A few months ago, I wrote about plagiarism in the blogging world. I concentrated on how bloggers can properly attribute sources so that they aren’t accidentally plagiarizing, as well as what constitutes plagiarism. I also discussed the consequences of plagiarism: it can ruin your reputation as a valuable website; it can burn bridges with other bloggers; and it can get you in serious trouble with Google.
What kind of trouble with Google? According to their webmaster page on duplicate content, “In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.”
If your website no longer appears in the Google search results, you are missing out on 60% of online traffic. That is a huge hit to your ability to generate revenue.
Of course, if you read that post and you’re now reading this one, you’re already convinced that plagiarism is horrible and you should never ever do it. So instead, let’s talk about the people who aren’t convinced, the ones who have plagiarized your content, and what to do about it.
Step 1 – Politely ask the plagiarizing party to take it down. Yes, keeping your cool is the first step. It’s important to remember that many plagiarizers steal content on accident. They may not realize that their actions constitute stealing or they may not know how to properly attribute a source. This isn’t an excuse – plagiarizing is always unethical and illegal, even when done on accident. Some plagiarizers might be aware of what they are doing, but have never suffered any consequences for it in the past. Asking them to take it down with a brief but decisive note may be all you need to do to solve the problem.
Keep in mind that taking action against the thief will result in some serious consequences for them. They could lose their webhost, their advertisers, their ability to post on social media, and be penalized by search engines. All of that is extremely difficult to bounce back from. Someone who knowingly plagiarizes your work deserves all of the consequences of their actions, but someone with more innocent intentions may deserve a second chance.
Of course, in order to send them a message requesting that they take down your content from their website, you first have to find their contact information. Check for “About” and “Contact” pages within the website. If the website has an internal search function, search for “contact.” If an email address is not readily available on the website, you can find the owner of the domain name through http://whois.domaintools.com/. If all else fails, try commenting on the blog post.
Step 2 – Start documenting. Take screenshots of the offending website and of your original work. Make sure to include the date in your picture. You will also need a screenshot of the messages you sent to the thief. Find a Google cached copy of your webpage as well. Print out carbon copies of your evidence as well as save them to your computer.
Find a Google cached webpage
Step 3 – Take action. Give the offender a few days to comply with your request. It’s a good idea to specify in your first message to them how much time you will give them, such as 3-5 days. If they have not responded or taken down the plagiarized content, then you will have a few options of recourse.
Do not seek to take revenge out on the thieving website. Trying to defame, spam, or otherwise hurt the plagiarizer will not help you in any way, and it could actually hurt your reputation and chances of getting help. Instead, keep all of your communication civil and polite.
After you’ve given the thief some time and your content is still on their website, then you need to start seeking some bigger fish. Contact their webhost, advertisers, blogging platform, any social media they are posting the content on, and finally, search engines. If you’ve done thorough documentation proving that the original content belongs to you and the other website stole it without permission, you should be ready to move ahead with this step without a problem. You can also report stolen content through Google and Bing Webmaster Tools.
“What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content.” http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2006/04/10/what-do-you-do-when-someone-steals-your-content/. (4 April 2014).