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You’ve worked hard to create some great content for your site. You’ve done all the right things. You’ve written original articles that are great for users and are optimized for excellent search engine placement.
Everything seems fine until you start to do some searches to see exactly how well your content is performing. You look for a few of your articles and find websites from here to the Ukraine that are posting your articles.
Why keeping your content unique to your website is important
This is a problem. The value of your content is instantly diluted or maybe even totally lost when other websites copy it. Here’s why:
- Your branding is threatened. Suddenly you’re no longer the sole source of the information you have provided. Readers will not recognize you as the authority. Most will assume that the information originated at whatever website they first found it.
- Your bottom line suffers. If you have a product or service that you’re selling, someone else will be able to swoop in and take a slice of your market share.
- You slide down the search results pages. Sites that pirate your content may end up ranking above you within the search results, especially if they are more establish sites with more backlinks. While it’s true that search engines try to determine where copy originated, it’s a tough task and they often fail.
- You risk being penalized. If the search engines think your site is mostly duplicate content, you could be algorithmically penalized for having what the search engines think is a low quality site.
You don’t want to suffer any of these nightmares so it’s vitally important that you keep your content unique to your website and prevent the content thieves from swooping in and doing a major copy and paste job on all your hard work.
Copying web content without permissions IS stealing and it IS illegal
Let’s get one fact out of the way: stealing your web content is illegal. It doesn’t matter what excuse someone gives you—it’s against the law. I’ve had people claim that because they weren’t using it to sell something it was okay for them to repost my content. That’s just not true.
You may have a article pirate say something like, “Hey sorry, but you didn’t have a copyright notice posted, so it’s fair game.” Again, this just isn’t true.
Here are the facts:
- Virtually everywhere, and certainly in the United States, you are protected the moment your publish your material and it doesn’t matter if you publish to paper or electronically to the web. If they don’t believe you just send them here.
- There doesn’t have to be money or profit involved. Even if the website isn’t selling anything, it still can’t steal your articles. Small sections of articles can be quoted or referenced for news reporting, reviews or educational purposes. But lifting large sections or whole articles is definitely against the law.
Scare the pirates away before they attack
Just like mom used to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so even though you don’t need to post a copyright notice on your pages, do it. You’ll be eliminating one excuse a future thief might throw back at you. You should also consider a Copyscape badge.
Track the pirates down and bring them to justice
But let’s face it, that won’t stop all the people who are too lazy to create their own content. Here are a few steps to take once you’ve discovered that your articles are popping up like weeds all over the Internet.
The idea is to start at the source and if you don’t get results, start turning up the heat and branching out. First send a nice email to the site explaining the situation and asking them to remove your content. Always be very polite – many webmasters are simply ignorant of the fact that copying content without permission is stealing. You may get results by politely asking them to remove your content from their site.
If that doesn’t do it, send a “cease and desist” letter via registered mail. If the owner of the website doesn’t remove your copy after receiving the letter, send one to the webhost. Unless the offending website can prove that their site owns the content, the webhost is required to remove it.
Finally, if all else fails, pick up the phone and call a good lawyer. You can sue to have the material removed and the thief might also be forced to pay restitution.