How to Protect the Copyright of My Web Content
|Written by Oleksiy Synelnychenko
CEO, ArtDriver Ltd
Posted: June 5, 2013 @ 7:45 am
Under the DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act, all content published online is protected under copyright law, regardless of it having the copyright symbol on the page. Any content, no matter the form it takes (whether digital, print, or media) is protected under copyright law. The prevention of copyright infringement requires constant vigilance; even using your own material in two different places and plagiarising unintentionally can land you in trouble.
Why It Is Important to Protect Your Online Content from Being Copied:
Copyright is important in all forms of media because it provides legal ownership over the work someone produces. This allows the author, artist, etc. control over how their work is used. Without copyright laws, content could be stolen from one creator and used by someone else; thus, a profit could be made by someone other than the creator from content that they put no effort into. Since it is the copyright holder’s responsibility to ensure that a copyright has not been infringed upon, it is vital to keep a close eye on your content and how it is used by others on the internet.
Copyright is especially important for online content. With a simple click of the ‘copy’ button, something can be transferred from blog to blog. In such a digital age, people rarely think about copying and pasting words or images and utilizing them for their own use.
There have been a number of copyright cases taken against websites from multiple media sources including music download sites, services that provide movies and television shows online, and hosting and filesharing sites. The rise in the viral meme has also created a variety of copyright issues, especially with the spawning of commercial stores for meme subjects (such a Keyboard Cat or Nylan Cat). The creators of Nylan Cat and Keyboard Cat are seeking damages for trademark and copyright infringement because their creations were used in games, by Scribblenauts, which were not approved by them. This lawsuit is ongoing but stands to prove that whenever using content that seems to be public because of its popularity, it is important to be aware of copyright law. Copyright issues are never far away when using the internet. Even the most recent European song contest, Eurovision 2013, had some evidence of “music plagiarism” when one of the songs was very similar in tune to a number of existing songs, and this news went viral online.
Let’s talk about text copy copyright. Recent strict Google Panda updates have made it more vital for content creators to monitor the web for copyright infringements and to protect their content. These recent updates have made it so that more online content that is deemed “duplicate” or “low quality” can get booted from Google search results. If someone takes your content and gets higher ratings on their website than yours has, Google could interpret the situation as though you are the copyright infringer. It is, therefore, always in your interest to monitor your content and here are some of the ways to do it.
Ways to Protect Web Content Copyright:
I. Preventative Measures:
There are certain measures that can be taken to discourage plagiarism of your content by illustrating that you are aware of your rights as the content’s creator.
- Register your website with the DMCA and add one of their badges to your website to let potential copyright infringers know that you are protecting your content
- Include a copyright notice on your website. This will show that you are aware of your legal standing as the content’s creator. To intentional infringers, this will likely be enough to scare them away. To unintentional copiers, it should be a reminder to them that copying your content is illegal. You can also post a DO NOT COPY badge from duplicate content checking sites like PlagSpotter to warn potential plagiarists from stealing from you.
- A way to build proof that all your content is actually yours is by actively documenting the creative process. Save drafts of everything you post online in case you need to prove later that you are the original author.
II. Use Duplicate Content Detection and Monitoring Tools:
Detecting copyright infringements and working pre-emptively against offenders can save a significant amount of time and effort, as copyright laws can become tangled and complicated.
If you own a website or blog, any and all content that you created and uploaded must be monitored against takers. The internet is full of tools that can be used in the fight against copyright infringement; here are specific tools and steps that can be taken to protect your web content:
- Use Google Search to scan the internet for unique parts of your text. Remember to use quotation marks so that the result is most accurate to your exact wording structure! Another way to do this and save time is to set Google Alerts so that each time new work that matches those search queries is published online Google will notify you on your email.
- Monitor your content to search for plagiarism. There are various tools that allow you to search certain text and inform you if parts of it have been used elsewhere. Plagium and Plagiarisma are two such tools. If sentences used within a site have not properly attributed you, and you are the original author, you can take the needed measures and contact the plagiarist’s website with further instructions.
- You can also add your blog to the Copygator service, which monitors your blog for free and contacts you when it finds duplicate content on the internet. It labels the duplicate content as either ‘exact’ or ‘near’ to indicate whether the content has been identically copied or just share a resemblance or similar elements with one another.
- Sometimes we unintentionally plagiarise, whether it’s having just read an article and copying information without meaning to or in some other way. The PlagSpotter software provides a service similar to Copygator but also allows you to scan your web content using the batch search feature (the ability to check large numbers of URLs or your whole site) to see if you have accidentally plagiarized. The program will indicate where the duplicate content in your post or website is and allow you to view your “plagiarism percentage”. This is a handy way to ensure that you won’t end up in the middle of a copyright dispute or get removed from Google’s search results.
III. Take Action After Finding a Plagiarist
After discovering that someone has taken your content, you need to undertake steps to get the situation rectified. Here are some helpful guidelines on what you should do to remedy it as soon as possible.
- Gather as much information at you can to prove that you are that content’s original author. Take screenshots if possible.
- Locate the copyright infringer’s contact information. If you cannot find their information, try contacting webmasters@(whatever the domain name is). You should send a polite email specifiying that the content on their website is yours and is being used without your permission. Ask them to cease and desist and include all gathered information to show that you have evidence. In most cases the plagiarist will remove the stolen content after the first email.
- A Whosis service can be used to find the website owner’s legal name and phone number. All you have to do is insert the domain name in the search box and their name should appear. From here, you can contact them in a cordial way and ask for the content to be removed.
- If your dialog with the offender has not been fruitful, you can contact their website’s hosting company. They can also be found using a Whois service. Tell them about the situation and that the person in question is using your material without permission. They may remove the subscriber.
- If you are still not getting any results, send the copyright offender an official “Cease and Desist” letter. With this, you can formally notify them that they must remove your content from their webpage or face impending legal action. There are many sample “Cease and Desist” letters online to help you draft one that screams “authority.”
- The DMCA’s Section 512 provides “notice and takedown” procedures that give copyright holders an easy way to cut off access to content that infringes on their copyright.
- File a copyright complaint with Google. They may remove or disable the infringing content or terminate the subscribers. The form to report such activity and more information on Google’s policy and how it relates to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act can be found here.
- At the end, suing the plagiarist is always an option; however, this includes time and expenses, not to mention stress. It would be recommended to exhaust all other avenues before attempting a lawsuit.
Have you had experience dealing with plagiarists? What tools do you normally use? Please share your thoughts in the comments area below.
About the Author
Oleksiy Synelnychenko is the Project Manager at PlagSpotter. He also has 7+ years of experience in running a web development and SEO company (ArtDriver) as well as launching and managing Internet startups.