Have you ever been surfing the web and come across content that seems really familiar? Sometimes, people do write similar articles. But other times, you might find the words just a little too similar. Upon looking back at your article, you may, in fact, realize that someone has copied the entire thing! Content cloning has become more of an issue than ever before, especially when a website has great content or is considered authoritative. But what can you do when your content has been copied, and how can you protect yourself?
Identify the Copied Material
The first step is to identify exactly what has been copied. It may just be part of an article, or it could be every piece of content on your website. You want to see just how extensive the damage is before you start trying to have the information removed and the thief punished. Gather as much information as you can: exactly what content was copied, when it was copied (or at least when it was posted to that website), who posted it, etc.
Contact the Website Owner
Sometimes, the website owner isn't the one doing the copying. In fact, sometimes they don't even realize that their content has been copied from somewhere else. If you make them aware of what's happened, they may remove the content voluntarily and no longer accept any work by the person who copied it. However, this doesn't always happen. Sometimes the site owner did the copying or condones it. In this case, you may have to take further steps. One step is to contact the site host, which may be different from the owner. Some web hosts will help remove copied content if you can prove the content is yours. You may also want to seek legal assistance because you may be able to prove a case of copyright infringement.
What if there's an Acknowledgement?
If there's an acknowledgement with your name listed as the author or a link back to your website, that doesn't mean the site can legally use your content. Your content was still copied, and the site is still committing copyright infringement. In fact, sometimes a court will see acknowledgement as proof that the website owner knew they were stealing content, so it can work in your favor.
Contact Search Engines
You can also let search engines that have indexed the offending site know that the site has copied content. Some of these search engines do have dedicated services to protect a website's content from theft. They will remove these sites from their search results which, in turn, will lower the amount of traffic they get.
Easy Ways of Protecting your Content
There are several ways you can go about protecting your content. One easy thing you can do is add a small line at the bottom of each page on your website stating that the content is your original work and that you own the copyright. This puts content copiers on notice that the content they are stealing is protected. This will also help any court case you bring against content thieves, although you'll want to make certain you can prove copyright in other ways (such as having the original files with the date/time of creation).
Another easy thing to do is place an identifying word, name, or other symbol within a comment tag in the HTML code of your page. You can place these tags within paragraphs of text which, with the correct coding, will be invisible to your readers. If the content is scraped by some types of content copying programs, these tags will be copied along with the text. For more enhanced protection scraping prevention services like Scrapesentry or Copyscape should be used.
Finally, you can add a legal statement to your website. This statement includes information such as your copyright, what the information on your site is intended for, and other statements that protect you and your content creators. Those who are maliciously copying content will ignore it, of course, but again, this statement can help you in a legal case.
What Else Can You Do?
Unfortunately, it can be almost impossible to completely protect your content from being copied. You can do things like disable right clicking, which makes it harder to select all content and copy it. However, some bots that scrape content from pages and automatically republish it elsewhere have been designed to get around this. In the end, all you can really do is state your copyright of the material, add identifying tags to the HTML, and take action when you find a website that has copied your content. Fortunately, while this does happen, it doesn't happen to every website. Chances are, your personal blog or information on your business's website is safe unless you become one of the most popular sites on the internet.