Has Your Blog Content Been Copied? A DMCA Takedown Notice May Help

by Tom McEwin on 22 September, 2010

A little while ago I discovered that a spam blogger had copied one of my blog posts and used it on a couple of their blogs.  In this post I’ll be looking at ways to detect this sort of thing and how I used a DMCA takedown notice to help solve the situation.

What is a DMCA Takedown Notice?

DMCA Takedown NoticeDMCA is the common abbreviation for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which is a US law designed to help protect copyright in the age of the internet.  Part of the DMCA gives web hosts, search engines and other internet services which host third party content (eg Youtube) safe harbour from copyright infringement claims in certain circumstances where they may have material residing on their network which breaches copyright.  In order to qualify for this safe harbour, one of the things the internet service provider must do is to “expeditiously” remove or disable access to this infringing material if they receive a valid DMCA takedown notice.

How To Tell If Blog Content Has Been Copied

The way I discovered that my post had been copied (verbatim) was when I was cleaning out the spam filter on my blog.  The only reason this reposting showed up there was because:

  • the post of mine which got copied referenced an earlier post on the same blog; and
  • this cross reference seems to have been automatically notified as a ping back by the blogging platform that the person was using.

In addition to checking the spam comments received on your blog, there are (at least) a couple of other ways to help detect this sort of thing, for example:

  • set up a free notification using Google Alerts which will notify you when a particular phrase is mentioned on the web (useful if you have a unique name or signature for yourself or your blog); or
  • use a service such as copyscape.com to monitor potential breaches of your content.

What to Do About It

Imitation is supposed to be the most sincere form of flattery, however, I didn’t find a spam blogger directly copying my stuff (using some sort of automated program) to be particularly flattering.  While the copied posts were providing me with a couple of free links, the spam blogs didn’t have much authority (page rank of 0) so these weren’t worth much.  I was more concerned that the value of my content might be diluted by having someone else clone it.

Step 1 – Investigation

The first thing to do is to find out a bit more information about the site which has done the copying.  I used the ‘whois’ search at DomainTools.com to find out all the information I needed to about the person who registered the domain names for the spam blogs and their hosting service.  Interestingly the webhost turned out to be HostGator, the same one that I use and recommend.  Importantly, HostGator is based in the US, so the DMCA applies to it.

Step 2 – Choosing My Approach

There were a few different options which I could have taken to try and resolve things, such as:

  • writing an email to the owners of the domain name (given his blogs were pure spam, I didn’t think this was worth my time);
  • writing an email to HostGator outlining how he had breached HostGator’s terms of use due to violation of copyright; or
  • sending a formal DMCA takedown notice to HostGator requiring that the copied material be removed (either preparing the notice myself, or using a paid service such as this one).

Initially I decided to simply email HostGator regarding the breach of their terms of service, given they set out pretty clearly how to report copyright infringement and here my content (including my signature block) was simply copied and pasted.   There was not really any argument that what the spam blog did was anything other than blatant plagarism.

HostGator responded by saying that all copyright complaints must be signed and then either posted or faxed to them, and that email would only be sufficient if digitally signed by a verified and trusted third party.  This seemed to be HostGator’s way of dealing with a particular procedural requirement for DMCA takedown notices.

HostGator’s copyright infringement reporting policy is also structured to in a way to cover all the other the elements required for a DMCA takedown notice to be effective.  So I was able to put together a DMCA takedown notice fairly easily simply by following their instructions.

Step 3 – Sending the DMCA Takedown Notice to the US

After compiling a fax containing the DMCA takedown notice I had quite a few problems actually sending the thing.  The different fax machines I tried either had problems feeding pages, or dialling overseas, and I didn’t want to send via post due to the time delay.  Thankfully HostGator suggested  faxzero.com, a free online fax service which can be used to send free faxes of up to 3 pages in length to anywhere in the US / Canada.  More information on how to use faxzero can be found in this post.

