A writer friend recently asked me if there was a way to make it so that people couldn’t copy blog content in order to repost it elsewhere, and what the online marketing implications would be. If you’ve been blogging for any length of time, chances are you’ve run into this issue.
Photo CC Attribution Share Alike 2.5 by DrL
For instance, the story of a plagiarized blogger who was told by Cook’s Source magazine that she should actually pay for being ripped-off by them outraged the blogosphere this fall, resulting in the editor ultimately choosing to shut down the magazine entirely. And, even seasoned politicians may coopt other peoples’ content, despite the fact they should know better.
So, copyright infringement is definitely alive and well in the 21st century, and it seems particularly rife in the blogosphere where the casual and ephemeral nature of blog pieces seem to tempt IP thieves into adopting text and republishing it in their own names.
It’s so common, however, that it’s not likely that each and every incident will turn into a blogstorm of popular outrage like the writer who was plagiarized by Cook’s Source magazine. So, what’s to be done if you’re a writter who doesn’t want their stuff taken and used without permission?
One option could be to use the Blog Protector WordPress plugin. It works by disabling your blog’s readers from being able to right-click on the pages and it disables the ability to select text for copying.
I expect that it only will protect your posts from naive, less-technically-savvy plagiarists.
Yet, the biggest deficiency is the fact that probably the most plagiarism is now automated, with people setting up bots to spider posts on various themes to be regurgitated up onto their blogs and websites. The Blog Protector plugin likely will not stop these systems which clone your posts.
Blogs are often set up with RSS feeds, allowing your content to be syndicated out where more people will be able to find it and read it. The benign level of syndication use will display a snippet of the blog post or a synopsis, along with the title and link back to the original post. This is usually something that would be okay under copyright laws, as brief quotations are allowable in most cases.
But, the malignant use of syndication is where people will take the entire article and regurgitate it up on their sites with improper attribution and often with no links back to your original. For instance, this blog by “Richard Geasey” has copied a few of my articles and others from Search Engine Land entire, with his own name in the “by line”, making it appear to readers who happen onto his pages that he wrote the articles instead of me. I suspect that this wholesale adoption of the article is done via automated means.
Now, you can also remove your RSS links, but I’d advise against that, because it can negatively impact your readership. Some people use RSS to collect posts from all blogs they read, into an RSS reader or they’ll have it emailed to them. Also, allowing RSS helps distribute links to your content, as others opt to Tweet out links to your writing, and as sites report on articles of particular interest or list blog posts according to themes and keywords. If you shut that off, you’re hampering your marketing efforts.
Shutting off RSS doesn’t halt blog post theft, either, since there are software “scrapers” that can still access the pages and copy off the text contents.
You can also set your RSS to only provide initial snippets with links back to the whole article. However, I think it’s still better to enable full posts to appear in the RSS, since there are people who will have their RSS readers set to download the entire article for them to read later on, off-line, such as on airplanes and trains.
There’s unfortunately a dichotomy between enabling people to find and read your content, and protecting it from being stolen. As it stands now, I think the best way is to not place impediments upon people accessing and reading your content, while also trying to use social pressure and legal avenues for enforcing your content licenses and copyrights.