I and many WordPress “representatives”, along with the developers and staff of WordPress and Automattic, are getting more and more complaints and requests for help dealing with content theft issues. We all need to clear this up and spread the word about how this works in relationship to WordPress.
In order to go after a copyright violation of your content, you have to contact the site owner first. When that fails, you ask the web host for assistance, in accordance with the DMCA, to contact the site owner and deal with the copyright violation. Herein lies the problem.
As Mark Jaquith recently stated, there is a lot of name confusion between a WordPress blog and a WordPress.com blog. Since a web host in the United States is required to assist with copyright infringement issues when contacted, when is WordPress the host and when is it not? After all, it’s all WordPress, right?
A blog “Powered by WordPress” is not hosted by WordPress, Automattic, or any of its affiliates. WordPress, and its parent company, Automattic, has no responsibility for the site nor its content as they only provide the free program that runs the blog. Going after WordPress in this instance is like going after Microsoft for copyright violation of content printed from Word. WordPress, like Microsoft, is not responsible for the end use of their products.
A blog on WordPress.com, with the footer statement “Get a free blog on WordPress.com” or Blog at WordPress.com is hosted by the free blog hosting service owned and operated by Automattic, and the servers and business are based within the United States, therefore, the host comes under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and must assist copyright holders in removing copyright violation content when requested – just required of search engines and other web hosts.
I know how frustrating the battle is against content thieves. The abuse of feed scrapers using our content on their ad-filled splogs is growing daily. Many believed only top bloggers were targets. Now, their “little” blogs are being scraped and their content used without their permission – leaving them feeling victimized and helpless as web hosts, especially blog hosting services, offer no simple and easy solution to reporting, or force the victim to jump through a lot of hoops in order to report.
The issue at hand, though, is blaming WordPress for the evil doing of content thieves. Here are some clues to figure out if you should contact WordPress.com regarding content theft:
- If the blog’s URL is
- If the blog’s footer says “Blog at WordPress.com” or the equivalent.
- If the WHOIS report for the site lists WordPress.com and/or Automattic as the web host.
Do not contact WordPress or WordPress.com
- If the blog’s URL does not include
- If the WHOIS report does not list WordPress.com or Automattic as the web host.
- If the footer says “Powered by WordPress”.
Here is the WordPress.com policy for handling content theft.
For WordPress.com users copying other WordPress.com bloggers, copyright holders are asked to provide links to the original and copied post. The violator is contacted and asked to either create an excerpt of the copyright violated content with appropriate credit links, or to remove the content. If they fail to comply, they get a warning notice on their blogs. If it continues, WordPress.com reserves the right to remove the copyright violating content or take more aggressive action for failure to comply.
For bloggers reporting copyright violations by WordPress.com bloggers, they are instructed to use the DMCA reporting process. Violators receive a warning with a seven-day deadline. If they fail to comply, their blogs will be shut down. Again, proof of copyright infringement must be proven in accordance with the DMCA. WordPress.com support recommends you leave a comment on the violator’s blog first, then contact them through the DMCA reporting process with the link to the original content, copy content, and link to your comment asking the violator to remove your copyright violating content.
Do not report “He is copying from my blog” or “She is linking to my pictures” in your compliant. Be very specific and to the point.
This post of http://example.wordpress.com/x-y-z is a copy of my blog at http://example2.wordpress.com/a-b-c.
The picture in the post at http://example.wordpress.com/x-y-z is linking to my pictures on my blog and specifically from this post: http://example2.wordpress.com/a-b-c.
They don’t need to hear the whole story and nothing but the story. They just need the facts. The faster they get the information, the faster they can respond.
Remember, if the blogger is using a Fair Use equivalent, and not your blog’s whole content, they may be within their rights to use your content. WordPress.com admits that while Fair Use is pretty hard to define, clear copying of a whole post meets the requirements of a copyright violation.
According to WordPress.com support, the record for compliance with a copyright violation notice is two minutes. However, this is not the norm. Terms of Service reports and copyright violations are handled throughout the work day as fast as possible. The time delays come from non-responsive bloggers, either with those who report the violation without enough information or waiting on the offending blogger’s response, totally out of the hands of WordPress.com.
What You Need to Know About Reporting Copyright Violations
Sidebar Feeds: WordPress and WordPress.com blogs have the capability to add feeds to their sidebars through feed Widgets and Plugins. The content that arrives is usually limited to post titles and/or a few words in an excerpt. Accordingly, these are considered by WordPress.com to be within Copyright Fair Use and cannot be stopped. If you do not like the blog which is using your feed post titles or excerpts, you have to take it up directly with them.
Copyright Policy Doesn’t Match Copyright Violation Request: Many people don’t understand how copyright works and head to Creative Commons and get a badge and slap it on their site with a “that’s done” pride. Most of the Creative Commons licenses allow use of your content in one form or the other, from totally free-to-use to can’t use at all. If you are reporting a copyright violation and your Creative Commons badge and license has permissions for usage that are not in compliance with your request to stop the copyright violation, you are stuck. Consider updating and changing your Creative Commons license and copyright policy to be very clear about what you will and will not allow for usage of your blog’s content.
Understand Fair Use: The copyright law is vague concerning what amounts to Fair Use of content. Is it only a line or two in a quote, or several paragraphs? I have a policy of 10% or 400 word limit, but there is no clear definition of what constitutes an abuse of Fair Use except that the usage hurts the market value for the original author.
For some, any usage of the content for commercial purposes, Fair Use or not, is a violation of their copyright policy. What is the definition of commercial? it used to mean content used for the purpose of generating income. Does that also mean a blog with ads?
WordPress.com support reports that it’s really difficult to enforce copyright policies when there are those who have no problem using other people’s content within Fair Use but scream when their content is used accordingly. Consistency and fairness in practice helps.
How to Report and Handle Copyright Violations: Jonathan Bailey’s article series featuring 5 Content Theft Myths and Why They Are False and The 6 Steps to Stop Content Theft are clear introductions to how to report and handle copyright violations. I go into more detail in “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content“. There is also good information for WordPress and WordPress.com users on the WordPress.com Support Forums.
Copyright is about playing nice and fair. There is a lot of trust involved with a lot of loose laws to protect the copyright owner. Set an example for others on how you protect the rights of other blogger’s content, and do your best to make sure your content is also protected.
- What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content
- Finding Stolen Content and Copyright Infringements
- The Growing Trends in Content Theft
- WordPress Plugins Battling Evil
- Stop Content Theft Buttons and Badges
- Applaud Those Who Warn You: Your Blog’s Content Is Being Stolen
- Copyrights and the Blogger: Protect What is Yours
- Maxpower’s Digital Fingerprint WordPress Plugin Updated
- AntiLeech Splog Stopper: Fighting Back Against Content Thieves
- Digital Fingerprints Help Track Blog Content Theft
- The Bitacle Battle of Blogs
Site Search Tags: copyright, wordpress news, wordpress tips, copyright violation, copyright infringement, content theft, blog scraping, dmca, reporting content violations, reporting copycats, reporting splogs, reporting scrapers, what to do when someone steals your content