Protecting your blog and copyright

Every blog gets hit by someone who takes their content or photos and re-posts it, without linking back. So, what can we do about it? How do you get that person to stop stealing your content, or (at the very least) link you as the source.
I’ve had to deal with this once so far, and the offending party went to far as to link me as the source, then block my IP address, because they stole my content, and were hoping I wouldn’t be able to check again in the future (I am assuming).

It is important to note the different between someone stealing your self-written/created content (e.g. daily outfit posts) and someone stealing self-written/ attributed content (e.g. shopping posts). If I use a photo from a store website like Macy’s, I link to Macy’s to attribute where I got the content. Usually, I’ve screen-capped that photo, cut and edited it myself. If someone wants to use the image I posted, they should attribute me, because I created the image (not the clothing) and Macy’s, because that’s where you can purchase the item. It can be done as easily as writing “image via Miss Vinyl Ahoy, Baby Phat shoes from Macy’s” or whatever it might be.

If someone wants to use an image I post, they need only attribute it to me, since I took that photo. But, just because someone links back to my doesn’t mean they’re not infringing on my copyright. In order to not infringe on my copyright, someone must have my permission to use my content. Often, bloggers will have a copyright page saying they can/can’t reproduce or reuse anything. Dosh Dosh’s copyright page is a great example. Basically, you’re given permission to use anything on the site, following three regulations: link back to the specific article, excerpts of only 150 words and no commercial use. Sounds pretty standard to me!

In order to copyright your work, you have a few options. You can obtain a Creative Commons license. Basically what this free service does is allow you to create your own content distribution license. The service is really easy to use and it only takes a few minutes. If you don’t want to go that route, create a special page on your blog explaining what people are/aren’t allowed to do with your content and even the consequences. You can also protect your RSS feed. Basically you’re adding a line or two at the end of each post (visible only through RSS feed) that states your copyright. Fleur from Diary of a Vintage Girl does a great job of this. You don’t see the copyright on each post on her blog, but it shows up when I read them on my Google reader.

Now that you’ve protected yourself, how to do deal with those that are stealing your content? The first and easiest way is to contact that person directly, as I did. Send them an email and tell them they do not have permission to use your content. Usually (if they didn’t realize what they were doing, or are a decent person), they’ll apologize and offer to link to your site. If you don’t want just a link and you want them to take the content down, tell them to do so. If you want to be very fancy and professional, send a cease and desist letter.

If that doesn’t fix anything, contact their blog host. Usually, if it’s a US-based company, they’ll be happy to go in a remove your content from someone else’s blog. Again, sending them a letter/email will help. But, as in all cases, evidence is helpful. Take screenshots that include the date/time stamp at the bottom and send those along with the email.

If you really want to be difficult, contact the other blog’s sponsors. I doubt any company wants to sponsor a blogger that consistently steals and reproduces content. Again, make sure you have evidence and be prepared to fight. Because if you’re taking away someone else’s income, they’re going to fight back.

And, of course, there is always legal action. But, in most cases, it shouldn’t go that far. But if it does, make sure you have all your evidence and a good lawyer.

By the way, I’m not a lawyer, have no law degree and am not trying to give out any legal advice. I’m just trying to help my fellow bloggers protect their work.

Have any of you had to deal with this? How did you find out? What happened?

Along these same lines are people who reuse the same content to the point where there can be thirty+ blogs with the same photo or info on it. That’s not fun to read either, but that’s the beginning of a different post. That has more to do with keeping your content original, which I’ll have to write about shortly!


33 thoughts on “Protecting your blog and copyright

  1. I agree. It’s so disheartening when you work tirelessly on a post and then see almost identical content elsewhere. I’ve experienced having one blogger utilize my blog as her “source” for most of her posts without linking to me. I don’t mind when someone uses my content, but seriously, is it THAT hard to link back to my blog? I’d rather give up blogging than plagiarize!

  2. This is so common in blogging world… oh well, not just in blogging but in web contents and the like.

    I usually get pictures online but after every post where I copied an image, I would include the sources of the files I used. If I know the person who owns the site, I usually drop a message to ask if I can copy it in my blog (like what I do in posting some Loafy’s pic on my blog ^^). I don’t copy text/content too. I created a blog to express myself anyway so what’s the sense of posting someone else’s thoughts. I’m an IT person that’s why I practice netiquette as much as possible.

    If you don’t want your files to be copy & pasted, you can use javascript so they won’t be able to highlight nor right-click on your content. I don’t do this nor have tried it though… no one has copied my blog yet and I guess there’s no one who would dare. Haha! XD

    Hmm, I guess your blog’s getting really popular since someone’s taking your content. 🙂

  3. Great post! It is definitely frustrating, not only as a blogger but as a communications professional, when people think that web content is all fair game. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard (and wanted to strangle) co-workers in other departments say “oh, I’ll just find something on the Internet” (and they’re not talking istockphoto, which is totally different).

