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Stealing Content

How to Put the Kibosh on Content Scrapers & Thieves

If you have been blogging for more than a few months, you have undoubtedly had to deal with content theft on more than occasion.

Since it has been a couple of years since I have written about online content theft, I felt it was the perfect time to write an up-to-date post outlining some of the ways you can catch someone stealing your content, as well as what you can do to protect the content have worked so hard to create.

How to find out if your content is being stolen?

Before I get into the steps you should take when you catch someone stealing your content, let me give you a few ways to find out if your content is being stolen:

The most common way that I have caught content thieves is through trackback notifications. As long as you are receiving trackback notifications via email, you should be able to catch the majority of content scrapers. Just be sure you click through all your pingbacks so that copied posts don’t go unnoticed.

Copyscape is an online service for detecting plagiarism. Their basic service is free for a limited number of searches per day, per domain. They also offer a more advanced paid services called Copyscape Premium and Copysentry. Their Copysentry service will automatically scan the Internet on a daily or weekly basis, and email you whenever new copies of your content are found.

copyscape

You can also use search engines like Google to detect content theft. The best way to do this is to copy a unique excerpt from your post and paste it into a Google search. If it’s fairly unique, you can also copy your post’s title and paste it into a Google search. Using this technique is a simple but effective way to detect if someone has copied your post word for word.

penalties

What Can You Do When You Catch Someone Stealing Your Content?

In addition to several basic steps that you can immediately take, there are also a few extra tricks you can use to protect your content:

  1. Contact the blog or website’s owner and politely ask them to remove the stolen content. 95% of the time, this has been the only step I’ve needed to take. You can use the Whois Lookup from Domain Tools to help you find the blog or website’s owner contact information. On the rare occasions when this isn’t successful, move on to the next steps.
  2. Contact Google and file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint. In addition to Google giving your site credit for the original content, filing a DMCA complaint may result in Google completely removing a blog or website that is full of stolen content from their index. You can also file a Spam Report with Google to help fight back against content thieves.
  3. Contact the blog or website’s hosting company and file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint. Hosting companies are required by law to shut down the blog or website until the stolen content is removed. Most reputable hosting companies already have procedures in place for lodging your DMCA complaints with their security or abuse departments. The key to successfully using this technique is that you will need to prove to the hosting company that you were the first one to publish the content. A simple and effective way to do this is by using the free Wayback Machine from Archive.org. This technique has worked for me on several occasions when a blog or website owner refused to remove the stolen content on their own.

Bonus Tips for Dealing with Content Thieves

Credit for this tip goes to my friend Ann Smarty – You can use a free script called Tynt to automatically create a link back to your blog whenever someone copies and pastes content directly from your blog. After you have installed this script on your blog, you can see how it works by copying and pasting a short paragraph from one of your blog posts into Notepad:

tynt

Change any hotlinked images to something crazy!

This one will provide you with a good laugh. Below is an example of an image I once used in a stolen post:

stolenimage

Keep in mind that this only works if the thief hotlinks the image from your server, rather than saving the image and uploading it to their own server. You can use this tip manually, but you also can automate the process by using .htaccess and mod rewrite. This short .htaccess tutorial will show you how to automatically change your hotlinked images to whatever alternate image you would like to display.

What strategies have you used to deal with content scrapers? Please share your experiences in the comments!

This post is part of our Guest Blogging contest, if you like it then why not sharing it with your friends by retweeting it? this will give credits to the author and a better chance to win one of our awesome prizes.  By the way.. you also can participate in our contest, it’s not late!

Gerald is the President and Founder of Search Engine Marketing Group in Houston TX. He also maintains a Houston SEO blog.

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{ 130 comments… add one }

  • Idham Perdameian July 3, 2013, 4:26 am

    Great post!. Thank you Gerald, help me alot, your post made me clear.

  • Kathy Alice June 7, 2013, 10:02 pm

    I use the Google search method often, but would recommend enclosing the string in double quotes, if you don’t get any results back, you know your content has not been copied.

  • Ehab Attia October 5, 2012, 8:49 pm

    Copyscape is Great tool for way to track the content theft from your blog. and try to protect your images also to don’t make load to your hosting.