Step 4 – Confirm Copied Content Removed

After sending the fax to HostGator, I got a response 3 hours later confirming that they had received it, and then 4 or so hours after that I received confirmation that the spammer had removed the copies of my post.  I checked soon after and the copied content had indeed been taken down from the spam blogs.  Once this was taken care of, the only thing left to do was to do a quick sweep of my blog and delete the comments still sitting in my spam folder.

Next Time

Once I had faxed off the DMCA takedown notice I was rather pleased at how quickly things resolved themselves, but perhaps this is unsurprising as the DMCA only provides safe harbour if the online provider acts “expeditiously”.

Given how easy it was to prepare the DMCA takedown notice, if I discover another of my posts has been copied, I’ll definitely look at using this as a first course of action when appropriate.  However, doing so may not always be the best option, so it is important to look into things first, particularly where the breach of copyright may not be clear.

For anyone after a sample DMCA takedown notice, or more information about them, you can try here.

© Tom McEwin
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Colin September 23, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Thanks for the info. Tom. I recently came across a blog post with one of my ezine articles copied word for word. There was no link to my article or my blog and no acknowledgement, so I kindly emailed the guy and asked him to give me credit. If he doesn’t comply I’ll be using the DMCA Takedown notice.

Tom McEwin September 23, 2010 at 9:11 PM

Hi Colin – bummer about the guy not giving you credit. He would no doubt be in breach of the EzineArticles publisher terms of service, but the DMCA takedown notice is probably a stronger card to play. Best of luck in sorting it out – I’d be interested to hear how it goes.

Jan Littlehales September 23, 2010 at 12:57 PM

Hi Tom – Welcome back!
Well done for putting in the effort to ensure this spammer couldn’t use your content. The easy option would have been to say it was all too hard and do nothing about it – and that’s why these spammers are getting away with it so much. Now that you have put in the effort and written about it, it will be so much easier for others to follow your lead. Great job!
Hope your holiday was fab by the way :)
Jan Littlehales´s last blog post ..Learn Typing and Blog about… Living with an 18 year old a mother’s perspective

Cade September 23, 2010 at 6:26 PM

Hi Tom,
Good on you for taking action. Its handy to know how to deal with the situation, should someone copy my content in the future. I learnt something new today, thanks.

I also use google alerts to tell me who is talking about my site, or linking back. You can even set it to email you weekly with the results. How cool is that.

Cheers,
Cade
Cade´s last blog post ..Online Stock Market Trading -the Smart way to Invest

Christopher September 23, 2010 at 7:24 PM

Hi Tom,

Thanks for this information. This will come in real handy in the future if this ever happens to me! I suppose if someone has taken your work it must be good!

I will keep an eye out and use this very handy information.

Chris

Tom McEwin September 23, 2010 at 9:25 PM

Thanks Jan, Cade and Christopher, I figured it was worth the effort to straighten things out and was surprised at how easy it was in the end given the copyright infringement in this instance was pretty blatant. Happy if others benefit from having seen it done.

Jan – the holiday was fantastic.

Cade – I totally agree re the Google alerts, I’ve got them set up for instant delivery on a particular phrase

Eileen September 24, 2010 at 8:02 PM

Hi Tom,
This is a fantastic article and I like that you have made it easy to follow the process should it happen to me. I am, at present, going through my own blog’s spam folder so it was great to read this and know what to look for.

Regards, Eileen.
Eileen´s last blog post ..Food Reaction to Amines – Part One

David Moloney September 26, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Hi Tom,

Great to see that you took a logical and unpanicked approach to protecting your content. The DMCA take down notice sounds powerful – and the way to go. This notice, combined with a quality host provider (like Host Gator) really shift the power balance. I thought it would have been much harder to police.
David Moloney´s last blog post ..Choose a Cool Avatar- Essential Tips

Tom McEwin September 27, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Thanks for your comments Eileen and David. When this sort of thing happens it can be a bit overwhelming unless you know where to start. So I figured if I provide a bit of a checklist to follow it could be useful not only for others, but also so I can remember what to do if it happens to me again.

I may not always be as easy as it was for me, for example, if a Host is not based in the US, or is less professional than Hostgator is. But in the right circumstances, a DMCA takedown notice can make the problem of plagiarised content much easier to solve.

