If you create an original work and document it, then it is copyrighted. All those awesome posts on your blog? Copyrighted by you automatically, and you don’t have to “register” them to be protected by copyright laws.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Under the copyright law, the creator of the original expression in a work is its author. The author is also the owner of copyright unless there is a written agreement by which the author assigns the copyright to another person or entity, such as a publisher.”
The office goes on to further state that “copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.”
In Blogging and Plagiarism | 3 Best Ways to See If Your Blog Content Is Being Stolen, we discussed how, if you stick around long enough, someone will plagiarize content from your blog. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
So, the big question is what do you do when you find out that someone has stolen your post?
What to Do When Someone Steals Your Blog Content
1. Contact the blog or website owner.
Believe it or not, there are still some people who don’t know that everything on the Internet isn’t free to use whenever/however you want. Give them the benefit of the doubt and shoot them an email and politely ask them to remove it. You can use something like, “I noticed that you republished my post. Thank you for being interested in it, but this is copyrighted material that cannot be republished without paying a syndication fee of $250. If the post is still on your site in 24 hours then I will assume you’re interested in syndicating it. Thanks.”
2. Send a follow-up email.
If, after 24 hours, the post is still up then you need to send a follow-up email. This email should be direct and to the point: “I notice that my post XYZ is still posted on your site. Please provide an email where I can send the invoice for the syndication fee of $250.” You may even want to go ahead and send a PayPal invoice to them. You might be surprised! If they like the post and it is bringing traffic to their site, they might pay it. (I used $250 here, but clearly you can use whatever fee you want. It should be enough to make them think twice about keeping it on their site.)
3. Report it to the registrar/host.
Most registrars/hosts like Network Solutions, GoDaddy and others have a system where you can report people doing illegal things on their website. Stealing your content is a copyright infringement, so report it to the domain registrar where they will have a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) agent. They might just ban the whole site if they find that they are habitual offenders. You can also send a DMCA complaint to search engines like Google and Yahoo to have it removed from searches.
4. Send a Cease and Desist Letter.
While the registrar is working on it (they aren’t just going to take your word for it and cancel someone’s site), you need to also send a cease and desist letter. You can find a a cease and desist letter template to create your own office letter and then email it to the offender.
In some cases, you will be unable to find any contact information on the website. Then, use the company that registered the domain name to find the website’s contact information like name, phone number, address and e-mail address. Check out the WHOIS look up on Network Solutions. Additionally, post the cease and desist information on the website’s Facebook page and also in the comments of the post.
5. Contact an attorney.
Unfortunately, if all else fails you may have to get an attorney involved and work with them to get the content removed.
The bottom line is this: It can be a lengthy process to get your plagiarized content removed, and sometimes it won’t be removed at all (or it may even be restored after you take the steps). However, don’t let that stop you from going through the steps. It’s your information, fight for it!