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Tell Your Story: Have You Had Your Content Stolen?

Call it stealing, call it copyright infringement, call it damned annoying, but answer the question: Have you had your blog content stolen?

I’ve written a lot recently about what to do if your content is “violated” by others using it without permission, about the growing trends in content theft through feeds and other methods, how to find out if others are stealing your content, and more, so now it is your turn.

If you have had your content stolen, what happened? How did you find out? What actions did you take? Which worked? Which didn’t? Was the issue resolved, and if so, how? What advice do you have for others? What did you learn from your experience? What is your story about copyright infringement?

I have many but one of my favorites comes from a well known nature photographer and author. Driving through a small town in the Midwest United States, he and his wife stopped in at an interesting cafe with an upstairs open balcony. They sat down for lunch, tired after driving for many hours, and ordered lunch. Lunch arrived and they started to feel better and look around from their balcony seat above the old, small downtown area. What greeted them was a full wall mural on the windowless side of a building across the street, towering three stories high, painted with an exact duplicate of one of his most popular selling nature images.

If the image had been close but different, they would have laughed and gone on their way back home, thrilled to be the inspiration of the artist. But the image was exactly the same. The artist had captured the lighting, head position, the branches, and slight scar on the elk’s body as it stood majestically snorting in the woods during rut – everything, right down to the smallest detail. This was no longer inspiration, it was duplication. And copyright infringement.

The waitress was very glad to brag about the artist, so he was easy to find. They explained copyright law to the artist, who was surprised that anyone would care about such things. In the end, they received compensation for use of the image to the current date, and the artist changed the mural to be “more original than duplicated” so the work could be honestly called the “original work” of the painter, not a copy of someone’s else’s original work. I believe a note was added to the painting about how the work was “inspired by the original photography” of my friend.

No lawyers, and it was resolved within a day or so. Still, imagine the shock of looking up from a randomly picked luncheon spot and seeing a huge reproduction of one of your photographs painted across a building!

Being very familiar with the shock of reading my own words and seeing my own photographs used as someone’s else’s content, and knowing how wide spread this problem is, dating back to well before the Internet, and knowing how prevalent copyright infringements and violations are, I’m sure you are familiar with that feeling, too.

Sure, my friend’s story is not about content on the Internet being stolen, but it shows the lengths people go, knowingly or innocently, to use the work of others without understanding that while work can be used as inspiration, it cannot be used for duplication. There are words for that: theft, stealing, copyright violation, intellectual property violation, infringement, plagiarism, and stupid.

So what are your stories about copyright infringement, plagiarism, and plain stealing of your content?

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen

13 Comments

  1. Posted May 4, 2006 at 4:00 am | Permalink

    My content gets stolen a lot. I usually find it out through Technorati when someone links back via an internal link accidentally. Many times people post the full contest without credit. Such sites do not even have an email or contact page page where you can point this out. If you post to Moderated Comments, nothing happens. Nothing much you can do about such instances. Copyscape is good to find your copied content.

  2. Neeraj
    Posted May 4, 2006 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    “Sorry, no posts matched your criteria” is what I’m getting when I click on the link to your content-violation post.

  3. Posted May 4, 2006 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Neeraj: Thank you. I’m having trouble with future posts posting on WordPress.com for over a month and my “site map” held many of these future posts with the wrong permalink URL. Thanks for catching that.

    Have I said how much I hate permalinks with dates?! I will soon.

  4. Posted May 4, 2006 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I had this happen to me just once, or I found out just once.

    Received a trackback from a blog and realized he had stolen my RSS feed as is. I was able to detect it and thankfully I had Angsuman’s feed copyrigter active which resulted in him having a blaring copyright notice.

    Didn’t follow it up much because it would be too time consuming and expensive.

    My post on the issue

  5. Posted May 4, 2006 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I’ve been lucky to have most people only post my content, especially my artwork, with links back and full credit to me. Several others have only posted my artwork, but I always including credit information in the picture, so it’s no big deal.

    I have had one person post several photographs of mine, however, after she had removed my signature and URL from the bottom right corner. I took action. I first searched her whois information, contacted her host provider, and then got her involved in an email discussion. From her email, I got her IP address and reported her abuse to them.