  • Nick September 30, 2012, 10:31 am

    DMCA notifications are useful, though many scrapers and other copyright infringers are not in the US so copyright laws may not be enforceable. In those instances, Google has a DMCA reporting dashboard which makes it pretty easy. https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-dashboard

    It never fails to amaze me that some of these clowns will copy almost your entire site (including the parts about creating original content!), then say “prove it” when presented with a DMCA notification. Simple enough with copyscape, wayback, and I have even used things like Diigo or Delicious bookmarks to help prove original publication date.
    Nick recently posted..Check Your Head – Meta Tags, Titles Still a Top SEO PriorityMy Profile

  • Razeen Harris
    Twitter:
    September 10, 2012, 1:16 am

    I had to deal with content thieves very often and if you contact them asking to remove the links they never reply unless you give some monetary rewards in return. The best way is to file Dmca complaint and ask Google Adsense to ban their account in suspicion for plagiarism

  • Satrap
    Twitter:
    September 28, 2011, 8:24 pm

    What a great post Gerald.

    I have seen my content stolen far too may times that I simply gave up. I mean most of these sites go out of business in a few months or so any way. Most of them are newbies who red on a forum or a blog about autobloggging and they think they can do it by stealing content. Of course, after a few months of not making a dime, they simply give up the site.

    Of course, its always a good idea to report these things. To be honest, I really didn’t know who to turn to. So, I just didn’t worry about it too much. I think contacting Google or the host is very good option. Thanks.
    Satrap recently posted..Google Work From Home Jobs- Scam or Legitimate?My Profile

  • Mark
    Twitter:
    July 16, 2011, 6:06 pm

    Great idea about changing graphics, Gerald.

    I am sure that people have done this and put up some pretty offensive pictures as a means to deliver a message to scrapers.

    Hilarious…:)

    Mark

  • Olawale Daniel
    Twitter:
    July 7, 2011, 1:12 pm

    This is very serious. I don’t even believe that people can be doing such a thing and still think they can taste success online. Thanks a lot for this awesome information.
    Olawale Daniel recently posted..How To Backup Your Google Data (Part 2)My Profile

  • Rae March 29, 2011, 8:02 am

    This is really great. New things are explored. thanks for sharing this post.

  • Sietse March 15, 2011, 6:57 pm

    cool, hadn’t heard about Copyscape before. Going to give it a try right away!

    Of course, that’s only to find stuff that already has been copied from your blog. I’m definitely going to try out that Tynt plugin to make sure I get a link back when my articles are copied.
    Sietse recently posted..5 Internet Laws You Should Know Before Starting An Online BusinessMy Profile

  • Maria Pavel February 21, 2011, 5:55 am

    What can I do if the content is posted on some free webhosting service or blog like blogpost? It happened to me in the past and there was nothing I could do about it..though I am pretty sure these pages weren’t stealing any traffic from my website with the copied content.

    Maria
    Maria Pavel recently posted..Salaries Of Certified Nursing AssistantsMy Profile

    • Gerald Weber
      Twitter:
      February 21, 2011, 9:24 am

      If it is a free blogging platform like blogger, you can contact blogger and lodge a complaint. They have a tos and as far as I know posting unoriginal content is against their tos.

      In fct I have a friend that had that exact issue and blogger suspended the account of the offender.
      Gerald Weber recently posted..“I SERPd It On The Web” The SEO Show 4 Meet Mark Thompson 2-9-11 8pm ESTMy Profile

      • Maria Pavel February 21, 2011, 11:57 am

        Thanks for the tips Gerald, makes a lot of sense to contact the owners of the platform. I recall contacting the owner of the blogger but he didn’t bother removing the stolen content!

        Maria
        Maria Pavel recently posted..CNA Training In AlaskaMy Profile

  • Vijayraj Reddy
    Twitter:
    February 9, 2011, 4:21 am

    Copyscape is the ultimate way to track the content theft for our blog posts…

  • Navin
    Twitter:
    February 8, 2011, 7:41 am

    Thanks for the wonderful article, atcully every blogger need to work against content theft. thanks again.
    Navin recently posted..10 SEO Tips to Keep In Mind Before You Start a Blog or a WebsiteMy Profile

  • Tony Smith January 16, 2011, 10:23 am

    Thanks. I had now idea about the DMCA or how to deal with content thieves before I read this. Great info!
    Tony Smith recently posted..Tips for Starting a New Blog Part 2My Profile

  • Tony Smith January 16, 2011, 10:20 am

    Thanks for the great article! I had no idea how to deal with content thieves and I didn’t know anything about the DMCA. (Okay, I’ve been living under a rock!) Seriously, thanks for posting this!!!
    Tony Smith recently posted..Tips for Starting a New Blog Part 2My Profile

  • Rodger January 14, 2011, 10:46 am

    Copyscape is a great way to ensure you are not being plagiarized. I did not know about the hotlinked images.

