Dealing with Content Thieves Effectively

Text is a little different, but the same principles apply. I’ve confronted thieves who adamantly refuted my claims of copyright infringement, until I pointed out that they left some live links to my site in the text they had stolen. After that, it was easy to get my material removed. Any time you make a change to the page, whether the addition or removal of a picture or changes in text, take a dated screenshot of the old page, especially if the page ranks well for a popular keyword. It’s a fact that the more popular your site becomes, the more likely you’ll be targeted by content thieves. Bloggers face similar problems. The more popular the blog, the more likely its content will be taken. Some owners have no problem with this, as long as the post is credited back to them along with a spiderable html link. However, there are a few other things you can do. You can also register your entire site with the U.S. copyright office. There are several sites that will do it for you, for a nominal fee like Other sites will automatically notify you of plagiarism to your site, like

So the question becomes once you’ve verified a theft, what can you do about it? First off you need to properly identify the thief. It’s not uncommon that the actual site owner who has your content has no idea it was stolen. Website owners unknowingly hire unethical content providers who then simply take content from another site and pass if off as their own. While technically ignorant of the theft, it still doesn’t absolve the website owner from responsibility. Usually when confronted with the truth, the website owner will voluntarily remove the offending content. Some complain to you about it like it’s your fault. After all, they spent good money on it, why should they take it down without a refund of the money they spent on it in the first place? This has actually happened to me in the past on two separate occasions. So what do you do when someone refuses to remove your content after asking nicely?

In a perfect world, you have already taken serious steps to prove ownership. Having your site reviewed by third parties in a formal setting is a great way to prove time ownership and original publishing. Barring that, keeping old revisions of pages or even utilizing the Wayback machine will even work. Also, it’s important to document the theft of your material as well. Take screenshots and check the date the site went active. After all, if the site is brand new and you can easily prove you page existed prior to the offending site even going live, you should have no problems getting your material removed. It boils down to the more information you have before hand, the easier it will be to get your content removed. Now the gloves should come off.

Depending on the type of site, you may have extra options in having your content removed. For example, if the site belongs to a real estate agent, contact their broker directly and complain (LOUDLY). Inform him you’re next step will be a formal complaint to the state real estate division against the agent and him. Another tactic is to inform the offender before hand in a second communication outlying the rain of complaints both civil and legal you intend to file.
These include filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce (if they are a member), any professional group they belong to, and their web hosting company and of course, to the major three search engines. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) or the EU Copyright Directive (if you are across the pond) all of the major search engines will take corrective measures against the offending websites, as will their web hosting company.

Google has complete guidelines in place to remove the offending site from their index, which in itself is a compelling reason for the offender to remove your material. Contacting the offender’s web host will usually net you a mixed bag of results. Some disclaim any responsibility and try to brush you off. Under the DMCA, that’s not exactly true. Stick to your guns. Ask to speak to their attorney. Be a nuisance and they’ll usually send an email to the offender. I’ve had a web host actually contact the customer directly. After that, he removed my material.

Even doing all of the above and more may not be enough to convince the offender to take down your content. The last resort will be to hire an attorney, preferably one who is familiar with copyright law.