Protecting Your Blog From Copycats

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.

Plagiarists, Writing Thieves, and Copycats
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.

However, I’d suggest that this might only be marginally worth the trouble of installing it, and it could result in fewer people giving you brief quotes and links to your posts. While it appears to me to be safe for the purposes of search engine optimization (“SEO”), since it operates via Javascript, while still allowing search engines to spider the page, it doesn’t really protect the text perfectly.

I expect that it only will protect your posts from naive, less-technically-savvy plagiarists.

Savvier thieves might turn off the Javascript in their browsers and then be able to copy the content. Or, they might be able to copy the page down onto their desktops locally and open it in word processing software.

Further, you’d need to also set up a robots metatag to direct the search engines to disable the cached view of the pages, or else your thief might view the Google cache and copy the text from there, where the Javascript might not operate properly.

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.

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5 thoughts on “Protecting Your Blog From Copycats

  1. Hi – Thank you for your blog post. This “Richard Geasey” is a real person, and apparently, this is a pattern with him. I have had direct experience because I did a project for him on a contracting web site. He never paid me and took the work.

    Geasey is also the author of “Get Found Now,” an Amazon-pubished book, and he has a track record of collecting creative ideas and not paying the original writer. I have no idea if “Get Found Now” contains previously copyrighted material, and I would never make such an accusation.

    What I do know is that Geasey is getting ready to publish three e-books, and now he has quite a selection list of possible titles. I’m not one who likes to dwell on negative energy, but I hope this will serve as a warning to other unsuspecting and trusting freelance writers.

  2. In my point of view only USA has copyright for the content, If a person writes a content then he is owner, if some one is going to publish the content has to get permission. But i don’t think other countries follows this..Some people think i web nothing is unique and copyright…They will enjoy the fruit for this by search engines like Google.

    But One thing i came across in Google webmaster guidelines, it say we can publish the content of others but we should link for the original content back, so that Google bot understand that content is owned by that website or user.

    So unless you are Content farming website, you can use the content by provide link back for the original post…If i am wrong please mail me guys…I am waiting to hear for Good hearts..Thanks for this post

  3. Hi Chris,
    This is a topic that really gets website owners “hopping mad”. For those of us that create original content on our sites and try to add value to the web, there is nothing worse than a stealer or “Richard Geasey” as you suggest or may I say “de greasy”

    Hey Chris, By the way I would like to let you know I have been linking to your site for some time. I think it is an excellent IM resource and I would be privileged if you would link to me too. My name is Catherine and my website is AffiliateMarketersCollege.Com

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