Tips & Tricks
Website Plagiarism: Is Someone Stealing Your Content?
Website plagiarism is a problem that is overlooked by most businesses. When you put your content on your website, you trust that someone won’t copy it and pass it off as their own. That would be too easy. Who would steal your content? Speaking from experience, the answer may surprise you. In 2011, Thrive Networks discovered that a Managed Services Provider in Australia had not only plagiarized our entire website, but they also were republishing our monthly Tech Brief newsletter as their own. After getting our legal department involved, the competitor was forced to take the content down from their site.
Recently, Thrive discovered more than a dozen new instances of website plagiarizing involving one or more pages from our site. If it can happen to Thrive, it can happen to any small business. Here’s what you need to know and how you can protect yourself.
Website Plagiarism Discovery Tool
There are several online tools available that specialize in discovering website plagiarism. Thrive was able to discover the copying of our website using Copyscape. This is free online service where you enter the URL of a website and it will search for copies of that page on the web. If there are duplicates on the web, you will see links to the pages on the results page. You view up to 10 results for each URL for free. When you click each result, you will be redirected to the page with the duplicate content and Copyscape will highlight the words that match your site.
My Website Content Has Been Plagiarized, What Now?
Before reaching out to the offending website, you better make sure that you are the owner of the original content. You may have hired a firm to design your website but that doesn’t mean they acted in your best interest. You should first utilize a free tool called the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. The “Wayback Machine” in an online archive of webpages that periodically takes snapshots of websites. It’s not a service that you needed to sign up for in the past. Go to http://www.archive.org and enter your website URL. You will be able to see how your website looked at specific dates in time. Now search the URL of the webpage with the copied URL. You should now be able to prove that your content was on your website before it appeared on the offending website.
Removing the Plagiarized Content
As infuriating as it may be when your website content is stolen, you need to keep in mind what your ultimate goal is – to get the plagiarized content taken down. There are several ways to do this:
- Email the Offending Website – In the recent instances of plagiarism that Thrive Networks discovered, we sent emails to the companies that had copied our portions of our website. In almost every case, the companies were responsive and apologetic. If there is any question about whether or not you own the information, you can provide links to the archives from the “Wayback Machine”.
- Take Legal Action – While not a preferred method, sometimes it takes a formal cease and desist letter to get content taken down. Work with a lawyer to decide on an effective strategy to reclaim your content.
- Social Media – Reach out to the offending company on social media (Facebook or Twitter). It is very difficult for a company to ignore negative feedback in a public forum, especially when it comes to questioning integrity.
- Notify Google – As a last resort, you should provide Google with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) take-down notice. If your copyrighted material is appearing in Google search results, Google will blacklist the offending site from all search results. This would be crippling to a business that relies on their web presence for lead generation.
In the end, it’s not your job to play judge and jury. You should focus your energy on getting the plagiarized content removed in the shortest amount of time.