Stolen Content: What Now?

“I am not a lawyer.  I have never played one on TV or anywhere else for that matter.  No part of this post should be taken as legal advice, it is meant to be educational in nature only.  That is all.”

It happens to us all, sooner or later.  Somebody decides that your content would look way good on their website, or someone takes a couple of paragraphs and puts it into a newsletter.  Stolen content happens all the time.  Unfortunately.

People have a lot of different terms for this.  Plagiarism, Site Scraping, Copy and Paste. There are lots of names for theft.  Because that is precisely what it is.  Stealing.  One of the things your momma told you not to do, ever.

How Do You Know?

I found out when a friend congratulated me on getting a blog post syndicated.  Found a post he knew I had written on another website.  Turns out it was stolen, rather than syndicated,

Turns out there is a dandy website that will let you know.  Fast, easy, free.  Copyscape is most commonly used by teachers to catch plagiarism on papers, but they also have a web check service.  It’s a great service that will give you a percentage of words that are the same.  Copyscape also has premium services that will send you emails when you get copied, and give you much more information about the copy itself.  Worth looking into at the very least.

What’s the Law?

I’m going to write this for my American readers, with this note:  Most European Union, Canadian and Australian laws are more precise and less forgiving than US law.

American Copyright Law is fairly ambiguous.  It allows for ‘fair use’ of otherwise protected material.  All original material that you publish is copyrighted.  You write it, you own it.  You get to decide who uses it and what they will pay you.

Fair Use

Fair Use is generally considered to be a small quote from the copyrighted material that is clearly attributed to the original author or the owner of the rights.  Copy and paste of an article or even a significant portion of an article without permission is prohibited and punishable by a fairly hefty fine.

Say you are reviewing a book in your blog.  You could probably consider Fair Use to be 3 or 4 one or two sentence quotes, so long as you discuss and comment on the quotes directly.  The last page of the newest Steven King novel would not constitute Fair Use.

One thing to remember about the Fair Use doctrine:  It is often known as “The Fair Use Defense”.  As in defending yourself in a court of law.  When in doubt, less is WAY better than more.

Be sure to come back Thursday when I will discuss what you can do when you find you are indeed the victim of stolen content.

This article has been significantly influenced by 2 excellent blog posts written by Olivia Rose on Kissmetrics and Lori Soard at Web Hosting Secrets Revealed.  I most definitely recommend them to you…

Works Cited

“5 Easy to Use Tools to Effectively Find and Remove Stolen Content.” 5 Easy to Use Tools to Effectively Find and Remove Stolen Content. Web. 14 Mar. 2014. <>.

“What To Do When Someone Steals Your Unique Site Content.” Web Hosting Secret Revealed. Web. 14 Mar. 2014. <>


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