Copying, scraping, plagiarism, stealing – whatever you call it, it’s an epidemic. As a blogger and writer, you care about your content. You work hard to create it and make it as valuable as possible before you publish it. Then someone else comes along, takes the entire piece and republishes it as their own work on their own site. Sometimes, search engines will even rank the stolen piece above your own, truly adding insult to injury! Plagiarism impacts bloggers in two separate ways:
- When their own content is stolen; and
- When they receive plagiarized content from unscrupulous freelance writers or guest bloggers who are trying to pass the stolen content off as their own work.
When your content is stolen, you can get hit with a duplicate content penalty from search engines. You can also suffer a loss of authority and reputation. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that it’s intellectual property theft and hence unlawful. Knowledge-based brands in today’s economy depend on ownership rights to their own content, and that means ownership of your words.
It’s also a problem in the second scenario. When you publish plagiarized content, you lose credibility. Also, even if it’s totally innocent on your part, you published that content and thus you might be legally on the hook. So it’s important to be aware of the plagiarism issue, to protect yourself with good systems and the right tools, and to know how to go about addressing it if it happens to you.
- How to detect plagiarism of your blog posts
- Useful plagiarism detection tools
- Protecting yourself from plagiarism
- Can you prevent plagiarism of your content?
- What to do when your content is copied
How to detect plagiarism of your blog posts
To detect plagiarism, it’s best to use more than one tool. Create Google alerts for your name and your brand/blog. This should catch folks who scrape content and bylines without attribution or links.
Likewise, periodically conduct Google searches of your headlines, with your post in one window and the search in another window, side by side on your screen so you can easily refer back and forth. This is important because often the plagiarized copy is reworded ever so slightly to avoid detection by text-based copy tools. You can also use Copyscape tools for this purpose; the site will allow you to compare the content on two pages side-by-side for free.
Useful plagiarism detection tools
In addition to Google tools, you can choose a plagiarism detection web-based tools. Most offer both free and premium or credit-based plans and a la carte services:
Copyscape is one of the most well-known plagiarism detectors. It also offers premium features, such as the ability to evaluate articles you’re about to buy to make sure they’re original. Copyscape also offers automated website audit and protection services through its Copysentry program.
Free registration at DMCA Scan gets you a few features, such as one free DMCA takedown action per year and a 10% discount off all other takedown services. The site’s premium plan offers additional benefits which could be worth the expense for large websites with the budget to afford a little extra peace of mind.
Dupli Checker is free to use, but registration is required if you want to do more than one search per day. You can check either by copying and pasting up to 1,000 words, or by uploading DOC or TXT file.
Plagium allows you to copy and paste up to 5,000 characters for a search, or copy and paste two texts to compare them. Access these tools for more than occasional use by signing up for an account and purchasing search credits. Accounts also give you access to deeper levels of search and the ability to upload files.
Protecting yourself from plagiarism
There are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your blog from the negative impact of plagiarism. Which approach you take, depends on the type of plagiarism you’re concerned about.
Preventing plagiarism on your own blog
Proper systems are key to preventing accidental plagiarism on your WordPress blog or website. First, learn how to properly cite other people’s work. The web is built on links, so of course you can refer to other people’s work without the author’s permission, as long as the use is reasonable and properly attributed. Attribution doesn’t need to be as methodical and precise as for college term papers. Just use a reasonable quote with attribution, then link to the original source.
Remember that simply rewording someone else’s sentence with synonyms doesn’t make it not-plagiarized. Either come up with your own ideas, or attribute and cite a proper quote. If you accept guest posts or outsource to freelancers, create a system that includes a plagiarism check. You’ll also want to make sure you include a clause in which the author affirms that they have sole copyright in the content they’re providing in your guest post guidelines and freelancer contracts.
Can you prevent plagiarism of your content?
Short of never publishing any written content, there’s no way to completely prevent others from stealing your content. That’s the bad news. The WP-CopyProtect plugin offers some protection by disabling text selection and right-click options of your content. However, this might upset readers who want to take legitimate notes on your work, or quote you in their own work.
What to do when your content is copied
When you discover that your content has been copied, the first task is to document the offending content. It’s best to take screenshots that show the URL, the date (if published) and the byline, if any. Do the same for your own piece. Next, identify the site owner and the site’s hosting company with Whois.net. Then contact the site owner and ask them to take the content down. A few guidelines to follow for this initial contact:
- Always maintain a cordial but professional tone throughout the correspondence.
- Provide all necessary information: dates, URLs, headlines, authorship and claimed authorship for your piece and the plagiarized piece.
- State that it’s your original work and you never gave them permission to reprint it on their site.
- Tell them to take your copied content down by a specific date.
- Tell them how you will escalate this if it’s not done by that date.
Create a reminder in your calendar for that date, then check the offending site. If it’s down, great. If not, it’s time to escalate. First, write to search engines and the hosting company for the site. In the US, you can do this with a DMCA takedown notice. Many of the companies you’d be writing to here may also have their own forms or processes they want you to follow, so double-check each site you’re contacting for that information first. In addition, you can find more information and the general DMCA requirements at the following links:
- “DMCA Takedown 101” guide from Brainz.org
- Removing Content From Google
- Section 512 of the DMCA
- Sample DMCA Takedown Notice from IPWatchdog.com
Of course, if you or the companies you’re contacting are located in other countries, other laws will apply. If a web search doesn’t help, you could contact a practicing attorney in that jurisdiction.
Conclusion: Fighting plagiarism and stolen content
You worked hard to create your valuable blog content, so it’s worth your time and energy to protect it. The best way to do this is to create simple, workable systems to protect yourself. Then follow those systems anytime you publish new content. Periodically check for duplicate pieces on the web, especially when you achieve any traction or go viral with individual posts. Have you ever had a blog post scraped or copied? How did you handle it, and what was the outcome? Share your best tips to get rid of plagiarism and stolen content in the comments section below.