Thwarting Copycats and Protecting Your Original Content Online
Copycatting. Plagiarism. Claiming original material as one’s own, when it’s not. The act is especially rampant in this internet age when the copy-paste function is just a few clicks away. Copying happens all the time and it’s totally uncool and I’m thunderously pissed about it. I know I’m not the only one either. Many of you, like me, have poured blood, sweat, soul, and tears into your work, only to have it absconded by others. That’s why I thought it might be a nice public service to talk a bit about how to prevent copycats.
My Reaction to Copycats
I don’t have kids. Well, I take that back. I DO have children. Their names are: “My Dogs”, “My Work” and “My Websites” Yeah, it’s THAT big of a deal. So, when I see blatant copying of my hard work without a hint of attribution – it feels like someone is stealing my kids.
Over the years, I’ve coaxed myself into (mostly) ignoring the copycat syndrome. I rationalize that information is meant to be shared. I even reason that my stuff must be pretty good if folks want to use it as their own. I also tell myself it could be an honest mistake…an oversight of etiquette, or simply forgetting to give credit to the source of whatever material used. Nevertheless, I’ve also galvanized my justified indignation towards copycats by protecting my website. Here are a few ways you can do the same…
Ways to Protect Your Original Content and Prevent Copycats
Are you in a similar situation I’ve described? Have you busted your buns to create original content, only to discover someone has stolen it and claimed it for themselves or their website?
Even though there is no way to protect a website or blog 100% from copycatters, as creators of original content we’ve got to do everything possible to protect the assets we’ve worked hard to produce. Here are some tips for dealing with copycats and plagiarists.
DMCA: Check out the DMCA (Digital Millennia Copyright Act). This could be your best source for protecting your content and images online. They have two versions of protection, one is free the other extra security level is a paid service. If you know you’re content has been stolen, you can also file a formal complaint with the DMCA. This is known as a “Takedown”.
When you file for a Takedown with the DMCA, they will go through the motions to investigate your claim and if clearly proven, they will proceed to remove and take down your content from the thieving cad’s domain who stole it. As with their website protection services, DMCA’s Takedown services are 2-tiered in that they have a paid plan (where they do all the work to squash copycatters and remove your original content from their websites) and they have a DIY plan, which is free, but you do all the legwork to take down those who poached your info.
CopyScape: An online service known as Copyscape offers various levels of protection for your images and online content. They have free services as well as higher-level paid services. Their paid services offer an extra layer of security of your content. They also offer a tracking system that allows you to keep track of your complaints against copycatters and the status of your formal filings with the DMCA.
Clarify Your Ownership: Make a very clear and prominent statement on your website that you are the owner, and this is what you expect from users of your website. State your full name, the full name of your website or business with the copyright symbol © (press ctrl+alt+c on your keyboard) along with the year range of your presence online. Have this at the footer of all your pages so those who may be tempted to steal your stuff know that you mean business (I’ve done this for whats-your-sign). If you haven’t already, publish a policies page that makes your demands clear about how your content should (or should not) be used.
Plugins: Installing a WordPress plugin such as WP Content Copy Protector can offer a lot of protection for your website. It can even prohibit right-click function which is how many online raiders steal content. Keep in mind, however, that disabling right-click copy functionality might have negative consequences on your website. It may reduce browser extensions, and also prohibits the ability for users to share content in legal ways such as on social networks. Do research about plugins that protect your content before installing.
What to do if You Are a Victim of Content Theft
Sadly, I wish the use of the ‘cat’ had not been adopted in this 19th century American term, ‘copycat’. Why? Because cats are astoundingly original. Cats could care less about copying. At any rate, when you come across a copycat and have identified a clear case of plagiarism, you can take action about it. Here are a few tips on what to do if you’re content has been stolen.
1) Tools offered by Copyscape or DMCA can allow you to scan the internet for duplicate content (content you’ve created that others have copied & pasted to their websites).
2) Once you’ve identified the thief (or thieves), go to Whois, enter the offending party’s URL and find out the identity of the owner and host of the website.
3) Contact the owner and the host, informing them that your content has been unlawfully used on their domain.
4) Send a formal letter stating this website must cease and desist the wrongful use of your material and request your original content be removed from the website. Do a Google search for examples of these formal letters.
5) Got to DMCA and file a formal notice or takedown complaint, alerting them that the offending party is infringing upon copyright law by using your material as their own.
At the end of the day, you can only do so much. Sure…I copyright my material. I’ve even trademarked my brand. I also clearly state the proper use of my material on my policy page. But folks are still going to do whatever they do. It’s all just another lesson about control…specifically, the only control I have is the control of myself and my actions.
Coming to Terms with Copycat Reality
If you think about it, ultimately a copycat deals with underlying insecurity. It has nothing to do with having a lack of originality. Meaning, a copycat doesn’t lack the ability to create new content. Why? Because everybody is original. Everybody is unique. Everybody is capable of spectacular brilliance in expression. It’s how humans are built – we’re designed to create remarkable stuff.
I think the two major reasons people copy and steal original content deals with 1) Fear of responsibility and 2) Downright lazy-bone attitudes and not wanting to put the effort into creating unique content themselves.
Everybody is familiar with lazy people, and those who want to take short-cuts to create something worthwhile. At the end of the day, we just have to hope karma takes care of these slouches as we continue to protect our online content.
But you may not have considered that copycatters often take a “not me” approach to steal content. I’m talking about a fear of taking responsibility. I get it. It’s tough to step out. Tough to expose oneself. It’s not easy to break out of the drone mentality and create something wildly original. Much easier to copy. That way, the fault lies elsewhere. Or…there is no consequence (good or bad) to being bold, breaking the mold, and being different than everybody else. That’s a sad mental prison to be in, and I (sometimes) feel bad for copycats who suffer this fate.
Thankfully, there’s good stuff that comes from replication. Really good stuff. Tons of folks use my material all over the world – and they do so by giving credit to my work. I LOVE THAT! I’m all about sharing the joy of symbolism. The more sharing and spreading the word – the more people are reached – the more our world is exposed to a fascinating, healing way of living…symbolic living. Rock on!
Closing Thoughts About Coping with Copycats
Am I vain to want credit for my work? Maybe. Perhaps one day I’ll coax myself to a place of complete neutrality about copycatting….not caring one whit about it and letting karma sort things out. I’ve done my best to protect my assets, and that’s about all any of us can do.
But in the end…like having kids…I made this thing. I created it. Worked hard at it. Gnashed my teeth, and rendered garments over it…for hours, days, weeks, years. You get the idea. This is my baby. I can’t quell my pride completely.
I’d like to think it’s healthy to stake a claim for producing good work. If I didn’t care so much – that would reflect in my efforts, which essentially means you’d be getting crummy stuff from me. That’s no good, wouldn’t you agree?
At any rate, I hope these tips to prevent copycats proved helpful for your own creative endeavors. As always, thanks for reading!
To those of you who have contacted me for permission to use my material with attribution… Thank you, thank you, thank you! This post is not directed to those who have legitimately used the information on other websites with proper credit and a link back to the originating site.
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