Don't Steal My Content
It may seem that the content on different sites just fell from the sky. But it didn't.
Creating quality content for a website is hard work. Just because it's easy to grab and put on your own site, doesn't make it right — or legal.
And that's why hardworking website owners who take copyright seriously display badges like the one above. It's important.
Even prolific bloggers generally spend at least an hour or two creating a short post. A photographer can spend days getting a great shot and weeks processing it. A feature article on a big website might take months of research and writing. Yet it takes only a couple of minutes to copy that article and put it up on your own website.
But that's stealing. Don't fool yourself!
Copyright and You
Copyright used to be a complicated thing. For example, when the horror classic Night of the Living Dead was released in 1968, the film's distributors forgot to put a copyright notice on the prints. In those days, if you didn't claim copyright, your work was considered in the public domain. The producers lost millions of dollars as a result.
But all that has changed.
In 1988, the United States augmented its copyright law by joining the Berne Convention. So as of March 1, 1989, all original creations that can be copyrighted are copyrighted — automatically.
Generally, publishers will print a copyright notice like the one that you see at the bottom of this page. But it isn't necessary. As soon as a writer writes something or a photographer photographs something or any artist creates a new work, it is copyrighted.
Just because you don't know the work is copyrighted doesn't give you to right to steal the content!
To hammer home the point: the World Wide Web went public in 1993. That's four years after US law made everything automatically copyrighted. So if you find something that was created for the web, it is copyrighted unless the creator released the copyright.
Publishing it on your website is stealing.
Publishing it on your website is breaking the law.
If you are going to be publishing content on the internet, we highly recommend that you read, The Ultimate Guide to Copyright. It discusses important issues like Fair Use that does allow you to publish others' work — but only in a limited way. Learn what your rights are and how to avoid trampling the rights of others.
It should be pretty clear that if you are going to run your own website (or publish a magazine or newletter or whatever), you've going to have to create or purchase your own content.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. Luckily, there are tools to stop thieves who take your stuff.
A lot of people steal content out of sheer ignorance. And a lot of other people steal content because they think the owner won't notice. That's why we've created three badges to remind site visitors that you own your own content and you take that ownership seriously.
You can just copy the embed code below whichever image you like and paste it onto your webpages. That will include a link to this page, which will make matters even more clear.
Photographs and Other Visual Works of Art
Photographs are probably the most common kind of content that is stolen on the internet. With tools like Google Images, it is trivial to spice up a website with beautiful photographs owned by others. Most people who do it don't even see it for the theft that it is. But for photographers, artists, and graphic designers who are trying to make a living, it is a different matter.
There are two primary tools to find out who's using your images:
- TinEye: all you have to do is enter an image URL or upload an actual image, and TinEye will show you where else the image is being used.
- Google Images: using Google Images is slightly more complicated. After going to the base page, click on the camera icon in the search bar. Then it acts pretty much the same as TinEye.
Writing is also commonly stolen. As with images, a lot of people just don't know any better. But that doesn't mean they don't need to be stopped. There are a lot of tools for finding word thieves. If you've written a particularly stylish sentence, you could probably just do a Google search of it (inside quotation marks). Unfortunately, much of our writing isn't that distinct; and often people steal far more than a sentence or phrase.
There are a lot of tools for checking plagiarism. This is partly because teachers now need to make sure their students' work is their own. But these tools work just as well to find people who are stealing your words:
- Copyscape: this is a very easy-to-use tool where you simply enter the URL of your page and it provides duplicate content with the text that matches.
- Dupli Checker: this is a simple tool that allows you to copy text into a box or upload a file for checking. It is limited to 1,000 words, however.
- Plagium: has a free tool much like Dupli Checker, but also offers more thorough tools for a fee.
- Small SEO Tools: this is similar to Dupli Checker, although it provides Google results of the offenders.
There are a number of other services — most of them are not free. But they can be worth the investment.
What to Do When You Are Ripped Off
When you find that someone has stolen your content, you have a lot of options. Often, it is just a matter of sending the offender an email and explaining that the content belongs to you. Sadly, a lot of people haven't read this page and just don't know any better. But you have a lot more options than that. Here is a list of articles and infographics that should help you:
- Photographers: Here's What to Do If Your Images Are Stolen;
- Ultimate Guide to Copyright: What You Need to Know;
- Copyright, the Internet and Why It Matters to You;
- Ultimate Guide to Copyright for Students;
- DMCA Notice Generator.
Don't steal the content of hardworking writers, photographers, and other content creators. It's illegal and immoral. And now that you know that, you can get busy creating your own quality content. And if anyone steals from you, well, you now have the resources to find out about it and act on it.