What Should You Do If Your Articles Are Used Without Your Permission?

Crackers

Article by Wendy McCance

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney or any type of expert in copyright law and can not give legal advice.  I am a writer who had an experience with some stolen material.  Below is my story and how I handled it.  I am sharing this information with you to share an experience I had and presenting an issue that exists when putting content on the web.  If you ever find yourself in this position, you should always check with an expert in such matters if you are unsure of what to do.

I was updating some old posts on my blog.  Checking to make sure I was using the right tags and focus words.  I was also adding some related content from Zemanta.  If you aren’t familiar with Zemanta, it is a great tool to give your readers other great content to read by pointing them in the direction of other articles available on other blogs.  It was while using Zemanta that I found my first stolen article.

I noticed an article that had the exact same title as the article I was updating.  I was curious as to why the article had the same title so I went to the blog.  I was shocked to find not one, but four articles taken from my site.  The person who created the blog was so bold that the articles were word for word, the titles were almost always the same and even the theme used for the template was the same as my old blog.

To add insult to injury, one of the articles detailed a very personal article I had written about my divorce, remarriage and how I was dealing with fibromyalgia.  All the intimate details were still intact.

These were really old articles.  They were written and originally posted on my old site.  The articles are still available on my new site, but with one difference, I use Digiprove now.  Digiprove is a plugin that makes copy and paste something you can’t do on this blog.  It makes stealing content more difficult.  It also lets you know that the articles are copyrighted material.

When I realized that the articles on this other blog were mine, I wrote in the comment section that the person was in violation of the copyright and that they would have to delete the material immediately.  I also let them know in the comment that I was contacting Zemanta and WordPress about this violation.

The blog that was using my material is also a WordPress blog.  I wrote to WordPress support and was directed to a Dispute Resolution and Reporting page.  I was able to email them and explain what I had found.  There is a full-page of information on how they handle such a situation.  Basically they will investigate and if they find a violation, they will contact the owner of the site and let them know about the complaint and then suspend the blog.

I am unsure as of yet what Zemanta will do, but I am sure they won’t be thrilled to know that a Zemanta user is stealing content.

The thing that really stands out to me is that it served this blogger no good purpose.  They had no comments or any sign of traffic on their site.  There was just nothing they got out of taking the content.  I just don’t get it.

In closing, I would like to say for the millionth time that I am a huge WordPress fan.  I appreciate that they have such definite rules in place and won’t tolerate anyone using other people’s content.

I would also like to mention that Zemanta really is a great tool to use.  It is a great way to share other people’s blogs and articles and vice versa.  You get more traffic because if someone hits on the related posts, Zemanta will direct you right to their personal site to read the article.

Lastly, I am grateful for using the Digiprove plugin.  It reassures me that content that has been created since I began to use the new website will not be taken quite so easily or as often.

I hope this information was informative.  Just something to put out their to get you thinking about how to protect your own material.  If you have any stories of having to deal with stolen content, I would be happy to hear from you.

note:  Zemanta, WordPress and Digiprove are not sites I get any money from.  Stating how I feel about them is just truly my opinion and not because I will get anything out of it.

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Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer, social media consultant and music journalist. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press.The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: wendy.mccance@yahoo.com

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27 thoughts on “What Should You Do If Your Articles Are Used Without Your Permission?

  1. Well, at least you got a good blog article out of it! Still it’s an annoying experience best avoided. Personally, I am not a fan of Digiprove, since it works by completely disabling right-click functionality for the site. It keeps me from doing things I like to do, easily, like poking around in the page source to see what themes, fonts, and color palettes people are using.

  2. Hey, a wonderful post and wonderful info. I am going to use Digiprove on my site but I am little doubtful as I am using Adsense on my site. I hope it will not ruin the experience of users and will not affect on my earning. Fingers Crossed!!