  • Claire January 2, 2011, 2:26 pm

    I have know of a couple of other sites hotlinked the images on my site , its actually taking a lot of bandwidth but I don’t know how to deal with it properly. I guess you gave me an awesome idea how to do it. Great share. Many thanks!
    Claire recently posted..HP Pavilion dv7-4285dx Reviews- Specs &amp Sale PriceMy Profile

  • Justin Germino
    Twitter:
    December 22, 2010, 2:39 am

    I just recently purchased the 200 scans for $10 (.05 cents per scan) particularly to check for duplicate content from guest bloggers. I use a combination of copyscape and simple searches on google for my blog title or first 2 sentences to find content thieves on occasion. One good thing to do is put a copyright in your RSS feed by using something like RSS Footer for Wordpress, make it include a copyright statement and a link back to your site.
    Justin Germino recently posted..The Expendables reviewMy Profile

  • Tom December 3, 2010, 7:25 pm

    I’d never thought about changing images! That tip is absolute gold.
    Tom recently posted..Legitimate Paid Surveys In AustraliaMy Profile

  • Abhimanyu Singhal November 14, 2010, 5:02 am

    Thanks for this Copyscape. Although no one’s copied my content yet, I will use it regularly in future to prevent plagiarism.

    Cheers!
    Abhimanyu

  • Murray November 3, 2010, 11:35 pm

    A lot of it comes down to how much am I going to be pissy vs. how much does it really matter – I’d say if a major blog ripped your stuff than yeah, go after it but when it’s a scraper – do you really want to spend an hour or more trying to contact the person? Ehhh, just work on new content.
    Murray recently posted..Small Business- The Importance Of A WebsiteMy Profile

  • Keith November 3, 2010, 1:35 pm

    I use Copyscape for written content and Digimarc for images. I also give my image names a little unique tag at the end of the file name. I do not know if this damages my SEO or not, but it makes it much easier to find image thieves. I also occasionally include a unique phrase in text to search for.
    Keith recently posted..Oct 28- Santas Workshop by Norman Rockwell 1922My Profile

  • Suresh Khanal
    Twitter:
    October 12, 2010, 2:36 am

    It is easily sensed that there has been great headache due to the content theft. I saw a few plugins implemented in some blogs that stops you from using copy command. Not only copy command but the whole context menu (the one you get by right clicking) is disabled. It appears a good solution to stop content piracy. But it has another side too:

    I was writing a post and wished to quote some lines from some other blog. I was not stealing content from any corner. But because the right click on the page was disabled, I had to retype the text in my post. I did it but was not much happy to retype. Has content piracy that trouble so that I should block the legitimate uses as well?

    I liked the concept of Tynt.
    Suresh Khanal recently posted..Unsubscribe Me- I’m NOT A SPAM!My Profile

    • Gerald Weber
      Twitter:
      October 12, 2010, 12:20 pm

      Yes Tynt is really cool.

      I tried one the of disable right clicks plugins (it seemed to sound like a good idea.) but some people like to copy and paste their comments in case something goes wrong.

      After several complaints I finally uninstalled the plugin.
      Gerald Weber recently posted..Does SERPd Need a Copywriting CategoryMy Profile

  • John October 11, 2010, 1:30 pm

    Great information here. I love the photo you added for when people take your images. I have a question though. What if you have a blog and you think something is interesting on someone elses, is it ok to post it but give a link to their site to show where you got the information from.
    John recently posted..Falling out of love with FoursquareMy Profile

    • Gerald Weber
      Twitter:
      October 11, 2010, 6:31 pm

      I believe there is nothing wrong with writing about something due to being inspired by someone else’s post.

      I do agree that it’s good form to link to the post that inspired you. Also most bloggers appreciate when you throw them a link so it’s also a great way to get noticed (and possibly make some new friends)
      Gerald Weber recently posted..Does SERPd Need a Copywriting CategoryMy Profile

      • John October 12, 2010, 7:26 am

        Thanks I have really been wondering about it. I think I will write a post just for him and highlight his blog. There is one in particular that covers all the things I am interested in.
        John recently posted..Falling out of love with FoursquareMy Profile

        • Gerald Weber
          Twitter:
          October 12, 2010, 8:17 am

          As long as you aren’t copying the post word for word. I think it’s usually best to maybe cover a point or two not in the original post. (so you are adding something additional to the reader experience)

          Like I said most bloggers are really pleased when their article inspires another to write something. And this is especially trust if there is a link involved.
          Gerald Weber recently posted..Does SERPd Need a Copywriting CategoryMy Profile

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