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Is It Really Theft?
"Borrowing" seems to be rampant on the Internet these days. Text, images, even entire site designs are copied from their owner and reproduced on another site. To many it seems innocent enough, after all they haven't removed anything from the original creator of the work, just duplicated it.
It IS theft. People who copy web text and reuse it on their own sites are in violation of copyright law.
A brief description based on the page What is Copyright Protection? is below:
A copyright protects published and unpublished literary, scientific and artistic works, provided the work is created in a tangible or material form.
Copyright laws grant the creator the exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute, and display the work publicly. Exclusive rights means only the creator of such work has the right to reproduce it, not anybody who has the ability to cut and paste.
Copyright violation is infuriating- someone takes your hard work and in 5 seconds, they are pretending they did that work. It can even impact your search engine rankings. How to deal with it? We have 2 articles today dealing with the topic.
Debra O'Neill Mastaler of Alliance Link has a creative way to turn those infringers into a link-building opportunity and I'll follow that up with some suggestions on how to find and deal with those copyright infringers.
Read on and start protecting your hard work! -Scottie
The Upside of Copyright Infringment
Making Lemonade From the Lemons
I spend a lot of time on the Internet every day. I offer customized link
building campaigns as well as search engine marketing services, so I'm
constantly looking for websites and news sources within specific industries
and niche markets.
When I'm working, I become familiar with the sites in a given niche or
marketplace; I have to in order to find link and ranking patterns that
benefit my client's website.
Lately, I've noticed an alarming trend of what I call "copyright deja vu".
I keep reading the same text on different sites over and over....to the
point where I quit reading the content because I know what's coming.
For the longest time I was just outraged at what some people passed off as
their own, but over time I've learned how to deal with sites that copy
content and can even turn some into useful link partners.
For example, when I find a site hosting my client's content and it's in a
complementary niche, I email and ask for a link. I carefully point out the
site's use of my client's verbiage and suggest both websites could benefit
if they agree to give credit where it's rightfully due. Most bite and add
the keyword rich anchor text link I send and my little "lemon" suddenly
But not all sites are created equal or are in a complementary market where
you'd want to link. When these types of "lemons" come along, I suggest my
client follow these easy steps:
1. Screen shot the site hosting your copyrighted text and save it. You
might need it for number 3 below.
2. Write the site, point out the infraction and ask for the content to be
removed. Provide a deadline and ask they contact you once the information
has been taken down.
3. If the deadline comes and goes and the content is still in place, find
out who their ISP is and provide the following info via email or postal
- A physical or electronic signature of the copyright owner, or
the person authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner;
- A description of the copyrighted work(s) claimed to have been infringed;
- A description of the infringing material and information reasonably
sufficient to allow the ISP to locate the material;
- Information reasonably sufficient to permit the ISP to contact you,
including name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address;
- A statement by you that you have a good faith belief that use of the
material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright
owner, its agent, or the law;
- A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and
under penalty of perjury, that you are authorized to act on behalf of the
Once the ISP receives notice of the copyright infringement (here's where the
screen shot helps) they must take down the unauthorized material. That
usually gets the offenders attention and they comply.
If you want to take it a step further and have the copied content removed
from Google, follow the instructions they provide very carefully. I've had
to do this in the past and was pleasantly surprised by the prompt and
thorough action Google takes. In my case, Google replaced the pages hosting
my content with links pointing to a complete report of the infringement on
Chilling Effects. See a listing of the major search engine copyright infringment pages in Pursuing Copyright Infringers.
Copying content is not ok under any circumstance without the permission of
the author. You can't use the excuses
"Someone else wrote the content, I
just uploaded it", No, it's not public domain
and none of those excuses will get you off the hook from being penalized
when you're caught.
"We hired an outside company to create content",
t it public domain once it's been uploaded?"
Be vigilant in looking for infringements, it's simple to do. Copy and paste
a couple lines of your verbiage in the Google search box and see what comes
back. If anything does, use one of the tips above and get a link back to
your site or work to get your content removed.
