Last week, I promised you a story about a thief.
There are some extraordinarily lazy people out there who would rather steal the carefully-crafted text from your site and put it on their own, rather than do the work on describing their own services and products.
Think it doesn’t happen or won’t happen to you? Think again.
Back in 2004, I wrote an article about how to create and run a mastermind group. The first sentence goes like this:
“There is synergy of energy, commitment, and excitement that participants bring to a Mastermind Group.”
When I type that phrase into Google today, there are 7,330 OTHER websites with that phrase on it. Wow! Is it possible that 7,330 other people all had a collective zeitgeist-intuitive moment where we all read each others’ minds and wrote the same phrase?
Now, truthfully, some of these sites are people who asked permission to reprint my article and who attributed the article to me (38 of them).
The rest took (STOLE!) the text from my article, in part or in whole, and simply put it on their site to describe their own mastermind group.
Here’s a quick test you can try:
- Pick a phrase from your website that you feel is uniquely you.
- Copy and paste that phrase into Google in quotation marks. The quotation marks tell Google that you’re looking for the exact phrase, all the words in the same order right next to each other.
- Note the number of pages with exact phrase on it from the Google results.
- To find the websites that also have your name on them (after all, if someone is copying your text, shouldn’t they say who wrote it?), type the phrase again in quotations, and AFTER the last quotation mark, type a plus sign (+) and your full name in quotations. It looks something like this in the Google Search box:
“There is synergy of energy, commitment, and excitement that participants bring to a Mastermind Group” + “Karyn Greenstreet”
So What To Do Next?
The longer your text has been on the internet, the more likely someone will copy it. You have two choices:
- Ignore it, knowing that that Google frowns on duplicate content, so their sites will be penalized for having the same content as your own site, giving them poor SEO results.
- Go after the most egregious thieves, especially those who are direct competitors. Here’s what to do once you discover your text has been stolen.
Whichever you decide to do, always, always remember to copyright your website with the Federal Copyright office. In the USA, you can find out how to copyright your website at www.copyright.gov. It’s only $45, and the best investment you can make.
If you put a lot of work into the quality of the text on your website, consider creating a Google Alert to notify you when that exact text shows up on someone else’s website. Then you can make a decision what to do about the results. You can also use Copyscape.com to find marauders.
Thank you for this great article. I have shared it on my facebook. I dint even realize that we could copyright our website for $45.00. That is really $45.00 well spent.
Have a wonderful day.
Thank you so much for this post! Excellent information and advice. And something I had not considered doing. I’m very careful about copywriting our printed material, but had not given much thought to the websites. I’ll take action today based on your article. Thanks again!
Great post Karyn! Thanks for continuing to bring such valuable, vital info to our attention. You are a powerhouse!
Don’t you hate it when that happens? Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but plagiarism is carrying that admiration too far!
I’ve found Copyscape.com to be a valuable resource in identifying content thieves.
Incredibly useful and important information! Thanks for letting us/me know that there are steps that can be taken against those who steal from us.
I love your site and its content! I find it refreshing that you actually have meat and potatoes on offer opposed to the fluff on so many other sites.
I’m glad you’re finding the site helpful, Lisa! 🙂
Great blog post Karyn. It is always an upsetting moment when you realize someone has taken your content and posted it on their website without your permission.
More so when they don’t even have the decency to link back to your site identifying you as the author.
A lot of people send the offending site an email requesting that they pull it down or they will be contacting their lawyer. For 90% of offending website owners this works, the other 10% need to have legal action taken against them. The only problem with this is the costs involved for doing so.
At that point you ask, is it really worth the money?
That’s true, JayTurn. It’s a business decision that needs to be made, but you’ll have a hard time taking any legal action if your website text isn’t officially copyrighted with the gov’t office. I know that you’re “supposed” to be protected the minute you write something, but proving you were the first to write something is hard to do unless you have a date-stamp from the Copyright Office. Each year, I bundle up all my important websites and send them off to the Copyright Office to get registered. (Same thing with class designs, ebooks, audio program, etc.)
Good advice and thanks Kayrn,
” remember to copyright your website with the Federal Copyright office. In the USA, you can find out how to copyright your website at http://www.copyright.gov. It’s only $45, and the best investment you can make. ”
Do you know if this is just for the US, or is it internation. I am from the UK.
I’m not sure what the fee is worldwide, but just go to Google and type in “copyright office UK” (or “copyright office plus your country”) and you’ll find your government’s copyright office website.
Karyn, your articles are always right on time for me & very informative. Thank you for keeping us all honest & pointing out this internet faux pas!
My pleasure, Tanya!
Thank you for the information. I don’t know that I have anything that unique but I did want to check if others are using my articles without permission.
The more I work on my brand, the more I may identify something unique to copyright. I always check the web to see if my idea is unique or if someon has already “branded it.”
Wow! What valuable information. THANK YOU A year ago someone wrote and told me that someone had copied an article I had written and put her name on it. I thanked him for telling me and said I hoped it helped someone else “out there”. I didn’t do anything about it, now I think I should have. Thanks again.
It’s an interesting conundrum, Marilyn. On one hand, it takes a lot of time to go after someone who stole your website text, and THEY will be the ones who get bad Google ratings for duplicate text. On the other hand, it’s simply wrong to steal and they need to know that you’ll protect what’s yours.
THANK you, Karyn, great article!
Glad you found it helpful, Charlene!
Great article. I guess I just trust people too much!
I have a question about this: “Google frowns on duplicate content, so their sites will be penalized for having the same content as your own site, giving them poor SEO results.”
Would Google penalize both sites, or just the copycat one? How does Google know who copied who?
Googles knows the date they added the text into their database. They also know the “authority” of each site. That’s how they figure out which site has the “right” to the text. However, if they choose incorrectly, you can file a DMCA complaint with them. That’s why it’s important to copyright your website text…then you can show the date the text was owned by you, and the copyright filing number.
Jennifer Gleeson Blue
This is great Karyn! In the past, I had my copy “stolen” by colleagues/competitors (either verbatim or nearly so) who were new to the field and with whom I’d established a friendly, mentorly relationship. In both instances, I was asked to review their sites. I guess it highlights how automatically folks borrow too directly from those around them. It was awkward to confront, but worth it.
Jennifer, I have heard of cases where it’s not the business owner who copied the text, but that they hired someone to write the text for them (and that person stole the text). Most website owners have taken down the stolen text as soon as we notify them of it.
I’m trying to figure out what exactly I need to do to copyright my website; I’m having a hard time from the information provided on the gov website.
Any helpful hints? Did you supply jpgs of every page electronically?
Stacy, the USA government has a PDF on this topic: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ66.pdf Essentially, you supply a data disk of your entire site, and some printed sample pages.
You automatically hold copyright for all information you create. No need to ‘pay any money’ for copyright.
Various registration methods are useful only if a serious argument begins regarding ‘who said it first’.
Yes, Ryan, but that’s exactly what I’m saying. When you want someone to take your text off of their site, you have to PROVE you said it first. Filing a copyright with the government proves that. You can file a copyright for an entire website for $45. Money well spent.
This is the information I have been looking for that I couldn’t find on the copyright website. Thank you.
You’re welcome, Dia. I got hit by people stealing my website text, so once I figured it out, I knew I had to share it with my peeps!