Last Updated June 2021 by Crystallace
Tips from a Lawyer On What to Do If Someone Copies Your Website
So it has been brought to your attention that someone is copying your blog and using your stolen content online! There is quite a big difference between taking inspiration from someone’s online content and out-right copying a creator’s work.
Chances are you have had, or will have, your content stolen at least once.
I know what you’re thinking “how dare they be so lazy and plagiarize your hard work!”
You obviously want to stop this immediately. What you do next will depend on a few things, but first let’s talk about copyright protection.
Then we will talk about ways to skin a copycat.
What is a copyright?
A copyright is a legal set of rights that are designed to protect the hard work that people like authors, artists, musicians, programmers create. This applies to all original works created under the jurisdiction of U.S. law. The work has to be the work of authorship and it must exist in a tangible medium of expression.
Works of “authorship” under copyright law include: Literary works, Musical works, Dramatic works, Pantomimes and choreographic works, Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, Motion pictures and other audiovisual works, Sound recordings, and Architectural works.
Yes, your blog is a work of authorship. Part one, check.
A “tangible medium of expression” means that the work has to be “fixed” to either an object, material thing, or audio version.
You wrote your blog and posted it on the internet. Part two, check.
As soon as you post your blog to the internet you automatically have copyright protection. The work does not need to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office to be protected by copyright – once an original work exists in a fixed, tangible state the creator is entitled to copyright protection.
So your blog is copyrighted but did the copycat infringe on your rights?
Infringement is a violation of the exclusive rights of the author. Meaning, the work had to have been copied and has to be substantially similar, so that the copying amounts to an unlawful appropriation from the standpoint of the average member of the intended audience of the copyright work.
Think of Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, does it remind you of Got To Give It Up by Marvin Gaye?
Would an average internet surfer think the two blog posts were the same?
If so, we have a copyright-infringing copycat and we don’t like them almost as much as we don’t like snitches.
What are your next steps if someone copies your website?
Send a courteous email:
One of the first things you can do is to send a polite email to the copycat letting them know that they have copied content from your blog. Plagiarism is illegal, so ask them to remove your stolen content online.
Cease and Desist:
If you receive no response to your first step, you can send a Cease and Desist notice. I’ve written one specifically for this situation because I am a blogger myself. You want to fill out the form and send it in a trackable manner to every address related to the blog. You don’t need an attorney to do it for you.
DMCA letter to Google AdSense:
If the website that is using your stolen content online is using Google AdSense, you can send a DMCA letter to Google AdSense. In this case there is a possibility where the copycat could be banned from Google AdSense.
DMCA letter to others:
Apart from Google Adsense, you can send DMCA letters to other services from where this website is generating business
Contact an attorney:
If none of the above works first, you could think of filing a lawsuit. FYI litigation is expensive. Before you do this, weigh out the money you think you may be missing out on as well as the money you make from the blog.
Also, before you sue for copyright infringement you have to have a registered copyright. Although you have protections you cannot sue for copyright infringement unless you have registered the copyright with the Feds. You can do that here.
Here are a few ways to protect your blog from copycats.
The first thing you need to do is legally protect your blog on the outset.
- You can do this by having legal pages on your website. I talk more about how having well written legal pages on your website protects your intellectual property rights and other benefits in this blog post. Although you now know what to do if someone copies your website, you want to be able to stop that on the front end.
- Disable text selection on your blog
Many people get their stolen content online by simply copying and pasting content from other creator’s blogs. By disabling text selection on your website you are stopping them from using the copy and paste function on your blog and this in turn will make it a lot more difficult to steal your content.
- Use watermarks over your images
If you use any original photos and images on your blog, then you should be protecting them too. The simplest way to do this is to add a watermark over images. This shows that you own the copyright for your images, but also makes copycats think twice about stealing them.
- Manage your RSS feed
People can get stolen content online through your RSS feeds. An easy way to stop it is to only allow partial feeds. This means that the people getting your stolen content online will have to click a link to read more, which may put them off.
Yes, that does in fact mean that your readers will also have to click a link to see the full post
Now you know what to do if someone copies your website.
What is your opinion on the matter? How will you handle it? Would you confront the copycat? Would you let go? Let me know in the comments.
I hope this helps put an end to the foolishness.