What should you do if your digital content is stolen?

World Intellectual Property Day!

After a lovely weekend camping in the Sawtooth National Forest, I woke up to an email notifying me of another website’s pingback to two of my recent blog posts Low Nickel Gardening and Nickel Free Sunscreen. Whenever I write anything online, I enable the pingback setting in the rare instance another website will link back to my blog post. The majority of the time I’m aware when a blog post link will be pinged back because they have contacted me and sought permission or collaboration. However on this particular Monday morning, another website had scrapped or copied my entire blog post content, including my photographs. Not only was it alarming to have my content outright stolen, but to have my copy written content and photographs of Sara and I gardening and my face claiming to be the work of another’s website hurt.

I went online to get support from other bloggers and one suggested I use the perspective that my content is “awesome enough to steal.” WTF. Who says that? Another blogger mentioned her food photographs had been stolen by a national magazine company and one was placed on the first cover of a national magazine. She suggested not paying for an attorney and letting “karma do its job.” I appreciate their perspectives, but no, a lot of time and energy went into crafting my content and the photographs were family photos. I’m not going to sit around and accept it’s okay for another person or company to infringe on my copyright rights.

What should you do if your digital content / intellectual property is stolen?

  1. Try to contact the website owner. The website that stole my content didn’t have a contact or about page. Everything on their website appeared stolen. There’s no way you can be allergic to foods higher in nickel, diabetic and have an outstanding southern cooking rib recipe. Since there was no tangible way to contact them, we resorted to step 2. 
  2. Sara used her technical magic to conduct a whois search on the website’s domain. Through that search, we learned the domain registrar, or company that sells domain names was godaddy and the website was hosted through the hosting company Choopa.
  3. File a DMCA violation claim with the hosting company. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA protects content creators by copywriting our work in the United States. If you feel your copyright has been infringed, you can file a DMCA takedown notice claim with the hosting company. In my instance, I had to prove how long I’ve been creating my content, identify that I’d published my post prior on my own website and provide links identifying the content on the blog copying my story and photographs or otherwise infringing on my copyrights.
  4. You can go directly to Google and request their assistance by filing a DMCA copyright removal claim directly from google’s web search services at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-dashboard.
  5. In addition, I learned about https://my.pixsy.com/ where you can individually upload your images and they’ll track if another website uses them without your permission. Pixsy can’t retroactively assist you if you find out today someone stole one of your photographs, but you can begin using their services to prevent and resolve future digital thefts of your photographs.
  6. The last thing I did was install a plugin so others can’t scrap or copy my written content and images from my website.

Within 24 hours, I was informed the website that had stolen my content, had removed it from their site. I felt lucky that the website actually took action quickly. I’m sure their host informed them of the DMCA violation and gave them an ultimatum. Since I’d been on top of it so quickly, none of my copied content had been indexed by google. Wahoo!

I hope you never wake up to find out your online content has been stolen. If you do, use these useful steps to request the stolen content be removed.

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