What to Do When Someone Copies Your Content

I just found a blog on which someone had copied an entire post of mine and published it on their site. They did link to my blog (“I just found this on [blog]…”), although they did not link to the original post.

Unfortunately this is not uncommon. Here are my tips in dealing with it:

1. Stay Calm

I know it’s hard not to feel offended when something has been taken from you, but it really is in your best interest to stay calm and not immediately fire off an angry email (or worse, leave a nasty comment!) to the offending blog owner.

2. Assume the Best

I’ve learned that very often, people aren’t very well-versed in “netiquette” or online copyright law. They truly don’t realize they cannot copy a post and put it on their site. They assume as long as they “give credit” to the original author, it’s no problem. This idea that anything online is “fair game” is prevalent. (Of course, one of the most common ways this occurs is when people use images without permission.)

I have unknowingly committed netiquette errors myself and have been so grateful when someone points it out in a kind and helpful way instead of lambasting me from the start.

3. Start with One Friendly Email

When you see that someone has copied your material, by all means, take action. However, in my experience, often one friendly email does the trick.

Most people appreciate your note and either edit their post or take it down. If they don’t and/or they react as though it’s not their problem, only then would I consider further action (such as sending a cease and desist letter or contacting a lawyer).

Here’s the basic template I use for my initial email (feel free to copy all you want 😉 ):

[In my first few sentences I always try to find something encouraging about their blog and mention it here. If I can, I try to find a common interest or a point on which we are similar. Be sincere though.]

I happened upon your blog and was honored to see you had stopped by my blog, My Blog (with link) and mentioned it in this post: [link to their offending post]
Just wanted to make a friendly request that instead of republishing my post “My Blog Post Title” in its entirety, you would share a short snippet and then direct others back to my original post with this link: [link to my original post]

Not only are blog posts copyrighted material, but as a fellow blogger, I’m sure you can appreciate the time and energy that goes into writing and keeping a blog going! 🙂 Another consideration is the potentially negative impact “duplicate content” may have on one or both of our sites with regards to the search engines.

[I then try to offer another word of encouragement at the end, again, if I can do it sincerely and genuinely.]

Thanks so much for your understanding!

All the best,

Amy

4. Pick Your Battles

Even blatant copyright infringement of your material doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do anything about it. Now, if they offending blogger is well-known, has the potential to seriously trash your reputation and/or has a lot of search engine clout, then I’d take it more seriously. But in my opinion, sometimes, it’s not worth your time and it’s better to just let it go. Legal action can be expensive, and is that really how you want to spend your time anyway?

5. What to do in the case of scrapers

It’s a different thing entirely if your content is being scraped by people who are doing so specifically to take advantage of you. Scrapers won’t respond to a nice email as explained above.

You can take preventative steps like including a note in your RSS feed indicating you are the original owner. You can do this with Yoast’s SEO plugin. Once the plugin is installed and activated, go to your Dashboard > SEO (left column) > Advanced (left column) > RSS (tab). You’ll see the boxes where you can input the information you want to show up in your feed.

There are also more advanced technical measures when it’s a serious problem. You can also do a DMCA takedown.

Update

Several people asked how I found out about the person who copied my post. In this case I saw it in my “Pending Comments” however a great way to keep tabs is with a Google Alert. Here’s how to create a Google Alert.

32 thoughts on “What to Do When Someone Copies Your Content”

  1. Light Sakpere

    I was surprised when i stumbled on my content (a prayer to God 4 comfort, having recently lost a cousin) on somebody’s page (who also lost a brother) on fb without me being quoted or informed first and immediately i made a comment on d post, telling him what he did was plagiarism but it’s ok. But then his post was already messed bicos of my comment. I later inbox him, apologising for messing his post (my conscience, 2 wrongs don’t make right) but letting him knw twas wrong copying my post without my permission. Tnx 4 elaborating on d subject.

