Your website is a valuable asset to your business, and businesses stealing your content are committing theft.
Copyright infringement is the use of your copyright content without permission. The process of protecting your copyright on the web usually involves either negotiation, or a take down notice, or in the worst instance can involve the expensive and time-consuming process of the courts.
If you are concerned that other sites are using your content without your permission then here are the quick and simple steps you can start with before resorting to the courts:
1. Identify the sites that are plagiarising your content
Copyscape is a great service that will show you the sites that are plagiarizing content off your pages. Just pop your web address in, and it will report back all the sites that are stealing your content. The service is free if you want to check individual pages, and there is also a fee-based service if you want to do bulk checks.
In the example below, you can the original Hallam page web address (1), the site that is reproducing the content (2), and highlighted in pink is the exact copy that has been plagiarised from our site (3.)
You can also discover who is plagiarising the images from your website. Be sure to read our guide:
2. Contacting the infringing website
Let’s start with the process of negotiation by contacting the website.
It is essential to copy the site owner in all the steps you are taking; I think it is the fear of prosecution and your evident determination to follow it through that might get them to stop stealing your content:
- Make backup copies of your web pages as well as copies of their pages to keep as evidence in case they change it.
- Write to the site owner, and ask them to remove the offending content. You may be able to find contact details on their website.
- State that they are infringing your copyright and demand that they remove the offending entry immediately failing which you will claim damages and an injunction together with costs.
- You may find the offending content is on sites like the publishing platform Medium and they have a defined process for reporting copyright violations
- If you are not able to find contact details easily, which is often the case for spam websites, then you may be able to find the street address of the site owner using the Whois database. State that they are infringing your copyright and demand that they remove the offending entry immediately failing which you will claim damages and an injunction together with costs
3. Escalating the issue: contact third parties
If you do not get a satisfactory response from the owner of the website, then you can start to contact external third parties who will be able to support your case.
- Write to the web hosting company explaining what the site is doing and demanding that they remove the offending entry immediately failing which you will claim damages and an injunction against them together with costs for copyright infringement. Copy the site owner in on the message. The Whois database will give you a good start in finding the details of the hosting company, and they’ll usually have a form for making complaints.
- Write to the local Trading Standards making a complaint, and again, copy the site owner in on the message.
4. Contact Google
The motive for stealing content is often times greed. Your content is being used by nasty websites who want to use your content to increase their own rankings in the search engines, and to drive more traffic to their site.
Your plagiarised content will typically be surrounded by Google AdSense advertising. Every click on an ad means pennies in the pocket of the thief.
These are generally splog websites: spam blogs which are intentionally fake and are designed to get ad impressions and ad revenue.
The plan is to let Google know just what a lousy son of a gun this website is and hit it where it hurts: his wallet. And make sure you tell the infringing site that you have reported him to the AdSense programme.
At the bottom of the Google AdSense advertising on the offending site is a little bit of text that says Ads by Google: click on it.
Then scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click on the option to
You want to Report a Violation and say the site is infringing your copyright, as well as other possible Google AdSense Policy Violations:
In due course, you will get an email back from Google AdSense asking you to write a letter with further details about the infringement. Generally it doesn’t need to go that far: the offender had already removed the content.
There may be other advertisers on the splog site: contact them in writing with copies of all your other correspondence with the culprit.
It may be that other sites are using your content without realising they are infringing your copyright, and maybe a friendly email might sort things out and give you a link in the process.