On Blogging and Social Media

To help educators get started with social media and blogging

Monday, July 20, 2009

Is your content being stolen?

Posted by Nik Peachey

The Internet has revolutionised the way and amount of information that we can publish and share and being able to contribute your knowledge to the growth and development of others in your profession can be very rewarding, but once you’ve put your information out there, it’s wise to keep track of what happens to it and who is using it.

Here are some tools to protect your copyright

Fairshare is a good free service that allows you to register your websites and then subscribe to an RSS feed that shows you where on the web your content is being republished and what percentage of your posting was used.

Fairshare is also in the process of setting up a system by which you can get paid a portion of advertising revenue if your content is being used by other sites. Here you can download a (440k) PDF showing you how to set up Fairshare to track your content.

Copygator is a service which will search the web against a URL that you enter and look for places where content from that source appear. They also supply a small image that you can add to your webpages and if the content is copied elsewhere you can be notified.

So why is it so important to track where your content is going?

  • It’s a much misunderstood and largely false assumption that your content, once published on a free blog or website, belongs to everyone and anyone. This simply isn’t true. If you publish something on your site, then it belongs to you and nobody else, unless you say so.
  • Unfortunately, despite the above fact, it is still pretty easy for anyone to take what you produce. If that is someone copying your article to use with students or to share with other people in your profession that may well be fine with you, especially if they acknowledge you as the source and provide a link back to your site, but that isn’t always the case.
  • There are companies that set up thousands of websites and just copy in content from other sites in an effort to generate money through advertising. They never actually produce their own content, just rip off other people’s and in many cases without any links back or credit.
  • There are also those who set up sites and just copy content they find interesting. This could be well intentioned and they may be crediting you as the source, but if they are doing it on a regular basis this could well start to have a negative impact on your own site.

So what harm can it do?

  • Well firstly, if someone is viewing your work on another site, then they aren’t visiting your site, so they are reducing your site traffic. If you rely on visitor numbers and page impressions to get funding, then this can start to endanger your site.
  • There is also the risk that search engines like Google who try to spot sites that are copying content in multiple places blacklist your site as one of the copies.
  • If you ever want to make money from your site (and why shouldn’t you? We all need to eat) by either selling the content for republication or selling the whole site etc whoever pays for it will want to know that what they are getting is original and unique.
Whatever the reason and whoever is copying your content, it’s always good to know where your content is going. You can always say 'thank you' if they are crediting you and including links back and references and you could even explore partnerships or getting paid to syndicate out your content.

If they aren’t crediting you as author of the content and linking back, you could drop them a message asking them to credit you with a link back or even ask them to remove your content from their site and remind them that what they are doing is theft of your intellectual property.

Here you can download a (440k) PDF showing you how to set up Fairshare to track your content.

How about you?
  • How do you protect your copyright?
  • Do you track where your content is going?
  • Are you bothered if someone copies your content?

Drop me a line or leave a comment below.


Mercedes Viola said...

I didn't know we could tack our content.
I don't think people should "copy" content, however, I think it is great the idea of sharing content. And when you share, you are influencing other people's opinions as well as you are being influenced by them. so, you get ideas from everybody and after processing that you get your own ideas.
Mercedes Viola

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Mercedes

Yes, blogs are all about sharing and learning from each other, but not about copying. It's not just that you take someone's work when you copy, it's also that you also remove the reference to the original site where readers can find more similar information. A lot of copying though is done through lack of knowledge and awareness, so i think we need to try to educate people better about how to do this.



Unknown said...

In my blogging experience, I have never thought about copying people's statements. The reason for this is that they are usually people's opinions and not necessarily facts. I'm sure there are some people who do copy material they find on blogs, but I don't think it's a widespread problem. That being said, I think people should be aware of what they put on their blogs and also be aware of the fact that anyone with an Internet connection can read it.

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Titus
You might be surprised! I monitor 5 sites and there is content being copied from at least one of them every week!


Anonymous said...

Honest to god, content theft is impossible for small sites to overcome. I've had my content copied regularly, and it can KILL your site. Just this past week, Google dumped my site. Why? Because in the span a few days, people stole a lot of my content and placed it on other sites (which then were replicated). One piece alone quickly spread from one place to more than 100 places before I discovered it (and I use Google Alerts regularly to monitor the use of my content). I have spent an enormous amount of time trying to get my content removed from these sites. In the past four years, I easily have spent several months -- YES MONTHS -- of my time addressing this issue instead of creating new content. In many cases, it's impossible to deal with. You just can't get it all removed. It would be a nuisance except that GOOGLE PUNISHES ME by REMOVING MY SITE. At first Google just removes the pages it deems duplicates, but when people steal a lot -- which they did once again a few weeks ago -- Google tosses my entire site. Spam reports don't help. Reconsiderations are ignored. Google doesn't care. Google should NOT BE TRUSTED with ANYONE'S COPYRIGHTS. Let this be a warning to those who think that Google will protect the interests of authors of out-of-print books.

Yahoo and Bing get it right. But Google seems to have other interests at heart.

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Anon

I think this is a really tricky area to deal with and while Bing and yahoo may have it right for producers, they may not have it right for consumers. It's a tricky balance. You mention 'authors of out of print books' is that what your content is?



Matt said...

Thanks for listing these sites. Up until now I actually hadn't heard of them. The only one of its kind I knew of was Copyscape.

Content theft is really annoying when it happens to you. And it's hard to know how to react. Often trying to get the thief to remove what he's stolen can take a lot of time and effort that you could have been using more productively in another way.

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