  6. Posted May 4, 2006 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    My content was stolen a few days ago. A low-life copied entire posts, including pictures, HTML and even my jump.php callback. A post to the comments resulted in a simple delete and ignore. I asked a mailing list of +3000 loyal fans to visit the guy and ask him to remove my content.

    he disabled the comments. I mailed blogger.com, but even showing plain and clear URL proof AND the fact the low-life was pointing to images hosted in MY server, they required a written letter, mailed or faxed, and it costs money and take time (I’m from Brazil). My crappy host doesn’t allow .htaccess rewrite, so I used my last resource:

    Changed the images, using the worst google images with adult filters off could find. His page was NOT a good place to visit for a while. One of the posts (he copied a few) had an Outback Blooming Onion picture replaced by goatse.cx. Talk about Irony…

    The story was spreaded among portuguese-speaking blogosphere. The resulting post telling the story is scoring 1300 views and counting.

    http://www.carloscardoso.com/?p=283 (in portuguese, sorry.)

    PS: The guy removed the posts, and now is pointing fingers at ME because I don’t understand he’s a busy kid and don’t have time to dig his own content. Go figure.

  7. Posted May 4, 2006 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I recommend http://babelfish.altavista.digital.com/ for translating the Portuguese into English, for those who would like to read the above post.

  8. Posted May 5, 2006 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Boing Boing has an interesting and complex post which touches on this

    http://www.boingboing.net/2006/05/03/moral_quandaries_fro.html

    about–

    “The History of an Idea or Humor Makes for Strange Vatfellows
    Offered as proof of the effects of living in the information age, the following is a story about how an idea goes from a person’s head to the printed page, from the printed page to the printed journal, from that printed journal to the humor pages on the World Wide Web, from those humor pages to the pages of a major cyberzine, from the pages of a major cyberzine to pages of a major mainstream magazine which is itself about to launch a virtual magazine on the World Wide Web…”

    http://www.mindspring.com/~mfpatton/HARPER3.htm

  9. Posted May 9, 2006 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,

    This has just happened to me in the last week. While I’ve had bits and pieces of various posts stolen/cited in a dubious man ner, this is the first time someone has copied my entire wholesale — title, description, posts, categories, even my photograph and copyright message. His/her motive for this has me completely stumped, as it links back to me all over the place.

    This happened a week ago. I filed a complaint almost immediately under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. So far, nothing has happened. The cloned blog is still up, with no response from Blogger. (This just adds to the lengthening list of reasons I wish I’d gone with WordPress back in the beginning.)

    Keep up the good work. Great blog :-)

  10. Posted May 9, 2006 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully you didn’t start with the DMCA complaint to Google or other search engines. I hope you started with posting a comment on the site requesting the duplications be removed, and took the other steps first. These are simple and often work faster than waiting for the search engine folks to get around to it. Once they know they “done wrong” they usually want to quit and run.

    Good luck with it. It sure stinks.

    And anytime is the right time to switch to WordPress. ;-)

  11. Posted January 26, 2007 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Thank you for a refreshingly sane, nuts and bolts site. Unfortunately, I wish I’d had this down in front of me as clearly and concisely the first time my content was stolen, a few years ago, when some of my writing was actually cannibalized for one of those pay-for-an-essay sites. (Worse, it wasn’t even my best work… far from it!)

    I was furious to see the latest steal from one of my sites, even moreso when I traced back the site to a small business with – get this – a Copyscape notice and on another page, a link to the ethical standards of the business association they belonged to. Fortunately, though, I can relax and reread your suggestions again, and keep my head! Muchly appreciated.

    One thing. In regards to the vengeance that you counsel against. Of course, everyone should try to deal with these things calmly, but as far as not drawing attention to it, I think it would benefit so many of us to have a central website registry where members would agree to certain terms, and where a listing of copyright infringers and their domains can be kept. Frankly, since the person who stole the article believes that attribution to the writer is enough, I think she’ll quickly move on to stealing from other people, and rather than exact a pound of flesh, I would rather WARN people about her.

  12. Posted June 19, 2007 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    My RSS Feed was stolen and 97 of my blog posts were published by a splogger before I found out. I made abuse reports in many possible ways…. to the host, to Splogreporter, to the Google AdSense Team…. (There were no AdSense ads visible. However, there was an AdSense code inside the splog when I viewed the source).

    My content isn´t scrapped any more by this splogger. But my blog was only a drop in the “splog ocean”. Other blogs and web sites are continuously scrapped.

    Splogs (Spam+blogs) copy content from a blog’s feed or mix headlines or nonsense content from various feeds with the keywords they are trying to target. These spammers will continue and get more sophisticated over time.

  13. Posted September 9, 2007 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Just happened to me today. Fortunately, easily resolved. I just sent a friendly–yet very clear–email to the blogger, before dinner, and she removed it from her blog by the time I came back.

    Fortunately, no encounters with “splogs” yet, and I hope I never do.


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