  3. Hi Wendy,
    Interesting article.

    I have had some experience of this too, the only solution is to write letters of complaint to the hosting / service providers of the offending website. If the offender is in another country like Russia, India, China, etc. then you will have no luck taking legal action against them.

    By the way, ‘Digiprove’ only works for users who have javascript enabled. Anyone with basic level of expertise and determination will be able to work around this.

    The reason why sites might do this is to build up ‘authority’ around a domain name before selling it on. The strategy they use is to set up a very basic, low-value site, steal content from other sites, and hope to build up google page rank around their domain name. Once the domain reaches PR1 they will sell it at an inflated price.

    Hope this helps.

    Sam

  4. Does this also include linking articles without permission? I found an article of mine being linked to someone else’s site “to find more information.” My article was a link at the end of someone else’s post. Unfortunately, I also don’t know how long it had been posted there before finding it.

    • From my understanding, if an author uses a link which gives credit to you (the link goes directly to your site) and they don’t use any part of your article, they are fine. It is when an article is used on their page without your permission or like in my case, use the whole article word for word and tout it as their own work that there is a copyright issue. I need to say, I am not an expert, and if you are worried about someone misusing your work, you should seek out an attorney who could give you the most correct information.

      Personally, I use Zemanta which allows another blogger to link their article to mine. At the bottom of an article, you will see an area that says something like related articles and a list of links you can click on that take you right to that authors blog. In this case, every article was approved by the author to use in this way because they all use Zemanta too. It’s a great way to increase your traffic and get your name out there.

      • Wendy and Daya – I’ve found this article helpful a while back written by Jane Friedman “When Do You Need to Secure Permissions” (http://janefriedman.com/2012/01/23/permissions/).

        I’ve also contacted Jane letting her know that I referred a link of her article to this post. Because the article is older the comments on her article are closed.

        Maybe this will give more clarification to copyrighting. I always wanted to be sure I was giving proper credit and not infringing on anyone’s rights.

        I used a poem on my old blogger site a few years back back where I thought the author was anonymous and later came across the author on the internet.

        I was able to email him explaining I had used it and didn’t know and asked him what he wanted me to do and if I could have permission to use it. He said yes and gave me the information on how he wanted me to update my post with the poem with his copyright information.

        It can be confusing and hope this helps.

  5. Hey Wendy, my name is Silvo, I’m responsible for support and content fraud here at Zemanta.

    First things first: you are not alone in this!

    Unfortunately, we’ve encountered more similar cases to yours than we’d like to admit in these past few months, which is why we started our operation: “Spam KILL” app. 8 months ago (yeah, we gave it a fancy name like that).

    We hand checked all blogs from our users to detect any NSFW, racist, spammy or stolen content from other websites around the web. There were some cases where, as you mentioned above, everything (!) was copy&pasted, lots of cases of copy&pasted blogposts with no credits or references (so called re-blogs) and even more of other peculiar stuff (that I don’t want to bother you with right now). We got our hands dirty, but we managed to approach this issue in a very profesional way and I’m confident to say that our user database is now much, much cleaner!

    It also goes without saying that this is an ongoing process, since more & more users enter our network every day.

    But since this is the internet, you just can’t catch them all (well, at least not immediately). Even YouTube has the same problems and they use a very similar system for catching NSFW videos as we do.

    Which is why we appreciate your heads up blog post! We wish this wouldn’t have happend, but then again what we learned from our experience is, that some people are really persistant when fraud is in question. Sometimes the only way to catch them is to catch them in the act.

    We’d appreciate if you could send us the link to the site in question, so we can blacklist it from our network (if it by any chance isn’t already). Here’s my email address: support@zemanta.com

    Also worth noting is that your content is always exposed as long as your RSS feed is. The Digiprove plugin is cool for your visitors to prevent them from double clicking on your page, but most savvy users find the access to your RSS feed in matter of seconds. To really prevent them any chance of stealing your content, you should disable your RSS feed, but then our service would also be disabled, as well as many features that come with it.

