The Year of Original Content: How to Fight Back Against Abusers

Filed as Features on February 23, 2009 12:55 pm

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This blog has no brain - use your own - caution signI’ve declared this the Year of Original Content and I’m inviting you to help join the fight against those who abuse our content.

Scam, spam, splog, and scraper blogs are big business, taking in $3.2 billion dollars in 2007 just in the United States. Russia, China, Zimbabwe, and other countries are generating even more money with a variety of Internet scams. Many of these sites and blogs use our original content to generate that money, often from blogs that have no advertising nor direct income – making money from our hard work.

It’s time to fight back. It’s time to be proud that you are the unique voice in the wilderness. It’s time to honor your hard work and declare, “I decide who can and can’t take advantage of me!”

Here are some ways you can join the call to celebrate original content and fight back against those abusing our content without our permission.

Protest Loudly Against Spam Blogs to Those Who Host Them

Report specific scam, scraper, and spam blogs to those who host them. Blogging about it won’t change anything. Go to the sources and those who host them.

Demand Google’s Blogspot/Blogger or , and other blog and social media hosting services to clean up their sites and remove all spam blogs and help you fight back against copyright infringements and plagiarism. It’s their responsibility, so remind them.

Here are links for reporting spam blogs to their web hosts:

All free hosting services have policies for reporting fraud, abuse, and copyright violations, and some require being logged in to report spam and abuse. Protect yourself and others by finding out how to report abuse on your service.

Self-hosted blogs are the responsibility of the blog administrator, owner, and contributors, not the software or blogging platform. For example, report self-hosted WordPress blogs to the proper authorities, not WordPress, as they are not responsible for the content. However, is responsible for blogs hosted on their free blog hosting service, in accordance with the DMCA, so report WordPress.com blogs appropriately.

Report Spam Blogs to Search Engines

According to the US DMCA laws, search engines are responsible to help victims stop copyright violations and stop spam blogs and scams. Check your country’s laws for copyright protection and reporting.

Report spam blogs and copyright violations to:

See Quick Online Tips for more methods and tips for reporting copyright infringements to search engines and directories, as well as Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today and his list of DMCA Contacts.

Report Copyright Violations, Spam, and Scrapper Sites Properly

Don’t publicly shame or victimize content thieves. It doesn’t work. They are thrilled with the attention. By publicly shaming, harassing, or defaming a copyright violator, scam, scraper, or splogger, you run the risk of backfire as the laws against these have higher penalties and great risks.

If you publicly link to a spam, scam, splog, or other abusive blog, you are telling your readers to click the link and visit them. This increases the abuser’s traffic and may lead unsuspecting readers to a malicious site. Don’t risk endangering or exposing your readers to harmful sites, even if they appear only to be ripping off your content on the surface. You don’t know what may lie underneath the code, nor do you want to be responsible for someone buying or falling for their schemes, or help them make more money by your public spotlight.

Use the proper methods to report copyright violations, and check out Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today for forms and the proper techniques for reporting and stopping content theft.

Watch Your Trackbacks and Referrals

Your trackbacks are invaluable for tracking who links to you, including uncovering the scrapers and autobloggers who are abusing your content without your permission.

Include a minimum of one link to a post on your blog within every blog post you write. It can be as simple as your copyright policy at the bottom of every post, or an intrasite link to another post on your blog. If the post is grabbed by an aggregator, scraper, or auto-blogger, the trackback will appear in your Comments Panel.

Check your Comments Panel for trackbacks and suspicious links regulary. Check your blog stats for referral links, and search engines and other directory services to check backlinks and find out who is linking to you.

Use content theft search sites and services such as FairShare, Copyscape, Google Alerts, Digital Fingerprint WordPress Plugin, and other techniques described by Jonathan Bailey in “How to Find Plagiarism”.

Educate Yourself

Learn about how all this works, from naïve to expert content theft to spinning spammers who abuse our content by distorting our original work. It’s our work! Our voices!

