There are a large number of individuals, on the web that have a tendency to take short cuts. Really big short cuts. These individuals have been straight up stealing people’s content and using it on their own sites to save themselves time, money and effort. This could be done manually or by the use of some type of auto-blogging nastiness that scrapes content from RSS feeds for example.

For many, it’s natural to seek out the easiest route and some people do this with no thought to others. The cycle then gets perpetuated by kooky internet marketers peddling horrible courses that say this type of thing is a good idea. They lure people in by presenting the glamorous internet lifestyle. The videos involved usually show a “guru” type sitting on their neighbours Ferrari and pretending it’s his or leaning against a balcony while he or she is on holiday in Hawaii.

Whatever the case, this is not something that we want to happen.

Why get the content removed from offending sites?

While content theft can potentially damage your reputation and your brand name, in a lot of cases Google has become so good at detecting this type of thing that these sites usually get de-indexed. While in a lot of situations this is actually helpful, if the site is linking back to you then there is the potential for this link to become toxic and affect your search rankings in a negative way. If there isn’t a link back to your site, then that piece of content that was stolen from your site may never see the light of day.

I have seen a few horror stories in the past, a travel agency had their entire website content taken and used on another travel agencies website. They were kind enough to change the design, name and logo, but everything else was the same … right down to the sitemap. What made this worse was because it slipped under Google’s radar, it never ranked well but it did rank to some extent.

The worst horror story that I have seen so far was a fishing ecommerce store that was launched as a brand new site. Within a few days, someone had managed to pull down their WordPress theme along with all of their content. Since it was a new site, Google hadn’t got round to indexing the content yet and subsequently the owner of the original site could not get anywhere at all in terms of search traffic.

It simply isn’t worth the risk to not do anything about this type of thing.

How can I get it removed?

Generally speaking the 3 methods I have listed below involve the use of a DMCA take down request. This document relates to title II from the “Digital Millenium Copyright Act” which gives copyright owners scope to force content thieves to remove content or for other entities to remove the content instead.

Below I have outlined the process to follow to get your content removed in the most effective way possible.

  1. Ask for the content to be taken down

    There are some more extreme measures you can take, but there are never any guarantees. That being said, it is always best to start off by asking the site owner to remove the stolen content. When you first ask a site owner, I wouldn’t mention the words “DMCA.” Sometimes just please is enough. If they refuse, inform them that if they don’t it will result in a DMCA takedown request being sent to them, and if the content still isn’t removed that this will then be sent their web host.

    In most cases, that’s usually enough to get content removed. The problem you may find is that contacting these site owners can be difficult. This is because websites that steal content are usually very sparse in terms of contact information or anything that can relate back to the site owner. It’s not uncommon for 100s of these sites to be owned by a single individual (or, dare I say it – company).

    Finding contact details

    A lot of sites that regularly steal content make it difficult for you to contact them, but there are tools and methods that will help you find out how to get in touch. You can start off by manually looking on the site for a contact email or contact form, these generally reside on contact pages or about pages.

    You can try adding the site to SEO Gadget’s tool. This will pull out a bunch of different metrics, but it will also pull out Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, contact emails and also WHOIS emails. If you’ve not heard of WHOIS before, it’s a protocol used for accessing domain registration information. Sometimes that includes email addresses. So if the site owner didn’t register the domain privately you’ll be in luck. If they did, then you are sometimes able to send your email through a privacy address that can sometimes forward your email on to the site owner. Failing that, you can use the BuzzStream email research tool to generate some advanced search operators that you can use to try and find the site owners email address in a Google search.

    What if you can’t find any way of contacting them? Move on to the next step.

  2. Ask their web host to remove the content

    Web hosts are obligated to act upon legitimate DMCA takedown requests so often you will find that a content thief’s web host is more willing to listen. In order to find out who is hosting the offending website, just type the domain into Who Is Hosting This.com and click search. You will then get a few pieces of information including IP address, domain name servers, link to the WHOIS information and of course; the web host that is hosting the offending website.

    Now you will need to visit the web hosts website and check to see if they have a process for dealing with DMCA takedown requests or copyright infringement. You will need to document the offending content, including URL’s and anything that may help. I suggest taking a look at some of the DMCA take down templates. This will give you a big head start.

    Once you’ve compiled all of the information, just send it over to the web host. If you don’t hear back in a while follow up with another message/email, or better yet, give them a phone call.

  3. Ask Google to remove the content from their index

    You can choose to submit a DMCA takedown request to Google or submit a spam report instead. I suggest starting by submitting a spam report because it’s most likely to yield some success since Google receives too many DMCA notices that it can’t effectively deal with it. Here you can see how many requests Google have had at the time of writing this post.

    That being said, a DMCA notice is still worth doing because Google does “downrank” websites that start to accumulate DMCA complaints even if Google doesn’t de-index the site entirely.

Summary

It’s not nice to be on the receiving end of content theft and there are no realistic ways to stop it from happening short of crippling the usability of our websites. There are steps that you can take such as claiming your content by setting up Google Authorship and using tools such as Tynt to add your URL to the end of any content that’s copied from your website for example – so tools do exist that can help us take back attribution for our hard work. There isn’t a definitive way to stop content theft but we shouldn’t make it easy, and at the same time we can’t lock things up so tight that it affects usability for our readers.

How have you been affected by content theft? Have you managed to combat it successfully?

I’d love to hear more in the comments.

Disclaimer: this post deals with some legal issues, I am not a lawyer so this post should not be in anyway constituted as legal advice, if in doubt, consult a lawyer.