I have been publishing websites for about twenty years and dealing with plagiarizers for about as many years. There are many approaches to dealing with plagiarism. These are my opinions, based on my experience, of how to deal with plagiarism.
I don’t claim that my way is the right way to deal with plagiarizers. There are many approaches to taking down plagiarized content. Do what feels right for you.
This is simply my opinion of the best way to deal with plagiarizers based on twenty years of dealing with this issue.
Not All Plagiarizers are Bad People
Try not to be threatening. In my experience there are good reasons to be reasonable and patient when contacting plagiarizers.
One reason is that the plagiarizer may be innocent. There is a common belief that plagiarism is okay as long as they link back to the source.
I don’t know where that myth comes from but many people continue to believe it.
Some plagiarizers are victims of content writers they hired or employees who stole the content in order to finish their writing assignment.
I have hired content writers, university students in writing programs, who have turned in articles with plagiarism.
When confronted with the plagiarism one content writer said, “Oh… you meant absolutely no copied content at all?”
So it could be the case that the publisher is a victim themself as well.
Do Not Come Down Hard on Plagiarizers
There is no need to be mean.
- Revenge is not a business strategy.
- Needlessly creating enemies has no benefit.
Making allies, cultivating useful relationships and ,achieving your goals is a business strategy.
You are right to be upset about plagiarism. But blasting a stranger with threats and “coming down hard” on a plagiarizer can be a dangerous approach.
You have zero idea of what the state of mind is of the person you are contacting.
- What if the plagiarizer belongs to an organized crime group?
- What if the plagiarizer is an unbalanced individual who lives in the next town over?
- What if the plagiarizer lives for dealing out revenge to those who offend them?
Do you really want to poke your finger into a stranger’s chest with a threatening email?
I know a person who retired their entire affiliate marketing portfolio because of an angry competitor. I know of a person who permanently lost their AdSense account because of a stranger who did not like them.
Needlessly creating conflict is not in my opinion a useful approach to handling these kinds of issues.
There is no benefit in creating an army of enemies.
It can be infuriating to find plagiarism. The first instinct is to “come down hard” on anyone who steals your content. It’s a natural feeling.
But this is one of those situations where emotions must be kept under control.
Address plagiarism as a business problem and not like a road rage incident.
It’s my opinion that it is never a good idea to make a hostile first contact with a plagiarizer.
Best Approach to Plagiarism
I have been publishing websites for twenty years and dealing with plagiarizers for most of that time.
In my experience it’s best to approach plagiarizers in a respectful and non-threatening manner.
My approach is to politely and respectfully ask that they remove the content.
I also point out that there is a law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that empowers me to ask Google to remove their pages from their index, and that that I have a right to alert their domain name registrar and web host that they are infringing on my copyrights.
I do not threaten them with those actions. I only inform them that I have those remedies at my disposal. I then tell them that I would rather not use those remedies.
Most domain name registrars and web hosts have DMCA policies and procedures for dealing with copyright infringement. It can be helpful to link to those policies when contacting plagiarizers so that they can see for themselves.
I usually say that I have the right to file a DMCA but that I would rather deal with this in a less disruptive manner.
Most people, when approached in this manner come to their senses and understand the peril their business is in. They always respond in the way I want them too.
Some are grateful for the approach, some are upset. Some will try to gaslight me with excuses but ultimately they always comply.
Most people remove the infringing content when given the choice between doing the right thing or getting hammered by the DMCA.
Again, I want to reiterate that I do not recommend threatening to use the DMCA against the plagiarizer.
My opinion is that it is better to educate the plagiarizer about the existence of the DMCA and what the consequences are to copyright infringers.
Every plagiarizer I have contacted in this manner has complied with my request.
There’s little one can do to prevent a determined plagiarizer. One can add a no right click script to prevent someone from manually copying your content. But that might prevent someone from sharing your content on social media, quoting it an article and sharing it by email with friends.
So that’s why right click prevention scripts are not something I recommend.
Something that I do find useful for WordPress sites is WordFence. Properly set up, WordFence will stop scraper bots from stealing your content by blocking them from accessing your content.
There are rules that can be set up to automatically block scrapers when they exceed thresholds of number of pages requested per minute.
WordFence also provides live traffic statistics that can be segmented by IP address, server response code and other configurations.
This gives you the opportunity to see the bad actors, identify the hosts and user agents and block them.
Some cloud services companies routinely host malicious scrapers. With WordFence I have blocked the cloud services and thereby blocked thousands of scrapers per day.
Plagiarism is Not Going Away
Google claims that they are able to give attribution to the original content publisher. Setting aside whether Google can actually identify the original publisher of content, I believe it’s a good idea to monitor content theft using a service like Copyscape and to be proactive about blocking scrapers with a WordPress security or bot blocker plugin.