Read “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content,” and Jonathan Bailey’s fantastic articles, “5 Content Theft Myths and Why They Are False” and “The 6 Steps to Stop Content Theft” so you are educated and armed with the right tools to fight back.

Copyright law has been around for a long time, but the Internet is changing things. It is not changing the core intent of the law to protect the artists. Keep informed and educated on what is happening when it comes to the basic tenants of copyright law as well as the changes in online intellectual property.

Educate Readers

Ask First Copyright badge - by Lorelle VanFossenIt is important that we all work together to educate each other, especially those of us who blog. We have a responsibility to educate our readers on international copyright laws, as well as on what our copyright policies are. Do you even have a copyright policy in place? Do your readers, listeners, and watchers know what it is?

Often, the first copyright violation you find is on the site is from an enthusiastic reader who just wanted to share your story with others. They probably forgot that just as copying and cheating in school was against the rules, so is using other people’s content, especially without proper citation, links, and beyond Copyright Fair Use restrictions. A calm and nice request will usually get a response and quick action.

We’ve got a lot of work to do to bring down the billion dollar industry abusing our content, so be nice to the naïve folks who don’t know any better and start educating your readers on how copyright works and what they can and cannot copy from your site.

Also, teach your readers to report to the violator and to you when they find your blog content used without your permission.

Report Content Theft When You Find It

If you spot someone’s content being ripped off, leave a comment on the scraper blog to let them know you know this isn’t the original source, and leave a link to the original for those who land on the site, to inform them that this isn’t the original content. This protects others from finding your original content on someone else’s site and reporting upon it as if it was theirs, not yours. If anyone is going to get the credit for the work, shouldn’t it be the original blogger?

Let the original author know so they can decide whether or not they want to take action against the content thief and scraper. In the interim, the note stands to warn others.

When I confront copyright infringers, I ask them to remove all copyright violation content, not just mine, to remind them that I represent many, not just one. We have to speak out loud for everyone, not just ourselves.

Update and Publicize Your Copyright Policies

While it isn’t necessary, is your copyright statement on every blog post and in the footer of your blog? Does it link to your copyright policy?

Everything published on the web belongs to the copyright holder (the author, designer, creator). Your content can be free and available for anyone to use, or it can have restricted uses such as only with permission or restricted Fair Use policies? It’s up to you to decide how you want your content used, and your responsibility to inform people of that decision.

Update all our copyright policies to clearly state your intent for usage of our content, and fight against those who take it without asking.

Remember, all anyone has to do to use your content is ask first.

Report Scams, Scrapers, Spams, and Phishing to the Proper Authorities

By reporting scams, spams, and phishing blogs to government officials, those in power to do something on a local, national, or international level, you help everyone caught by these abusers. These sites are not for reporting copyright violations, but reporting on malicious and serious spam and scam sites.

Few spammers and scrapers run only one spam site. They tend to have many – sometimes thousands. It’s big business and big money and it takes more than a DMCA notice to get them to remove your content. And it’s not just your content that’s being ripped off and abused. It’s often the content of thousands of other bloggers.

Many say, “Who cares. I don’t have time for this.” That is what keeps these criminals in business. The apathy. Care. Care a lot. It takes many voices, not one, to shut these sites down. Join the chorus.

Some scraper sites use other people’s content to hide malicious links and scripts that can do harm beyond injure your dignity and violate your copyright. You never know, so if you spot a truly abusive spam and scraper blog, report it to the government officials immediately to protect yourself and others who may stumble upon them.

The United States is part of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime and other international agencies fighting against cybercrimes. To report a cybercrime, US citizens should read “How to Report Cyber and IP Crime” for information on cybercrime reporting within that country. In Canada, try the Reporting Economic Crime On-Line, and in London, the Metropolitan Police Service – Computer Crime Unit handles cybercrimes.

Some international agencies to report to include:

Make the Time

One of the most common myths about content theft is that it takes too much time.

I confront 5-20 copyright infringers weekly. It takes about 15-30 minutes spread across seven days. That’s an average of about four minutes a day at most. Time to wash your face and brush your teeth.