  2. Great article! My site has been up for over 12 years- so I have ran into this quite a bit!
    If I find an article or recipe I want to share I either do an excerpt (or in the case of a full recipe- a link back to the source, with credit to the photos) and if you give a tutorial on a recipe- even better! I love sharing other tutorials with my readers, because I normally don’t have time to do them myself~

    In the case of finding your photos used elsewhere: putting watermarks on your pictures is an option- I have seen a lot of bloggers doing this, especially with the recent bloom of Pinterest.. However, I personally find this tedious and time consuming.. I also don’t like to take away from my pretty pictures 🙂

    If I come across a picture of mine used on another site, I message them politely to have them either give credit or take it down. Many times I have found people copy my picture link directly (this is called hot-linking) so (after sending them an email) I replace the image with one that says “this image was removed due to stolen bandwidth – http://www.mystickitchen (dot) com” in big BOLD red letters (evil grin).. the drawback with doing this is now I have to also replace all of those images on my OWN site- or it looks like I have stolen from myself 🙂

    Another issue I have that bothers me is other sites using variations of my site name..
    people get confused.. My site Title is “The Mystic Kitchen” but my domain name is: http://www.MysticKitchen (dot)com .. I was recently having issues with my hosting company, and when my site is down, Google ‘kindly’ offers up an alternative site: (to what I consider competitors, no less) http://www.TheMysticKitchen(dot)com which is NOT my site, and was created years after mine.. Also for other social media and site user names- it irritates me to find my special name already taken…

    Lastly, like others said above.. pick your battles.. sometimes it is more heartache than it is worth.. in some cases you can just consider it free advertising.. in others a few nice (then warning) letters should do the trick- if they have any integrity.. Also- ALWAYS give the benefit of the doubt.. some are “newbies” and don’t know about copyright infringement.. (yes, really)
    Otherwise you could spend the majority of your time hunting down “copy bloggers” and not really get anywhere, because new ones will continually pop up.. take it from someone who has been at it for years 🙂
    Hope this helps!

  3. I don’t think I’ve had anyone copy and paste my content but I have had instances where a similar Facebook page has taken my ideas for announcements of events and such. I wrote the host of the page and said that I didn’t mind that he got ideas about event postings to share with his readers, but in the future I would appreciate a link to my blog article. So far it’s been going well and I’m getting acknowledgement whenever he reposts one of my suggestions.

  4. Great post, Amy. This has actually happened to me a couple times. Once my content was republished to a site that had no email available (have to go through Google). More recently, a company copied a good amount of copy, included my link, but it wasn’t an active backlink. They used my content to sell their fitness products. ‘Pick your battles’ is right. I have so much on my plate, but do need to deal with this soon. This was the reminder I needed to see!

  5. I’ve had entire posts C&P’d onto forums too. You are right, usually people are very nice, apologetic and quickly remove the content and/or correct it with a short snippet and link back. This has even happened with a news station that ‘featured’ my post. I think people just don’t know and/or plead ignorance.

    I’ve only run into one issue with blatant copyright infringement from a bigger blog doing a feature on a non-blogger who stole my content. In that case the blogger in question did nothing to remedy the situation (her stance was that it was not her fault that the featured person stole from me even though she featured the work) which needless to say was a huge disappointment. At that point I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just chalked it up to the fact that some people are total [term removed] and just let it be.

  6. What about if they “stole” your post title? I have had a post of mine go viral nuts on Pinterest and then a couple of other bloggers have not copied word for word my post (they did copy my recipe word for word, but after an email from me took the recipe down at least and left a link back to my site.) But they still use the exact same title! Which of course effects SEO and now her post is beginning to seriously grow in popularity. Which I get traffic from it because she linked to me, but it just makes me mad!!

