Have you ever read something online that sounds eerily familiar to something you read on another website? I have a client that recently experienced this type of déjà vu. He sends out weekly quick, motivational emails. Several weeks ago, a reader of his alerted him that one of his exact emails was posted on a website – without giving my client any credit.
And it gets worse… I looked through the site (and another one I found owned by this same person) and a total of seven emails had been pretty much replicated word for word on this person’s sites, including personal accounts of things my client had written. My client has contacted his attorney on how to proceed.
It’s easy for someone to take content from your site or your newsletter, change a few words and claim it as their own. But it’s not legal. Just because it’s on the Internet (or it’s come via email) doesn’t mean people have free rein to use it as their own… but some do anyway.
I’ve done a little research on plagiarism to find out how you can protect yourself from this type of theft.
First you have to know about it… There is a service called copyscape.com that monitors your content and searches for duplicate content on the Internet. There’s a free version and a paid version. You can go in periodically and check or you can have it automatically monitor your site daily and notify you when duplicate content is found.
So we’ve got finding the content covered. Now what happens if you’ve been plagiarized? My client contacted his attorney regarding how to proceed. They will be contacting the offending party and asking him to remove the plagiarized content. The attorney also advised my client that fines range from $25,000 to $50,000 per incident. Wow!
Although my client opted to let his attorney handle it, you don’t have to. You’ll want to send a cease and desist letter to the perpetrating party and the web hosting company. Some websites make it easy to get their contact information, but if this person is stealing, they may not have their contact info readily available on their site. No worries. You can use whois.com to find out who the domain is registered with, who the hosting company is, and who owns that domain – name, address, phone number, and email.
In the cease and desist letter you’ll want to notify the plagiarizer that you own the copyright and demand that they remove the material. You’ll also want to let them know that you’ll contact their hosting company to take down the content and seek legal action (only if you will be doing these things…don’t send empty threats). And be sure to include a deadline of when they need to remove the copied content from their website.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, you can contact the hosting company and demand that they delete the content that is in offense of the copyright. You will need to provide proof that your content is the original content.
And if all else fails, contact your attorney.
Have you had to deal with your material being copied somewhere else? How did you handle it and what was the outcome?