Remember that when you are requesting the editing or removal of your blog content, you are speaking for others. They could have asked first, and they didn’t. They just took. Make the time to make it right – for you and your fellow bloggers.

Help Rid the World of the Abuse of Our Content

We bloggers are powerful social creatures and we have the power to sway and influence, so put out the word: This is the Year of Original Content.

And mean it.

Articles in the Series on Blog Scams

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  1. By Miroslav Glavic posted on February 23, 2009 at 1:06 pm
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    Guess who is reposting your content again (from your WP site)? I sent you links of that site before.

    Now, I have seen that your license says I can use your posts as long as I attribute you.

    Would it help if you took that out about using your posts?

    I personally would take a few sentences (nothing more than a paragraph) then state my opinion on the post/article then link to the article at the bottom in a “to see original post/article” link type.

    I wonder what is blogherald’s licensing policy…?

    Reply

    • By Lorelle VanFossen posted on February 24, 2009 at 9:31 am
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      @Miroslav: My personal copyright policy says that you can use only a portion of my post content, not the whole thing, within a very strict Fair Use policy. As for the Blog Herald, you are right that their Policies page does not include copyright. I thought it did. Clearly, it’s time for them to update that page. :D

      As for those who continue to copy my post content, they have been reported and we’re waiting for their site to be penalized. Some times it takes a very long time, other times, seconds.

      Reply

  2. By Barbara Swafford posted on February 23, 2009 at 2:19 pm
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    Hi Lorelle – Thank you for posting this fabulous article. Like you said, by properly reporting the spammers, thieves, etc, we can clean up the internet and make it a better place for everyone.

    I’m off to retweet this.

    Reply

  3. By Miroslav Glavic posted on February 24, 2009 at 10:29 am
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    Ajay D’Souza from WLTC got his article copied to that site I e-mailed you before.
    I noticed your Lorelle signature only appears on your WP site and I have not seen you use it outside it. Is it your policy to only use the Lorelle signature on your WP site?

    I e-mailed Ajay about the copying.
    I have e-mailed you in the past.

    So the process of getting things taken down are to first notify the site, then their webhost/registrar then what else? Let’s say what if John Doe from johndoe.com copies your work, you msg John Doe and he doesn’t want to do a thing, you contact the webhost/domain registrar for johndoe.com and they don’t want to do a thing?

    Is there a way to add a message to the bottom of the RSS feeds saying “This article is from published at and if you are reading this somewhere else then it has been stolen”.

    Many spamblogs take the content from the RSS feeds.

    Reply

    • By Lorelle VanFossen posted on February 24, 2009 at 4:46 pm
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      @Miroslav: I really appreciate the work you and so many do to help keep me on my toes when it comes to tracking down copyright infringements. As explained in What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content, you first notify the abuser with a comment or email, staying neutral but clear. If that gets no response, you take the next steps to contact the web host, then search engines, advertisers, etc., in accordance with the DMCA and international copyright laws. At the very worst, you take legal action, but as I said, that’s actually rare.

      There are many WordPress Plugins and scripts you can use to include “hidden” text that only appears in feeds, not posts. Many just put a note in their blog posts manually that states something like: “If this content is found on any site other than X, it is in violation of our copyright policy. Please notify us.” Feeds are much abused, and Jonathan Bailey has written much on how to use and control your feeds to protect your copyright. I’ll let him chime in. :D

      Do note, that even posting a note and/or copyright policy does not stop content theft. It merely servers as a reminder that everything published belongs to the original author. What they choose to do with the content, and allow use thereof, is up to them, not the reader or user of the content.

      Reply

  4. By myows posted on February 26, 2009 at 6:50 pm
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    Thank you Lorelle, you’re a huge inspiration for me and i will actively contribute to the fight against content thieves, this year and the following.

    Its really time people realize that if something is on the internet, it doesn’t mean you can just use it as your own.

    Reply

  5. By Xcobar posted on July 22, 2009 at 12:59 pm
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    Congratulations for this nice post.
    Greetings from Brazil

    Reply

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