  7. You wrote a beautiful letter, Amy. Thanks for sharing the template. About a month ago I had the exact same thing happen to me & I handled it exactly as you suggested. I stayed calm & wrote a ‘benefit of the doubt’ type letter exactly like you did. The blogger was so penitent – she apologized profusely & corrected it immediately and new friendship was formed.

    1. This has absolutely been my experience too, more often than not. I think a lot of people just don’t realize how things work. I’ve been there too and got “yelled at” for my mistake and felt horrible! So, I can relate.

  8. I found a whole blog that has every post I have made on my blog Easy2Save posted and wonder what the point it?? What good does it do someone to make a copycat/duplicate blog? They same person has about fifty other blogs on blogspot and I believe they are all copies of other blogs. I have not found a way yet to contact them to ask that they stop copying my blog.

  9. I am new to the blogging world and was searching your site trying to find an answer to a question about linking to someone else’s blog post. So, what is the best way to share an article from another person’s blog on my own blog? I assumed I needed to link back to the original post but I didn’t know if it was okay to post a part of their post (like a little taste of it :)) and then put the link for the reader to read the rest of it directly from the original post. Thanks so much!!

    1. Yes, it is generally acceptable to post a small excerpt of a someone else’s post on your blog (I shoot for 1-3 sentences) and then always link back to them. Good question!

  10. Great stuff! I had a similar incident, but didn’t do anything about it. In my blog bio, I have a few humorous lines that a friend of mine used (word for word) in her bio on a site she contributes to. I wasn’t sure what to do. I think it would be easier to send an email to someone I didn’t know. What do you think?

    1. I think I would prefer having to send an email to someone I don’t know too. A friend — yeah, that could be tricky.

  11. Great generic email template. This is usually what I do as well, the handful of times I have actually responded. I even leave out the paragraph on plagiarism because I don’t want them to go on the defensive. If necessary, a follow up email usually has that.

    I’ve only had one situation when the person completely floored me and got irritated with ME for contacting them about it. That case was just laughable because they had the audacity to put a copyscape button in their post that they had copied from my site verbatim. While they did take down the post initially, they later put a new post back up in their own formatting, but with the information they took from my post and no attribution. Sigh…That one is going into the “not gonna pick the battle” anymore with them pile.

    Also, I rarely find copy offenders through google alerts or my dashboard, unfortunately. The best resource I have used has been Google’s Webmaster Tools. Or, the person just leaving a link in and it pings my post they copied 🙂

    1. That’s a great point about Google’s Webmaster Tools Andrea. Very useful for sure! Thanks for the tip!

      I agree that allowing trackbacks and pingbacks is one of the better ways to track.

  12. I found a site that had taken a photo and my request for reader input verbatim, through Google Alerts. I wrote the type of email you suggested and asked them to remove it which they did. I now have that site in Google Reader and monitor it.

    Thanks Carrie for the plagiarism site – I’ve bookmarked it for future reference. Love the form letters.

  13. This is a very scary reality for bloggers and for some of us our biggest fear. You offered some great suggestions on how to deal with it. I do think however that we do need to take a firm stand. I think many times people who infringe on the copyrights of others count on us not pursuing them, but our talent and resources in some cases has aided them in making a living. That’s no different than stealing of course and they need to be held accountable to the extent of our individual capabilities.

  14. Amy,

    Thanks for the article. I am a first time visitor and I wanted to share my experience on the issue. I often get my content republished to other sites, which don’t even give credit to the original site. While the actual amount of “stealer’s” who copy content in order to profit from it is low, nevertheless I do take it personally.

