Step-by-Step Guide to Fighting Against Content Theft

The problem with the easy availability of online content, including music, videos, text and images, is just that: not only is it accessible to potential viewers or customers, it's easy for other websites to steal and simply copy-paste onto their own website. Just think of the mindboggling statistics: Google gets requests from at least forty million users to take down some related website which had apparently infringed on their intellectual property (content). While such content thieves apparently never suffer from the moral obligations of crediting sources, there are certain ways in which you may secure retribution for such crimes. And as always, the internet is your friend in just this.

Step 1. Identifying the website that has stolen your content

Does this seem obvious? It might well be, but you'd be surprised at how many websites don't bother to properly check off this point correctly. What's the right way to go about when it comes to identifying stolen content? Simple.Finding exact correspondences. Please remember that to get Google to play nice and remove those listings which reap the benefits of your work, it is first necessary to ensure you have enough evidence to back up your claims. It's not enough to have a gut feeling that the content has been copied from your website, it isn't even enough to have ONE phrase that matches – after all, there's hardly anything new under the sun that hasn't already been used by thousands of writers. No matter which tool you use to check the authenticity of your claims (remember, a vague gut feeling that “this website's content seems to be a lot like mine!” should always, ALWAYS be checked first).

Adding Calls to Action and Internal Links might help in this Process:

How to identify such websites? It might be easier than you think, but again it depends on (a) the provisions on your website or blog, and (b) the stupidity of the thief. For instance, if you provide a lot of calls to action and internal links with whatever content you have, you might be able to trace back traffic from a different source other than your own blog or website. This is dependent upon direct lifting off of your website's content, and most content thieves have evolved beyond that. Still, this is worth a shot.

Step 2. Checking Claims with the help of the right tools

Tracking content that has been simply lifted off your website is quite easy, actually. All you need is a Copy Scape account or a similar plagiarism checker. If you want a free option, SmallSEOTools is a good option: but remember that free tools can only take you so far, and you might regret not using Copy Scape's superior engine and matching abilities.

  • Fire up the plagiarism tool of choice.
  • Paste the copied content from your content bandit's site onto the interface provided there.
  • Look for the "Check for Plagiarism" or some similar option on the page.
  • Wait while the engine finishes generating a report.

With this report in hand, you should now be ready for step 3 of the process.

Step 3: The Pacifist Movement right here, right now

You have the information, you have the legal backing. If at this point you feel seething anger and a lot of pent up frustration, we would hardly blame you. However, what might be somewhat helpful at this stage would be to reach out to the website's owners. You may be surprised to find that some of these websites didn't even directly copy your content: they may have actually paid somebody in good faith, and their crime would be to have not verified the content before actually putting it up on their website. You may even get them to offer you compensation for lost business, and make them take off the content altogether – that is, if you're feeling lenient. Of course, this is a rather rosy picture of the world so if the attempt at dialogue fails, it might just be best to skip on to the next step.

Step 4. Reporting it to the highest authority, i.e. Google

You can't just waltz into a local police station and say “Help, my content has been stolen!” can you now? What you can do successfully however is to contact Google, just to mitigate the damages already done to your website. When you have substantial evidence that content is being pilfered from your site and used almost verbatim in another one, and as long as you can establish that you were there first, Google is generally quite helpful.

How do you report content?

To report duplicate content, all you need to do is log in to your google account. The google webmaster account allows you to report on a variety of situations to Google, including “Webspam” that is defined by Google as something that tries to trick Google into providing it with a higher ranking than it would otherwise get. Phishing, Copy right or legal issues, objectionable content, are just some of the many options which Google lets you report on. You can simply use this link to reach Google's copy right removal page.

Step 5: Time to reach out to external sources

Let's assume that there are advertisements on the website that has stolen most of its content from you. While advertisers would generally pay good money to have link backs to their site, most have a strict policy on illegal content or legal right infringements. Chances are that if you reach out to these sources of funding for the website, and present them with enough information to support your claims, you'll be able to shut down the business of this external website altogether. By ensuring that their funding dies out, you would leave them with only a skeletal frame – and hopefully by this time Google will have stepped in as well to help you out here.

Another crucial step is to run a check on their hosting option, and if they're based in the US, you might be able to run a check by means of WHOis.net. It's basically a domain registry and lookup website which features a search engine type of interface. Look up this content bandit's website and find out who the internet service provider is. They may also be able to help you out and step in by stopping the errant website.

Step 6: The Final Take Down

The final step is to send a cease-and-desist to the website that is illegally copying your content from you, and this doesn't have to be as hard a process as you might think. For instance, you can create a take-down notice with the help of any of the assistive websites such as Copybyte who can send notices on your behalf, and Plagiarism Today that has templates for such notices to minimize any hassles to you. If the content is on YouTube or Facebook, these providers also have links which can help you report such infringement acts. For Facebook, you might want to look at the Help Page for this purpose.

Once you've successfully completed all these steps, you may sit back and feel slightly safe. But to completely prevent such acts of stealing, you might want to protect your site with encryptions, tools like Embed Anything, Copy Sentry, etc.