Jayne Pleysier October 4, 2010 at 12:34 AM

Hi Tom
What a horrible thing to have happen to you – even though it is so common and congratulations for following through and not just standing up for yourself and your intellectual property – but also for all of us bloggers. I really appreciated you sharing this experience and giving us a process to follow so we can pick up any copying and what to do about it. Thanks heaps!
Jayne Pleysier´s last blog post ..Why You Need A Business Plan

Lina Nguyen October 4, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Hi Tom

Wow, well done. And most of all, thanks for sharing the steps you took. That’s the thing with the internet, right – As bloggers, we write for the whole world to see and share, and having people steal our material is definitely a risk. But it’s great to know there are things we can do to minimise the risks and take action if need be. Your case highlights that the dodgy people who have no respect for other people’s work, do tend to be spammers, and not likely to be legitimate website owners.

I really appreciate your tips, as my blog is growing in popularity, readership and exposure around the world.

Lina

Tom McEwin October 6, 2010 at 9:55 PM

Hi Jayne and Lina, I’m glad you liked the post. Hopefully a similar thing won’t happen to you any time soon, but if it does then fingers crossed you can use a DMCA takedown notice solve the problem. It won’t always be a suitable option, but is definitely one of the first things I will consider.

Renee October 10, 2010 at 12:45 PM

Hi Tom,

thanks for sharing your experience with someone stealing your blog content and how to deal with it. It definitely makes the process sound very straight forward and easy to handle. I hadn’t heard about the DMCA takedown notice before but now I feel well equipped to deal with such a situation myself.

Thanks again for a great post and congratulations to setting up such an informative blog!

Renee
Renee´s last blog post ..Port Douglas Holidays

Tom McEwin October 13, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Thanks Renee, happy to share if it helps others who might come across this sort of thing. I’ve also made it a goal of mine to only post to this blog if doing so will provide value, and avoid posting filler.

Ariel Giron March 20, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Excellent info. I’ll be sure to keep this article as a handy reference in case I run into the same sort of issue in the future. Saying that, I use the INK Wordpress plugin on my sites to warn potential plagiarists off, though it probably won’t be as effective with spammers that use automated copying tools.

Tom McEwin June 19, 2011 at 9:48 AM

Hi Ariel – I’m glad you found the post useful. Content scrapers can be a bit of a battle, but at least the DMCA takedown notice procedure gives some of the power back to the content producers. Even if they are using autoscraping tools, they can still help to get content removed. Just need to remain vigilant I guess.

The INK plugin looks like a good way to at least get some credit. The other thing I like to do is to build in links to different parts of my blog when writing a post. That way at least I’ll get a couple of backlinks if a scraper grabs my content.

Ted Heich August 3, 2011 at 1:22 AM

Thank you so much for this info. I was looking for a comprehensive and insightful steps on how to deal with plagiarist. My site is not a high traffic site, it’s not even popular, but I do feel bad when some of the articles I have painfully labored for has been copied blatantly.

Thanks
Ted Heich´s last blog post ..Display a tree-like structure of a directory in Terminal.app

Jennyb October 14, 2011 at 10:40 PM

Great for me that I found your Blog… I just started with my own Blog, can I reference to this post? I want to write something on similiar topic!
Jennyb´s last blog post ..Couple of important blogging tips

Petra October 14, 2011 at 11:01 PM

I’m glad that i found Your post. Good reading, gives more to think about copying websites… Thanks!
Petra´s last blog post ..Before You Buy Soma 350mg

Darren June 24, 2012 at 1:01 AM

This article was a good find, however I’ve noticed that you are talking about one article being taken. Yesterday I discovered a site that had been set up which soley contains 10 articles from my site, all of which had been copied word for word and had all links and author information removed.

I’ve done a whois search, contacted the sites host and also sent a message via the sites contact form. If I have to use the DMCA is the procedure for a single article the same for multiple articles?

Tom McEwin June 24, 2012 at 10:57 PM

Thanks for your question, Darren. I can’t see why the process would be different if a bunch of content has been copied, rather than just a single article.

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