept the drop in traffic and income that comes with it) or shell out a little cash. My decision, after this episode of tracking down thieves, is to use one of those services and pay the $10 per month or so it will cost; you will make your own decision.
I do not endorse any of these sites, having tried none of them. At best, I can only say that Copyscape seems to be a popular service.
How to Get Duplicate Content Removed
You've found that your article has been stolen, now you need to take steps to protect yourself and get it removed from the net. But how?
The quickest and easiest is to make a request of the "author". You might leave a comment in their comment section, for instance, or send an email to them. Unfortunately this seldom works, but it is the most "gentle" method and I will try it occasionally if I believe the publisher does not understand the rules of copyright laws and is innocent of any wrong intent.
Second is to notify the owner of the site. HubPages, for example, provides a link at the bottom of each of your articles that someone can use to make a complaint about that article. Many, but not all, sites provide just such a link or information and it is usually quite effective. If not, whois is a popular site that can often be used to find a site owner and another version is whoishostingthis. If I put the URL to one of my articles into the search block at Whois, it returns the following screen (the section shown here is a ways down the total text shown).
As you can see, the address, phone and email of HubPages is shown and can be used to file a DMCA claim. In the large majority of cases, particularly if the "author" of the copied material is not the site owner, this is enough. As an example, if HubPages contacts you with a DMCA claim that you have copied and stolen material in your article and you do nothing about it, HubPages will not only remove it themselves, but likely everything else you have as well. This solution is seldom welcomed by the thief and they will normally remove the material fairly quickly.
If the offending content isn't removed within 48 hours I will contact the hosting site next. Not all authors or site owners check either their site or email often - if they don't care enough to do that it's time for something else. This one is a little more complex, though, as that host must be located and a simple Whois search will not provide that.
To find the host, begin by visiting a site called Kloth. Insert the domain into the search block and change the query block to "ANY" (the default is something else). Make sure it is the domain - searching for a article URL will not work, but a search for HubPages.com does. The main domain is the term just before the dot com, dot org or other suffix. This search will return the ip address of the site, as shown below.
A "host" is the company that is providing the web hosting service, that allows a person or company to make their website accessible to the internet.
Although it is possible to be your own host, it is rare. Nearly all domains and sites are being "hosted" by someone else. GoDaddy.com and HostGator are two of the thousands of hosts available. You can have a blog at Blogger.com by signing up with Google.
It is that host, then, that actually controls the access to the internet for nearly all websites. And that can remove that access as well. Although the DMCA exempts internet service providers from liability for copyright violations of their users, those providers are nevertheless more than willing to help in removing a copied article. For the most part they will merely forward the DMCA complaint to the site owner, but the message being given is clear; "Take it down or else!".
With the ip address known, the next step is to find the hosting site, and a contact to file a claim with. To accomplish this, visit Arin and input the ip address into the search box in the upper right of the screen. The results of a search for the ip address found above are shown below.
Although the information you are looking for can sometimes be found by scrolling down, it often cannot. In this case, clicking the "Upstream organizations POC records produces a second screen:
We're getting close, but still not there. The bottom line, however, looks promising: the "abuse" link. Clicking that bottom link takes us to this screen:
And at last we have an email address where we can send a complaint that HubPages has plagiarized our content. In the case of the thief that stole 27 of my articles and spread them all over the web I didn't even attempt to contact the person, but went straight to the host. Most hosts, given enough provocation, can and will close down the entire domain. A thief that has stolen as much material as mine did (nearly everything I saw on his many sites was copied) not only deserves but needs to be shut down, and the domain host is a great place to start that proceeding.
If all of this still doesn't produce a result there still a couple of options left. If there are adsense ads on the offending site a comoplaint can be filed with Adsense. There will be a button on the ad itself to report abuse or the link here can be used. Adsense cannot remove the copied content, but the can and will pull their ads. Again, do that enough and the thief will be out of business. The other thing is to file with Google itself, with a request not to remove the content (they can't) but to remove the site from the search engine index. Again, do that enough times and the thief is out of business. Of course, you will also have to file with Bing and Yahoo.
With an address, however and whichever you choose, it's time to actually file the DMCA claim
How to File a DMCA Complaint
Filing a DMCA is simple. Basically you are notifying someone that the material on their site is illegal, that you are the owner of the copyright on it and are requesting that it be taken down. I'm not going to go into a lot detail here - the HubPages learning center has a tutorial on filing a DMCA - but will only provide the basic form letter that can be used.
I have recently been made aware that certain of my copyrighted work is appearing on a page hosted by (name of host, site, etc.)
The work at issue is the text that appears at: (URL of your article that has been copied).
The following page infringes on my copyrighted work: (URL of the offending page. Not domain, but actual page where the stolen material can be seen).
I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner.
I can be reached at:
(your name and email)
Thank you for your cooperation:
(Your name. Not the name you write under, but your legal name)
The items in bold must be included. You must use your legal name and you must include both the location of the original work and the copied material.
Good luck and please don't use copied content in your own writing whether it be text, image or anything else.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Dan Harmon