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The content on a business or personal website is the intellectual property of the owner of that website. However, stolen content and plagiarized material is a common problem on the modern Internet. Fortunately, web content owners have rights when another party steals their content. If you are wondering what to do after someone stole your website content, you are in the right place.
How Stolen Web Content Can Hurt a Business
Stolen web content can harm a business in several different ways. Original web content that is copied and used on another website can damage the business from a digital marketing perspective. In addition, a business that unknowingly purchases stolen web content from another party will eventually be forced to take that content down if the true owner discovers it, leaving the business with no web content and wasted money.
The Dangers of Duplicate Content in SEO
Law firms and businesses in most modern industries must have a strong digital marketing presence if they want to compete with rivals in the same market. Modern digital marketing strategy involves many components, but search engine optimization (SEO) may be the most important cornerstone of a strong digital marketing strategy. This is the practice of developing a strategy that optimizing a website to rank higher in Google search results, which in turn brings the website more organic traffic from search engine results pages (SERP). There are many facets of a strong SEO strategy, but Google and other search engines generally look for certain characteristics when determining SERP results.
Among these considerations is originality. Google penalizes duplicate content, so blogs and web pages that too closely resemble other content on the web are much more likely to have lower rankings. This means if someone steals web content, the owner of that original content may be at risk of being classified as duplicate content and seeing their search rankings results drop. This could lead to losses as the business receives fewer clients through the website. Thus, business owners should make sure to take appropriate action if they discover that another party is using their web content.
Is Web Content Copyright Protected?
Website content is protected by the same copyright protections as other forms of written content, such as books and magazine articles. Copyright protection begins when a piece of intellectual property is transformed into a tangible medium, which includes websites. The website owner does not need to officially copyright the material or have a copyright symbol alongside the content. The mere act of publishing the content cements it as the original work of the author, which means that no other parties may use it without the permission of that author.
In 1998, the federal government of the United States passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which specifically addresses digital materials and materials published on the internet. According to the DMCA, all material published online is protected by United States copyright laws. The DMCA also sets guidelines for online service providers in terms of copyright infringement. These providers are required to remove any infringing material published through their servers if they receive a notice of an infringement claim from the owner of the copyrighted work.
How to Check For Stolen Content
In order to protect their digital marketing presence, businesses should have a strategy for checking for duplicate content that has been stolen from their website and used on another. Businesses can either do this on their own or ask a digital marketing agency for help. There are a few key strategies that can effectively help a business identify duplicate or stolen web content.
Web content owners can check if any of their content has been stolen through a few different tools offered by Google:
- Search – To check if an article has been copied, simply copy and paste a section from the article into Google and run a search with quotation marks around the search term. Any other web pages that contain the search term will come up. Google limits searches to 32 words but chooses a longer section when using this method.
- Alerts – Google Alerts can be used to set up automatic notifications if phrases from a website turn up elsewhere on the web. Similar to the search feature, the website owner can set an alert for a phrase contained within quotation marks. However, both Search and Alerts are limited to phrases and cannot be used on large blocks of text.
- Images – All forms of web content can be stolen, including copyrighted images. Use the Google Image Search feature by uploading the original image or entering the URL of the image. Google will show results if the image is currently uploaded on any other website.
WordPress and other blog publishing platforms offer a feature known as trackback notifications, which automatically notify the owner of a website when another party links to one of them If one website is regularly linking to your site, it may be worth checking to make sure that their content is original.
Online Plagiarism Checkers
Several online plagiarism checkers allow you to enter a URL or block of text and check for results that are either identical to or closely resemble the original work. Copyscape is one of the most popular plagiarism-checking tools. The free version of the service is limited, but paying for Premium is well worth it to protect your original web content.
Can You Report Stolen Content?
If a business discovers that its web content has been stolen and published by someone else, it is up to the business to take the necessary steps to have the duplicate content removed. There are a few steps to consider taking in this situation.
Reach Out to the Website Owner
Many websites contain contact pages where you can find the email address of the owner. Look for this on the website that stole your content and contact the owner directly. Point out the content that has been stolen and let them know that you are the owner of this original content. Ask them to remove the stolen content and tell them that you will file an official complaint if the duplicate content is not removed quickly. This is often enough to resolve the issue.
Notify the Web Host
If the website owner does not respond to the email, consider contacting the web hosting service that is used to host the site. There are various online search engines that you can use. Just type in the URL of the site with the stolen web content. Contact the web hosting service with the same information that you sent to the host and ask them to remove the duplicate content. Website hosting services are generally accommodating to these requests and may even remove the entire website.
If neither of the previous two options proves effective, contact Google to have the content removed from their search platform. Google will investigate to determine if the other website has truly stolen your content. If they find it in the affirmative, that website will be barred from Google search results. Other Google services will also be revoked, such as Google Adwords, which is used to generate revenue.
File a DMCA Complaint
After unsuccessfully attempting to have the content removed through the previous avenues, it is time to consider filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint against the site that stole the web content. These complaints can be filed through Google Webmaster Tools. The DMCA takedown notice should be filed with the web host or service provider that hosts the website with the stolen content.
Can You Prevent Web Content Theft?
Unfortunately, copying web content is extremely common. Businesses and individuals who publish web content cannot do much to completely prevent that web content from being duplicated. However, there are some preventative measures that website owners can take to protect their intellectual property from being infringed upon.
Learn More From Our Legal Marketing Team
Are you wondering what to do after someone stole your web content? At Law Quill, we specialize in all digital marketing matters. We understand the importance of having unique web content and how duplicate content can cause search engine rankings to plummet. We are prepared to help you build a strong digital marketing strategy for your law firm. Contact us today to learn more about protecting your web content or any other digital marketing matter. Schedule an appointment today here.