If you have a company website, you probably went to considerable effort, either on your own or by hiring a writing professional, to produce copy that accurately reflects your brand, perfectly positions your company and keenly persuades the right audience to use your services. What happens then, when you find another website has stolen that copy, word for word, for use on their own site? It happens. In fact, it's very easy to unethically rob content on the web.
Finding out that your website has fallen prey to copyright infringement can be a very frustrating experience. After all, you spent the time, money and effort to develop unique content for your customers, and someone else is trying to reap the benefits for free. This article outlines some tips for finding out if someone has indeed swiped your hard-earned web content and handling the situation if your site has been robbed.
Protecting Your Content
Right from the beginning, it's a good idea to copyright your website's content. At the very least, this means you should display a copyright notice (including the "©" and publication year) on every page. We also recommend properly registering your site's copyright. That way if anyone does steal your work, you are further protected. For more information on this, read the United States Copyright Office's page on Copyright Registration for Online Works.
Finding Plagiarism With Copyscape
Copyscape offers a simple, free online service that allows you to find duplicates of your website copy across the web. All you have to do is type in the URL of the page in question and Copyscape finds all the matches. Take note that these matches will include the folks who have dishonestly lifted your content, as well as those who have appropriately quoted your site.
Copyscape also offers HTML code for free plagiarism warning banners that you can place at the bottom of every page in order to dissuade plagiarists.
Finding Plagiarism With Google
You can also search the web for duplicates of your content by using a simple Google search. Just copy a paragraph's worth of text from the page in question and paste it in the Google search box. Google will bring up your site and any other matches it finds.
4 Steps to Battling Plagiarism When You Find It
If you confirm website plagiarism via Copyscape, Google or other means, here are some steps to dealing with the offending website and getting the infringement removed.
1. Email the offending webmaster with a firm but respectful request to remove the plagiarized content. Your email should include:
2. If this request does not work, you can contact the offender's web hosting company, which can also be found on Whois. Often times a hosting company can be held legally responsible for their users' copyright infringements, so they will insist that the site owner removes the content.
3. The next step would be to contact any search engines that are showing results for the sites with stolen content. Search engines do not look fondly on copyright infringement, and so the hope here is that the search engine will cease to list these sites in their result showings at all. As you can imagine, losing one's search engine listing can really affect a company's business. Here's information on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and how to file a notice of infringement with Google.
4. If all else fails, or even before that, seek professional legal advice on how to proceed.
With a few simple precautionary steps at the start, you can deter content theft from the very beginning. However, if someone does take advantage of your hard work and try to claim your content as their own, these simple steps should help you get the material removed without too much headache or lengthy or expensive legal action.
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