Foiling Content Theft the Smart Way – Part 1


If you pay for thoughtfully written, original content, you will inevitably become a target for someone who doesn’t. Content theft, the practice of copying and pasting your blog post, FAQ, or article marketing piece without crediting or back-linking to your site, is rampant. If it doesn’t seem like a major issue, consider this: Every click, tweet, or “like” that article gets elsewhere is one you’ve lost.

Your content is more than just filler on the page; it’s an investment in your search engine ratings and your readers. From previous posts, you’ve discovered how important fresh, relevant content is to Google’s rankings. As Google and other search engines have prioritized quality content, that content has become an increasingly valuable commodity. Like all valuables, that makes it subject to theft.

You may not even know your content is being siphoned away unless you know how to look for it. Google makes the process easy by allowing you to set up a Google Alert to detect certain phrases. To detect a theft with Google Alerts, cut and paste a small portion of your original business content in quotation marks as the search string. The quotation marks ensure that your search only returns that exact phrase. Hit the “Create Alert” button, and you’ll get a notification when new instances of this phrase occur – in other words, when someone quotes you legitimately or steals from you.

Although content theft is almost impossible to eradicate completely, you can minimize its impact on you. However, every step you take to reduce your risk of content theft has its drawbacks, so consider carefully before making these changes.

Filing a DMCA Takedown Notice

One way to reduce theft is by going after the thieves directly. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects your ownership of the content you buy, and you can file a takedown notice with the offending site’s hosting company. Web hosting companies typically take a dim view of theft too, and they’ll act swiftly to remove the duplicate content.

While this process is effective at removing content once it’s been stolen, it isn’t proactive. It’s also labor-intensive as you must write new DMCA takedown notices for every instance of theft. It’s important to do on principle, but it won’t do much as a deterrent to future thieves, either.

Preventing Copy-Paste from Site Pages

It’s possible to add code to your page that prevents easy right-click copying and pasting. This step will foil casual thieves and those who just don’t know that republishing purchased content is theft. You’ll find fewer instances of your valuable content on spammers’ sites if you make it harder for them to copy and paste your content verbatim. However, this technique has three significant drawbacks.

For one thing, it only makes it a little harder, not impossible, to copy your content. A slightly more dedicated content thief can view your source code and lift the content from there. Another problem is that it discourages the people you want to quote your content – other bloggers, fans, and followers. When legitimate users find your site less user-friendly, they become less interested in staying. The third problem with turning off right-clicking is that it invalidates certain tech tools that also act as theft deterrents.

Adding Theft Deterrent Software

Theft deterrents deserve a closer look. These relatively new plug-ins automatically add a reference and back-links whenever your site’s text is copied. Tynt is the most common application, but other systems perform similar tricks. By using Tynt, you open your doors to borrowers while theoretically limiting thieves. For automated scrapers and aggregate sites, this system works well; however, it isn’t a panacea.

A thief who wants to pass your content off as original can just trim off the attribution, and while the plug-in will still report and send the information to its analytics server, readers won’t know the difference; they’ll still give the thief clicks that should be yours. Another concern with Tynt and its cousins is that legitimate users find it a burden to strip the additional text, a step they’ll have to take if they want to quote you properly and attribute the text appropriately. If a traditional media source finds your content good enough to quote, do you really want to make it tough to give you an in-line attribution?

You know how to spot theft and how to combat it at a cost, but there are other methods that reduce your risk of becoming a target for thieves while remaining friendly to your readers. Our next segment will cover those methods.

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