    My bottom line is: report! Most services and companies are very eager to fight actively against spam and fraud, but your help is also needed & very appreciated (and almost impeccable!). We can’t catch them all, but we sure try to!

    Let me know if you have any other questions or inquiries and please accept my apologies for this way too long comment.

    Take care & I’m looking forward to your email!

    Best,
    Silvo

    • Hi Silvo,
      Thank you for the message. I have already written to the email you provided and wrote the link to the blog in question. Here is the link to that blog again: chrisyie2003.wordpress.com Please let me know what transpires as I have over 1,600 readers that would be interested to know. I also have a Facebook page where readers are asking what I am doing about this issue and how your company is handling it. I did contact WordPress as well since that is the platform this blogger is using. They are working on things from their end as well. I understand that there is a huge problem with stolen content. I am amzed that a blogger would steal content and then advertise the stolen content on a site like Zemanta. That really threw me.

      Thanks again for reaching out,
      Wendy

  6. Thank You! Such a great post. I didn’t know any of that information and I added those plugins onto my site. Now onto figuring out how to use them.

    I’m assuming I’ll be able to see how to use Zemanta when I write my next post and I’ll see some related sites I can choose to add to my post. Am I on the right path, Wendy?

    When you mentioned going back to your old posts and checking for the right tags and focus words, how do you determine if they need to be changed or not. I noticed in “Attracta” there are some free downloads that will check your site for broken links and titles that are too long, etc. I have quite a few but not sure how to fix them.

    Any light you can shed would help a lot or email if here is not the right place to ask. Trying to improve SEO too and ran into some snags. Man, didn’t know it was so time consuming.

    • Hi Pat, don’t worry about asking your questions in the comment box. Maybe it will help someone else too.

      When you write your next post, Zemanta will pop up on the right hand side. You can choose photos and articles by clicking on the boxes.

      Be careful if you use the photos. Many aren’t free for public use. It will say what type of photo it is, but you don’t want to grab a copyrighted photo by accident.

      As far as SEO, I have some plugins that help. You might want to try Yoast. It’s pretty easy for people who aren’t too techy (like me).

      I have been going through old post and have noticed that I used too many categories or a not very relevant tag. Every few months, I check the old material because by that point I have learned new information that improves those old posts.

      • Thanks a lot Wendy. That helps a lot with Zemanta. I’m in the process of updating my sources now. Few more quirks with Twitter handle not connecting. Appreciate the heads up on using photos not copyrighted.

        I checked out Yoast for SEO and while it looks better I already have All in One SEO on my site. The instructions Yoast gave to convert over looked a little intimidating to me at this time.

        This is good. I’m learning a lot from you and you’re steering me to some information I’m not aware of. I hope I can return the favor for you too in the future. :-)

        • Hi Pat, I’m happy to help. As far as Zemanta, they just wrote a comment below the post about stealing content. What they said about RSS feeds is really interesting and discouraging all at the same time. By the way, I use All in One SEO and Yoast. They both do some different things. Yoast has a bunch of YouTube videos that will walk you step by step through the process while using a screen shot so you can see what they are doing and why. It helped me when I got it because I was overwhelmed as well. :)

          • Good information Wendy and very informative from Zemanta. Interesting about the RSS feeds?

            It sounds like you have both All in One SEO and Yoast on your site. Is this correct? Are there any problems with having both?

          • Pat, I made a mistake. I have Yoast and All in One Social Lite (I confused it with the All in One SEO). I had the All in One SEO at one point and can’t remember why I switched. It might have been that my website was moving slower after installing or something along those lines. I’m so glad you asked again. I feel terrible about the misinformation.

  7. I Felt that this was a great article that made me feel so much better after having a horrible experience. That stopped me dead in my tracks when I use to enjoy responding to topics on another Website. I have gradually started to come back and start responding to posts again.
    Thank you again.

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