Copyright Infringement — Protect Your Website’s Content
Many businesses spend a considerable amount of time and money on creating content for their website. However, most of these businesses are not aware that other websites have probably copied content from their website. Does your organization have a system in place to monitor, track and resolve cases of copyright infringement? It should: From a branding, competitive and SEO standpoint, it is very important to spot instances of copyright infringement as early as possible — and settle them.
One common reason websites have their content stolen is top SEO performance for certain pages. When looking for inspiration to write website content, many copywriters, web designers and business owners search Google to find examples of quality copy. Other times, people assume your content is why your page ranks so high in Google — and then they steal your content to place on their website in an attempt to rank where your website ranks.
In this post, we are going to look at how to spot these instances of content theft, create a method to track them, and then identify the tools to get the stolen copy removed.
Spotting Copyright Infringement
The first thing you should do is visit http://www.copyscape.com/, enter the website URL for your home page and run a search.
If results come back, text may already have been stolen from your website. If no results are returned, there still may be issues with content from other pages of your website. You can check other URLs with the tool above. Focus on high-traffic and/or SEO page targets.
To get automatic alerts of possible copyright infringement, invest in a weekly subscription to Copysentry. With this tool, you can enter a list of all URLs that you want tracked. Then, each week you will get an email containing websites that have text that matches the website URLs you are tracking.
Tracking Copyright Infringement Cases
The easiest way to track copyright infringement cases is to keep a spreadsheet with the columns noted below.
When you get your weekly email from Copysentry, these are the steps you will follow:
- Click the link in the email to visit the website and determine if the website has stolen your copy.
- Populate the spreadsheet fields as follows:
- Date Sent
- Enter today’s date.
- Date Resolved
- Leave blank for now.
- Leave blank for now.
- Enter the offending domain in the format of domain.com.
- IP Address
- Open a command prompt and ping the domain (ex. ping domain.com) of the offending website.
- Enter the IP address that is returned.
- Hosting Company
- Visit https://www.arin.net.
- In the top right corner, enter the IP address and click the search button.
- Enter the hosting company that is returned.
- From the same step above, look for an email address that starts with “abuse@”.
- Enter this email as your contact for now.
- Do a Google search for “hosting company dmca” replacing this with the actual hosting company name.
- See if you can find a page on the hosting company’s website that describes its DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) process.
- You should be able to find a DMCA form or page that provides the DMCA email contact it would like you to use.
- If you find a DMCA form or specific DMCA email address, update your spreadsheet to track this info instead of the abuse@ email address.
- Copyscape URL
- Enter the Copyscape URL.
- Repeat this process each week as you get a new email from Copysentry.
Resolving Copyright Infringement Cases
Once you are uncovering and tracking instances of copyright infringement, you will want to start the process to resolve these cases. There are four main scenarios that you will be dealing with:
1. Hosting Company Provides a DMCA Form
If the hosting company provides a DMCA form (example from hostgator.com), then you can easily fill out the form and submit your DMCA take down request.
2. Hosting Company Doesn’t Provide a DMCA Form
Most of the time, the hosting company will not have a DMCA form. In these cases, you will need to draft a formal DMCA take down notice and send it via email to the hosting company.
The first thing you will need is a template DMCA letter. This site provides a sample DMCA take down notice. You should create a template Word document containing the letter and then populate it each time you have a copyright infringement case. In the letter, I recommend including the offending IP address and Copyscape URL. Also, I recommend adding a screenshot of the Copyscape URL/page that highlights the stolen copy, and creating a PDF of the final document. Make sure to save copies of these documents for future reference.
Next, create a new email and attach the PDF. You will be sending it to the hosting company’s abuse@ email (or a more specific DMCA email). The subject of the email can be DMCA Take Down Notice for [domain.com]. The body of the email can simply state:
Please find a DMCA take down notice attached regarding [domain.com] hosted at [IP Address]. If you need further information, please let me know. Otherwise, I await your response.
Once you send this notice to the hosting company, you should hear back within a few days. The hosting company should then send your notice to its client and ask the client to remove the infringing content. Once the client removes the content, the hosting company will close the case and alert you. If the client does not remove the infringing content, the hosting company will disable the specific page or entire website.
3. Hosting Company Is Outside the USA
If the hosting company is outside the USA, chances are it will not honor DMCA take down requests. However, many international hosting companies do have terms posted on their websites regarding copyright infringement. You should send an email to the hosting company using the abuse@ email address. In that email, tell the hosting company who you are, the website you own, the web page URL that has your original text, along with the offending website URL and IP address. You can also include the Copyscape URL and a screenshot of the offending page. State that this is a case of copyright infringement and that you are requesting the hosting company to take down the offending page. Many international providers will work with their client to remove the infringing copy or take down the page.
4. Hosting Company Seems to be CloudFlare (or another cloud-based website security application)
If the offending IP address lookup at https://www.arin.net comes back with CloudFlare as the hosting company, you will need to complete its DMCA form to file your notice. CloudFlare is a cloud-based website security application and not an actual hosting company. One of the aspects of its service is to hide the hosting company information. By completing its DMCA form, CloudFlare will send your request to its client and the hosting company. Many times, you will need to draft a formal DMCA notice directly to this hosting company. Other cloud-based website security companies have similar methods to handle DMCA requests.
Once you receive communication from the hosting company, you can update your copyright tracking spreadsheet. As you resolve copyright issues, you should have a cycle where you go back and check old cases to make sure websites did not revert to the infringing content. You can do this by reviewing the Copyscape URLs from past cases.
Protect Your Intellectual Property: It’s Well Worth the Time
Oscar Wilde said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” Others have stolen your content — your intellectual property — because that content is doing a superior job of expressing your value proposition, conveying your brand identity, positioning and selling your products or services, and/or achieving high organic visibility on the Google search engine.
It may be flattering when competitors use your content against you — but it is very, very bad for business. It’s hard enough competing for sales on a level playing field, but when you have to compete against yourself, that’s an obstacle no company should endure. I hope the detailed steps outlined in this article help you protect your content, and thus keep your lead pipeline and order backlog that much fuller.