Copyright infringement is an unfortunate issue many internet marketers are encountering, often on a daily basis. Unscrupulous thieves seem to view someone else’s published content as fair game to copy; heck, I went through a long, unpleasant correspondence with one guy who flat out insisted, once I published my writing on the internet, it became public property for anyone to copy at will, without permission or attribution. There are also a lot of software programs out there to scrape content from article directories, websites etc., and automatically republish it on “autoblogs.”
I publish a lot of content in my blogs and at Ezine Articles, and, of course, my purpose is to get these articles picked up by niche-relevant webmasters and re-published in their blogs, newsletters, etc. But, they are required to leave my resource box with its backlinks to my own internet real estate intact. The vast majority of them do, but there are always one or two jerks who think the rules just don’t apply to them.
Implementing Google Alerts is one method I employ to alert me about people stealing my content, and I use it to good effect.
- Every time I publish anything, I always head straight to Google Alerts which provides me with customized, saved searches executed automatically and delivered to my inbox or RSS reader. To set up an alert, I pick one sentence or short paragraph from my article and enter it as a search term (exactly as you would for a regular Google search, with the same optional parameters). Then, I click the ‘Type’ field to define what source(s) Google should use: Everything, News, Blogs, Videos, Discussions, or Books.
- Next, I choose how often I need to receive alerts: ‘as it happens,’ ‘once a day’, or ‘once a week’. I usually select ‘as it happens.’ I also set the Volume to ‘only the best results.’
- Finally, I decide how I need the alerts to arrive: via email or feed; I normally opt for email.
Many marketers choose not to automate the process, and instead take that same sentence or paragraph and, at intervals, perform a manual Google search. Of course, this works in exactly the same manner, and it’s fine if you have a very limited amount of content published, but can you even begin to imagine the monumental task of keeping track of quite literally thousands of articles manually. I’m all for automation and Google Alerts is an unsung hero, working constantly on my behalf across the internet.
Then comes the crucial step in taking care of the content thieves swiftly, immediately you’re alerted to them. I have a multi-pronged attack.
First I search for an email contact on the offending website. This can sometimes be found on a contact page, or otherwise I go to the Whois Lookup Domain Tools, enter the website’s URL in the default ‘Search Domain Ownership Records’ text box and look for the email address listed for the Administrative Contact, and also the website’s hosting company. If the site is listed privately they will be one and the same.
Most of the time this will reveal the required information, but if this isn’t the case, I perform a TraceRoute. The last few ‘Hops’ will reveal the website’s hosting company.
I keep a reasonably friendly ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ form email which I shoot off immediately to the Administrative Contact’s email address, informing them of their copyright infringement. If it’s a private listing, I try email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org (replacing ‘website’ with the actual URL.)
Depending upon the results achieved by this first email (very often it will be ignored), I bring out the big guns and serve their hosting company straight away with a DMCA take-down notification. If I know the site’s email address, I’ll include a CC to them. This will demonstrate that you mean business and know what you are doing.
Here is a sample of a good, effective DMCA Take-down Notification:
Subject: Notice of Copyright Infringement
My name is [Your Name] and I am the [Your Title] of [Company Name]. This is to inform you that a website hosted on your servers (according to WHOIS information) is infringing upon at least one copyright owned by my company.
An article written by myself was copied onto your servers without my permission. The original material, to which we own the exclusive copyrights, can be viewed at:
PROVIDE WEBSITE URL
The unauthorized and infringing material at issue can be found at:
PROVIDE WEBSITE URL
This letter is official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (”DMCA”), and I seek the removal of the aforementioned infringing material from your servers. I request that you immediately notify the infringer of this notice and inform them of their duty to remove the infringing material immediately, and notify them to cease any further posting of infringing material to your server in the future.
Please also be advised that law requires you, as a service provider, to remove or disable access to the infringing materials upon receiving this notice. Under US law a service provider, such as yourself, enjoys immunity from a copyright lawsuit provided that you act with deliberate speed to investigate and rectify ongoing copyright infringement. If service providers do not investigate and remove or disable the infringing material this immunity is lost. Therefore, in order for you to remain immune from a copyright infringement action you will need to investigate and ultimately remove or otherwise disable the infringing material from your servers with all due speed should the direct infringer, your client, not comply immediately.
I am providing this notice in good faith and with the reasonable belief that rights my company owns are being infringed. Under penalty of perjury I certify that the information contained in the notification is both true and accurate, and I have the authority to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright(s) involved.
Should you wish to discuss this with me please contact me directly.
Your phone number
Your email address
This letter will usually be enough and any reputable hosting company will take care of the problem promptly. Unfortunately there is one particularly large hosting company (I’ve never dealt with them personally) which, I’ve read, completely ignores all such requests.
I’ve never had to go beyond the steps I’ve outlines above, but if all else fails, your next resort is Google. Go to their Help Page and provide them with the necessary information. Once you satisfy them that the website is publishing your copyrighted content without permission or attribution, they can de-index the website and it will vanish without trace.
If the website publishing your content is also displaying Adsense Ads, you have another arrow you can fire; immediately beneath the ads you will see a link ‘AdChoices’. Click on that link and it will take you to a page where you can ‘Report a policy violation regarding the site or ads you just saw.’ Copyright infringements are also an Adsense TOS violation.