    I would definitely be interested in seeing a post about how a ton of bloggers often blog the same pics or same trend with the same photos. I generally stick to outfit bloggers for my fashion blog reading pleasure, but I also read a good number of interior design and general design blogs, and it seems I see the same photos on each blog all the time. At least with outfit blogs the girls will be different. 🙂

    • I’m working on that post now. I’ve gotten a little feedback from some other bloggers about it, and most said they steer clear of those “inspiration” blogs.

      I’ve had a director at the place I work go onto istock (or google images) and just save the photo she wants to use and try to get me to use it. Um, HELLO! You can’t DO that. But she doesnt like to believe me!!

  4. I haven’t come across this so far in my short blogging life, but this did happen to me on a social networking site years and years ago and with my photography a little more recently… which is a bigger problem all together.

    How did you find out about the person who was using your content without your permission or links?

    I have been meaning to talk to my adviser from college about blogging and copyrights/intellectual property and all of that stuff. I studied first amendment law and the FCC a great deal in college, but I’d be interested to find out how much blogging is being factored into the curriculum and what his perspective is on it. Hmmm… maybe I’ll have to give him a call when I’m in town for reunion…

    • It was/is someone who followed/follows my blog. They were reusing content without attributing it to me, and it ticked me off, so I wrote a post about it. When I tried to confront them about it they blocked my IP address from their site (well, my WORK IP address- ha!). I don’t care if someone uses my photos as long as they attribute it to me and link back to me 🙂

  5. It is very tough to protect anything you put on the internet – you sort of have to do it in the knowledge that it is up for grabs, weather you want it to be or not, it’s no easy feat to make sure that all of your content is being used in way that you would like.

    I have yet to see any of my outfit photos being reposted, but I did find someone on flickr who stole one of my photos and put it on their account. I didn’t do anything about it either. I put photos up there at full resolution and don’t put a visible watermark on them, so it’s bound to happen.

    I do try my hardest to only use my own images on my blog – the few exceptions being ones from flickr that allow you to blog, and of course clothing stock photos from their respective web sites.

    • I totally agree. And for the most part, I use my own photos or clothing stock photos, with the exception of a few posts, like the other day when I posted some fav. links of the week. But I attributed ALL those photos and hopefully didn’t tick anyone off. 🙂

  6. The photos I can understand some one using for their blog, WITH a courteous attribution and link if possible. I really can’t fathom why someone would steal content. Really? Seems to suck the whole purpose of blogging: sharing your voice. Great, great article by the way, and I really hope it makes it to IFB’s Links ala Mode.

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  14. thanks for the tips. very useful. people who steal contents are very irritating… i’ll now check for more informations 🙂

  15. great post! I actually just learned about creative commons when I sat in on one of my fiance’s law school classes back in March. I learned that the CC license was created because legally ALL original works fall under copyright by default. the CC essentially allows you to waive some of your rights and allow others to use your works , while clearly stating what rights you want to reserve. I’d definitely recommend it for all bloggers out there. Especially since sharing ideas is such a big part of what the blogging community is all about. There is a fine line between sharing and just plain stealing.

    On another note, I understand sharing pictures (with permission/link backs, of course) because sometimes some one just captures something that inspires you, but come on, how can you call yourself a blogger if you don’t even write your own content??? blogging is about self expression!

    okay, done ranting! Again, great post!

    • Please rant, I don’t mind! I’m not really into “inspiration blogs” where all the blogger does is post pictures of their inspiration. Why not post your inspiration and what you did with it? 🙂

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  18. Great topic, you were lucky you found out and were able to fix it but the web is wide, how can you be sure someone is not using your content or pictures?

  19. I haven’t experienced this myself so far (or at least I’m not aware of it ever happening) and I hope I never will. It’s so difficult to keep track of these things, right? Or how did you find out?
    I do have a disclaimer on my blog saying that it’s “forbidden” to copy my content or use it without permission and that I want people to link back to my blog if they’re using something. I always try to link back to the source, ’cause I think that’s important.

    • I found out because I got a trackback to their blog. They had basically lifted an entire post I wrote (including photos) but didn’t outright way it was MY content.
      I left them a pretty nasty comment (I was pissed) and they blocked my IP address. Oh well. It worked out in the end, they realized they needed to write their own content instead of steal it from others.

  20. this is a great post! i once slipped-up and accidentally didn’t credit a photo. the blogger found out right away, but was extremely angry. i’ll never forget again!

  21. If they’re overseas spam blogs, they don’t give a crap about your earnest protests because they’re basically criminal operations. It’s very hard to track them down. I’ve really been plagued by them lately.

  22. Great information! I’m new to blogging so the concept of stealing content makes no sense to me. It defeats the purpose of blogging! If someone has to reuse content and can’t come up with original thoughts anymore then maybe it’s time to take a break.
    How would I even go about finding out if my content has been used w/o my permission?
    Thanks for your post.

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