Based in Williamsburg, Virginia, Debra O'Neil-Mastaler is President of
Alliance-Link, a search engine marketing firm specializing in link building
campaigns and local search engine optimization strategies. She is a speaker at the Search Engine Strategies conferences and the High Rankings Seminars as well as moderator of the Link Building Forum at the High Rankings Forum.
By Scottie Claiborne© 2004
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There was a time when I thought imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. But when it comes to copyright violations, it's not flattering at all. It's theft and it needs to be pursued.
Why bother? After all, isn't your time better spent doing things to improve your site, moving forward instead of chasing deadbeats around? For the most part that's true, but copyright infringement on the Internet can impact your site in search engine rankings. Most of the search engines try to weed out duplicate content (but they aren't very good at it yet) and at the very least, display the most important version of the duplicate content first. The "most important" version might not be yours!
Copyright violation is a legal issue in the US and most other countries and can be pursued as a civil case (for money) if the violator profits from the stolen work. As a website owner, if you find your copy on multiple sites without the proper credit, it makes YOU look like a possible copyright violator as well.
All that being said, who has time to spend on the internet looking for copyright violations? It IS time consuming and you DO have better things to do. I've found that Google Alert does an amazing job of helping me to spot violators.
Google Alert is a free service that monitors the search phrases of your choice (up to 3) and sends you an e-mail when it finds new pages containing that phrase. Their paid version allows for more search queries and deeper results returned. It works so well, you'll be amazed at where your humble copy turns up.
Simply input a string of words unique to your page in the Alert setup. The more unique the phrase is, the less "false positives" you'll get for finding pages with your copy on them. It just takes a few minutes with each email alert to click through the results and see if the copy on the page is in fact, yours and whether or not the page has properly credited the original version with a visible link (if you allow that.)
Another great tool in your fight against copyright infringement is the Wayback Machine. Put a URL into the Wayback Machine to see past copies of the site. It's a helpful way to establish when your copy was published and when the offender's copy was published. The Wayback Machine even has a helpful tool you can put in the Links section of your browser that will take you straight to the past copies of whatever page you visit. Not every site is in the Wayback Machine, but a huge number of sites are in there.
Report infringers who refuse to remove your copy or give you proper credit to their ISP's and the search engines. See The Upside of Copyright Infringement for details on finding out ISP's and reporting violations to them.
Below are the copyright notification pages from the various SE's.
Some pages aren't worth tracking- I have a FAQ page for a specific industry that's been duplicated so often there's no way I could pursue them all. And honestly, the information is not all that original or unique, so it's not worth the time. While I wish people had at least made the effort to change the wording somewhat, it's not worth spending hours defending it.
Each has a mail/fax address and a specific procedure to follow.
On the other hand, copy and articles that present a unique point of view or compelling sales copy are worth defending. The longer you wait, the harder it is to prove that your copy was the original. And if it's really good content, you get into the "I didn't copy it from you, I copied it from him," snowball effect.
As in any industry, the bad apples make it harder on all of us. Luckily, we have some great tools to help track the issues and responsive entities (the search engines and ISP's) that make correcting the wrongs possible.
Scottie Claiborne is the owner of Right Click Web Consulting and the facilitator of the Successful Sites Newsletter. She is a speaker at the Search Engine Strategies conferences and the High Rankings Seminars as well as the administrator of the High Rankings Forum.
OK, so it's been a while since I published the newsletter. I have no excuse! I've had this great article from Debra since August 5 and had it all nicely formatted and just didn't get around to creating the rest of the newsletter. I've been REALLY busy, so get off my back. Hey- it's free! You're still getting your money's worth. ;-)
Seriously, it's been a crazy time with lots and lots of work piling up, both for my own projects and clients. I can't complain about staying busy. But I am looking forward to some time with my buddies at Jill Whalen's High Rankings Seminar in Boston next week. I hear it's beautiful this time of year, but that I should leave my shorts at home. Brr! Cold weather- who needs it? :-)
That's it for this edition- have a good one! -Scottie
Have a Specific Question About Today's Articles?
Do you wish you could get a little advice on a specific issue about your site? Come on over to the High Rankings Forum and ask me or any of the other super helpful moderators or members.
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