In part one of this article, we looked at how dangerous copyright infringement and content theft on the web can be. I also shared three “proactive” steps you can take to help prevent those little buggers from violating your copyright. But now that you know how damaging blog scraping and content theft can be to your search engine ranking and reputation, you’re probably asking — “what do I do if my blog content is stolen?”
Well, today in part two I’ll share three steps you can take if someone does scrape your content or otherwise infringe on your copyrighted material.
Having these action steps in reserve is vital for not only protecting you and your business. But taking the right legal action can help to stem the tide of content theft overall. One of the reasons why these spammers and sploggers continue to aggressively scrape and steal content is because they think they’re getting away with it.
And unfortunately, they’re right for thinking that.
Sadly most business owners (bloggers or not) and even legit marketers and sales professionals don’t take any action when they see their copyrighted material appear on other sites. In many cases it’s because they think there’s nothing they can do.
But now, with what I’m about to share — you’ll see how easy it really can be to fight back. With the following steps you’ll be ready to help make it painful for those #@&%*! content thieves.
Just a reminder as I mentioned in part one — I’m not an attorney. And I don’t play one on TV either. The three reactive steps I share below are legal in the US, and they do work. But if you’re not comfortable with taking these steps on your own, or if you want to bring the full force of the law down on the offending party, consult an attorney. If you’re using your business blog to market, author a book, or create a product it’s worth a couple hundred dollars talk to an attorney.
Three reactive legal actions
Invariably, even when you take the three steps suggested in part one of this article of this article, you’ll still have to take some kind of reactive action to protect yourself. In most cases, you won’t have to go beyond level two of the three levels listed below. But I included the third as the obvious ‘big daddy’ of retaliation and legal retribution.
#1. Legal response 1.0: email and letter to offending party
Send an e-mail and a physical copy of the same letter, directly to the offending party. This is the first step, and if possible should be taken before moving on to step two. If you don’t get a response within a reasonable amount of time (five to seven business days), you’d want to immediately move on to legal response level 2.0
Make both hard and digital copies of the stolen web page content and the source code. A copy getss sent to the offending party, and save copies for later use and your records.
We’ve done this close to a dozen times with articles that we’ve republished to our blogs from newspaper columns, and with original copyrighted content on AdvancedBusinessBlogging.com. When we sent the email and letter we included screen shots of the offenses with comparable screen shots from our site. In about half the instances where we could find the offending site’s address, the content was down within a few days.
*Note: More than likely since they’re doing something illegal, you’re not going to find an email or address on the offender’s site. So if you want to go this route before moving to Legal Response 2.0 do a WHOIS Search. Enter the offending domain name and hit the search button. You should be able to access the offending site’s admin and technical contact info there. If not, don’t waste your time. Move right on to Legal response 2.0.
#2. Legal response 2.0: direct your complaint to the offenders host/ISP
If you don’t get any type of response in five to seven business days, or if you can’t find the offenders address — don’t pussy-foot around. Somebody has broken the law and they’ve stolen YOUR creative content! In Legal Response 2.0 you’re going straight to the offender’s host or ISP.
To find the offending party’s host, as described above, you’ll need to do a WHOIS Search. Enter the offending domain name and hit the search button, just like in Legal Response 1.0. Only this time, when the results come up, click on the IP Address which will appear as a link. This will give you the name of the offender’s’s host.
Next, you must draft a brief letter to the internet service provider of the offending party advising them that one of their customers is violating your copyright. This is called a “Take Down Notice.”
This take-down notice will require (in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act DMCA) an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to remove from its network the material described by you as infringing on your copyright. This notice is a powerful legal tool to protect your intellectual property.
Your letter is sent to the address, fax or email each service provider is required to post with the U.S. Copyright office. You can find all US service provider agents for notification in claims of infringement in a complete directory supplied by the U.S. Copyright office found here
What to include in your letter:
- The date of the letter
- Your name
- Your address
- Your City, State and Zip Code
- Your phone number
- Your email address
- Your service provider’s Name
- Your service provider’s Address
- Your service provider’s City, State and Zip Code
- Your service provider’s fax number
- Your service provider’s email address
- The infringing URL
- Then you must specifically identify your copyrighted works that are being infringed.
i.e. My ebook entitled “Boosting Profits With Business Blogs.” My article entitled “New Media Marketing 101.” My computer program entitled “My Outsource Manager.”
- You must identify and describe what is being done at the location.
i.e. My ebook is being sold and offered for download at that location.
When complete, locate the proper address for the offender’s’s ISP using the directory supplied by the U.S. Copyright office found here. Send your notice by registered mail with a return receipt.
In almost all cases, the offender’s’s ISP will not want to deal with the potential legal hassles over a $10/month hosting plan. Most hosting companies will yank the site very quickly, and ask questions later.
#3. Legal response 3.0
If the issue is still not resolved, or is international in nature, then you should seek the guidance of an attorney. Obviously this is going to require an investment on your part. But you need to ask yourself how damaging this copyright infringement is.
If it’s a single blog post or article, it may not be worth your time and money. But if the stolen material is part of a book you’re authoring, or it’s an ebook that you’re selling — then you’d want to get legal counsel on potential remedies.
Where do you draw the line?
Of course there’s a fine line to walk between “over ‘anal’ysis” and good business sense. No busy business owner, sales professional, or marketer wants to waste time chasing blog scrapers and content thieves down rabbit holes.
But at the same time every business blogger must have some line drawn in the sand that can’t be crossed. It could be defined by the type of content scraped or stolen. It could be the number of times it happens, or who the offender’s is. Or your line could be defined by a combination of these and other measurements.
What’s your line in the sand? How far will you let blog scraping or copyright infringement slide before you take action?
My feeling is the more we let these offenders get away with no type of retaliation, the more they’re going to be encouraged. What’s your opinion?
Copyright © RPM Success Group Inc. 2002-2006. All full copyright rights are reserved by RPM Success Group inc. Other bloggers and journalists are allowed to excerpt and link to posts (as is common with bloggers,) as full credit/attribution is given to AdvancedBusinessBlogging.com and RPM Success Group Inc.
John-Paul is a published author and weekly columnist for the Honolulu Star Bulletin. As a Business Coach he helps small business owners market, manage, and sell more with self-influence and persuasion. You can reach J.P. directly via [firstname.lastname@example.org].
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