    I do realize at some level of course that it might not be worth it killing myself over the many sites that have or will copy my content. In reality anyone who has the business model copying other people’s articles will not succeed online, because readers are not stupid. Also at the end of the day, if you include links to your site within your articles, users who click through on them will find out who the real author really is. Linked phrases within my articles are typically how I find out when someone reposts my article. I guess people who copy articles are too lazy to remove them 😉

    Best Regards,

    Dividend Growth Investor

  15. being a fairly new blogger as of Feb 14th of this year I learned the hard way how wrong this was, I loved a blog post and shared it on mine I did link back saying where I had gotten the entire post which I copied and pasted, she was very nice about it telling me someone had seen it and that you shouldnt do this, I apoligized explained how new I was and told her there should be a blogging 101 for bloggers she then gave me your link and a couple of others that have helped me learn the ins and outs of what NOT to do… thanks for all that you do to help new bloggers

    1. what you can do when you find a post like that which you love in the future is post a short excerpt, a little about why love love it and a link over to the other blogger to read the rest. excerpts when you’re reviewing or commenting on another’s work are protected under fair use.

  16. As a well known professional home stager (at least in home staging & real estate circles:o)) I often have my content and photos stolen by other home stagers, and occasionally, real estate agents. Usually, a business-like letter to take down the stolen content or photos does the trick. I have found that being business-like works better and faster than being too “nice”. Some people are too slow to respond if no implied threat is involved.

    Most hosting companies understand the importance of being cooperative regarding copyright infringed content. I’ve been given contact information many times, once I explain the situation. You can also report the site to Google and if they find your claims are correct they will de-list the site which is almost like having the site taken down.

    Check out Copyscape (http://copyscape.com). For only a few cents per search, you can check your whole site (although copying & pasting individual pages or blog posts work better). Copyscape will list every instance of copying of all or part of what you have entered, including links back to the offending article. It highlights the words that have been copied. They will also do searches for free, but I recommend the paid searches as they are more thorough.

    FYI, most of the sites that don’t seem like they are run by humans, aren’t. They are picking up Google feeds that list your blog. As long as they are picking up the feed in its entirety, and not removing your authorship links, there is not a lot you can do. Those sites make money with pay per click ads and pay per impression ads and aren’t actively managed.

  17. We find people when we look at our Google Alerts. I have to agree with start with a nice letter first. We have had several people try to use our trademarked domain name.

    The first one we had to have our lawyer send a letter, $200. The 2nd one we started first contacting their ISP because there wasn’t contact info. The ISP wouldn’t talk to us because we “weren’t their customer”. Hubby very firmly replied that their client is in trademark violation and that we would sue them also if they didn’t give us the contact info. right away. They ended up just shutting down the people which was even better for us.

    Yes, the entire legal thing can get messy and expensive!

  18. Great post, as usual. You think of everything, Amy. I had not considered the seo angle of this.

    What do you do when the blog in question does not look like it’s run by humans? Those are usually the ones I come across. They are swiping the feed and the blog doesn’t look like anyone reads it.

    1. That’s one of the times I let it go. Too much hassle…and not sure what you could do anyway, unfortunately.

  19. This is very common in the food blogging world. Too common. I’m working with a new web client who has a site without contact information pulling in her entire posts…comments and all. We’re changing hosting and renaming a couple of her posts but in this case, it’s blatant and they quite obviously don’t want to be contacted.

    I’ve seen new bloggers copy a picture and then use their own post…’most’ food bloggers are actually OK with that if they are credited and linked; that photography piece is important to us. I can tell you from personal experience the space, the equipment, the experience to learn an entirely new field just because we like to cook…adds up to a lot all the way around, so stealing our pics is as big an offense as our text!

    Susie…if you set yourself up with Google alerts, you will get a notification whenever something linked to you is included in a post; or if using WordPress, installing the WP Stats plugin will provide you with some info beyond visitors including sites that have links into yours. Many are worthy good links…but it does allow you to verify them.

    1. if they link back to you it’s pretty easy because you’ll see that link on your wordpress dashboard or you’ll see clicks coming in from it on your stats. in the situation i experienced they did not link back to me but a reader spotted it and emailed me about it.

    2. This time it showed up in my comments (because I allow trackbacks/pingbacks). You can set up a Google alert (maybe I need to post how to do that!) as well.

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