Content Stealing: Bloggers Behaving Badly

by Meg Guiseppi on October 5, 2010

Until recently, I was spending too much time fretting over and dealing with content thieves. It happens to me a lot. The more content I build on my blogsites, the greater the likelihood and opportunity for people to swipe it and “use” it as their own.

Google Alerts and my regular routine of Googling my name to monitor my online footprint reveal these content thieves. Sometimes I just stumble across them. I’m not specifically looking for these people. I can only imagine how many more of them are out there that I don’t know about.

As an avid blogger, I love the sense of community among us – bolstering each other by blogging about each other’s good posts and spreading the word by tweeting each other’s posts. This kind of mutual support is gratifying, and builds friendships and trust.

I guess I’m asking too much to expect each of us to respect each others’ intellectual property by at least giving attribution and a link back to the original writer.

Maybe this isn’t important. Maybe I should forget about it and just be flattered that people think my content’s good enough to steal. But it bugs me. And I haven’t waived claim of copyright on any of my content, as Zen Habits’ Leo Babauta did and discussed in his very enlightening post, Open Source Blogging: Feel Free to Steal My Content.

I spend a lot of time and take a lot of care with any content I post – on my sites or elsewhere as a guest writer. They’re my thoughts, and my attempt to add value and hopefully position myself as a subject matter expert. If my thoughts are out there in places other than my own sites, I want people to know that I’m the writer.

It doesn’t bother me so much anymore if I haven’t been asked for permission to re-post entire blog posts of mine, as long as I’m given attribution.

With a busy entrepreneur’s schedule, I don’t have the time (or inclination) to deal with the frustrations involved with tracking down and holding all these content thieves accountable. I suppose many of them are fully aware of that, and it drives them to continue stealing. I used to try to keep up with it, but came to understand it was a losing battle.

Still, sometimes when I find a scraper, and it bothers me enough, I send them a polite email, presuming good intent, whether or not they deserve it.

Generally, I let them know that all content on the web, whether it carries a copyright statement or not, is automatically protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

I gently explain that it’s not okay to “use” other’s content without their permission, and that giving attribution to the original writer with a link back to the original site is standard practice – and cultivates relationships, instead of testing them.

Last year, someone set up a blog that consisted entirely of my blog posts. It had no pages or information about the owner – just a simple site with a blog stream updated with each of my new posts. I tracked the owner down and found that, ironically, she has a business offering SEO services. She gave me full attribution and linked back to my original posts, so I let that one go. But I was annoyed.

Several months ago I came across a new site for a recruitment firm in the UK that had set up several pages and blog posts, mostly copied from my content, slightly reworded, but no mention of me. I tracked down the owner and let him know he needed to take the content down. He immediately did so.

Too often these offending bloggers are colleagues of mine in the careers industry. Because they know me, or know of me, that must somehow make it okay to scrape my content.

I recently came across a new post by a colleague who was new to one of my professional communities. At least half of the content was copied from an earlier post of mine.

I didn’t know him at all and assumed he may be a novice blogger and didn’t know any better. When I politely notified him by email that he should take the content down or give me attribution, and briefly informed him of blogging ethics, etiquette, and legalities (copyrighting issues), I was shocked by his response that he didn’t do any copying. 

He did give me attribution for one paragraph, but readers would assume the other content was his. In his email response, he claimed that my content was “his thoughts”. He said he would take the post down (which he did), but this was not an admission of guilt. 

It’s funny how more of “his thoughts” showed up as a new page on his blog that was copied, word-for-word, from one of my blog pages. Dealing with this issue becomes sticky when it’s someone I may have to continue rubbing elbows with professionally.

One of the problems is that, if these people are not held accountable for scraping content, they tell themselves it’s okay to do it, and continue doing it. This bounces off to others who are too lazy or unwilling to generate their own content, and convinces them it’s okay to grab whatever content out there looks good, and use it to promote themselves.

If you’re a blogger, has your content been stolen, too? What do you do about it? Let it slide or take the time to deal with these people in some way?

Related posts:

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C-level Job Search: Blogging? What Am I Going To Write About?

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