Woman on PhoneSomeone Stole My Site: How To Defend Yourself When Someone Plagiarizes Your Website Text

By Karyn Greenstreet

copyright © 2006, by Karyn Greenstreet. All rights reserved.

I knew one day it would happen. Someone stole the text from my website and used it on their own website. Dirty rotten scoundrels!

According to the US Copyright Office website (http://www.copyright.gov):

“Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work.”

What Do You Do?

Here are some ways to discover which sites have stolen your text:

  1. Find some text on your website that is so “you” that it’s unlikely that anyone else would write a phrase or sentence that way. Go to http://www.google.com, and put that phrase or sentence into their search, within quotation marks. For example, one phrase that of my own that I searched on looked like this: "you'll end up struggling to make your business a success, and all your passion and enthusiasm will drain away." (Go ahead, type it into Google and see who’s got my text on their site.) You have to put the phrase within quotation marks so that Google knows to search for the whole phrase with all the words right next to each other.
  2. Make note of the sites that have the same text as yours. While it is completely possible in millions and millions of websites that someone might have written the exact same phrase, it’s worth investigating every site that comes up.
  3. Another great place to search for plagiarized sites is http://www.copyscape.com

Here are some steps to getting a site to take down plagiarized text:

  1. Gather as much information about the offending site as you can.
  2. Print out all pages from their site where the plagiarized text resides.
  3. Try to find a contact name, phone number and email address from the site.
  4. Go to http://www.internic.net/whois.html and get all their registration information. If they are not in the USA, go to Google and type in “whois” plus the name of their country. You should be able to find a whois site that can get their DNS record for you.
  5. Go to http://www.alexa.com and find whatever information you can there.
  6. Finally, write to the offending site owner and tell them that you found plagiarized text on their site. List the URLs of the offending pages along with the copyrighted URLs of your own pages. Give them two or three days to either delete the pages, or re-write them so that they no longer include your text.

This is not the time to play nice guy! Tell the offending site owner that you are copying their hosting company and domain registrar on the letter or email, and do so.

Make sure when you write this email or letter, you don't use any passive language, and do not say "please". Demand your rights. It is illegal and unethical for them to do what they did and they need to stop doing it immediately.

Another great resource is the WayBack Machine found at www.archive.org. This allows you to check what their websites looked like throughout the years. You may be able to pinpoint the date when those people served themselves with a hefty spoon of your web content. 

Someone pointed out to me that sometimes the offender is the website designer, not the owner of the site. If you are an owner of a site, and you did not write your own text, ask your designer where he or she got the text. Make it clear to them that you will not tolerate any plagiarized text and that you will hold them legally responsible in any charge or lawsuit that comes up over the copy on your website.

Some Final Notes:

Always put a copyright statement on your site. If it took you a long time to write your text, you should be the only one benefiting from it, not some unethical person who is looking for a shortcut.

If the site doesn’t comply with your request, you might have to get your attorney involved. Only you can decide if the expense of an attorney is worth it for you.

I have written to the six sites that stole my text. Two have complied and taken down the offending pages within three days of my request. If the others don’t comply, I will be posting their websites in my blog. I'm not afraid of a little publicity, but I bet they are.

Karyn GreenstreetIncrease Revenue and Reach
Without Feeling Overwhelmed

Karyn Greenstreet is a small business coach and consultant. She shares tips, techniques and strategies with self-employed people to increase revenue and reach, create a clear business vision and plan, and implement it without feeling overwhelmed. Visit her website at www.PassionForBusiness.com

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