Thursday, November 7, 2013

Someone has copied my blog post! What do I do?

I should be flattered, but I’m rather annoyed by the fact that someone has copied one of my blog posts. It would’ve been fine if the thief only quoted a paragraph or two and made reference of my blog, but the entire content was actually copied and claimed for his own. Making the situation even worse is that it’s the violating post that’s showing on top of Google’s search result when you use a common keyphrase.

Someone has copied my blog post

So, which one of my posts is affected by copyright violation? It’s my guide on how to set up a LAN session for the popular zombie shooter game, Left 4 Dead 2. As of this writing, searching on Google with the terms “Left 4 Dead 2 LAN” returns a post published on PC Game Monster. On the other hand, my own article nowhere appears on the listing. The guide I wrote and published myself is still the top generator of visits for my blog, though, but because it’s linked a lot by several other websites and gaming forums.

Imagine that you’re in my place and trying to earn a living as a blogger. If you own a website mainly relying on pay-per-view ads, naturally you’d want your articles to be on top of Google search results for higher exposure and therefore more organic visits. That isn’t the case here. Sadly, someone else is eating away some advertising income that should be mine. I want some goddamn justice.

What to do when someone has claimed your work for their own

Naturally, I’m not the only one affected by plagiarism. The online world is rife with people engaged in content scraping or the act of stealing posts/articles of someone and publishing it on their own website. If you’re also a victim of content thievery, you have a number of options that you can do to minimize the damage done by the wrongdoer.

Contacting the content scraper

For bloggers who make money off of their posts, they can contact the owner of the site with the copy of their work and inform them of their violation. Ask for compensation, say, a one-time fee to license your work for republication. Or you can offer them to pay you for uniquely writing another version of the content so that both articles won’t seem derivative. Politeness is the key here at first. If it doesn’t work, only then a forceful or threatening message must be used.

In all honesty, I didn’t do the objective solution above. I was so enraged upon discovering that my work was copied that I went to the thief’s own website and wrote a rash comment on one of its pages. Perhaps the thief anticipated this and had set up his blog such that all incoming comments must be moderated first before getting public. My comment has never seen the light of day, and the thief—even to this day—continues to scrape content from others.

Filing a complaint through Google

What I did next was a more logical step to dealing with content stealers: filing a complaint through Google. The search giant offers several removal options for users and companies alike and for a variety of reasons. Naturally, one of them is requesting to remove a search result that directs to another site, because said site is infringing your blog post(s).

If you want to file a DMCA complaint through Google, you can start on their Remove Content page. When your case for requesting a Google removal is similar to mine, follow the steps below.

  1. Click the send a legal removal request link under Remove content for legal reasons.
  2. Under What Google product does your request relate to?, select Web Search.
  3. Under What can we help you with?, select I have a legal issue that is not mentioned above.
  4. In the other set of listed issues, select I have found content that may violate my copyright.
  5. Since you own the post, then respond to the next question with Yes, I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on the copyright owner’s behalf.
  6. Either choose Image/Video or Other, the latter being the appropriate selection for written work.
  7. The Google removal request will then provide you a link to the appropriate form for submitting your request.
  8. Fill up the form properly. Write and describe to the best of your knowledge how your copyright was violated.

If you aren’t serious in providing the required information, be aware that there’s also a form to counter a DMCA removal request. When Google approves that request instead, the content in question will stay in the search results.

Do Google removal requests really work?

You may be wondering if all these hassle with the form is really worth the time and effort. My answer to that is yes and no. After submitting, I was immediately notified—through the email I provided in the copyright removal form—that Google had received my legal request. The email continued to state that the team responsible for investigating copyright infringement would work on my request when their workload permitted. Two weeks later, I received another email from Google which stated that they had completed processing my infringement notice. It further claimed that the search giant was on its way to disabling access to the content that I complained about.

My submission was done months ago, but even to this day, the infringing blog is still shown in the top search results. So no, Google’s removal request proved ineffective in my case. Of course, I can always resubmit my request, but that will make me once again wait to no avail.

Contacting ad providers

A third option for those whose blog post was copied by another blogger is to inform that blogger’s sponsors to no longer display advertisements on his/her blog. Many ad networks prohibit users to show their ads in blogs that don’t conform to the DMCA law.

Anticipating future copyright violations

If you expect more people to copy your work in the future, you can set up a number of Google Alerts to immediately notify you if the search engine has found a page containing your specified keywords. Or, you can always do manual searches to see if there are existing duplicators of your content.

Final thoughts

Even if your efforts to remove duplicated content from Google results do not end satisfactorily in your favor, the best next thing you can do is to not get discouraged and lose your passion for blogging. Just keep posting new stuff for your readers to enjoy. If once again someone’s stealing your work, at least that’s indication enough that you’re getting popular and headed towards the road of blogging success.