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Someone's Plagiarizing Our Blog, What Next?
February 26, 2014 5:29 AM   Subscribe

So my friend and I have a blog with original content, and someone's stealing/reposting our material wholesale without proper attribution or even a link back to where they've nicked it.

We have a CC license, but they're using our content to build their traffic and ad revenue, so in effect they're stealing content, hits, and in a sense, actual money from us (a piddling affair to be sure, we get flittle from ads, something like 28 euros since we started adverts a couple years ago).

Compare this example from our site to their repost.

And it's not just this one article. Look at all the articles they've lifted from my comrade "Daurade"!!

Anyone stumbling on this will think we're authors there ... they didn't even ask permission or send a heads up.

We get that we're not the only people that they're lifting from, but still...

My co-author sent them a fairly courteous yet pointed "knock-it-off" message on their FB page, but they didn't respond. Any ideas beyond moving towards copyrighting our material and sending them a cease and desist letter of some sort? I'd hate to do that, but I don't like looking like I write for them. Maybe we should contact their service provider and let them know they're using our content in a way which contravenes our CC license? Or, should we just let it slide?

Other ideas?
posted by agog to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Any ideas beyond moving towards copyrighting our material and sending them a cease and desist letter of some sort?

That's your best bet. But bear in mind that this person appears to believe (or is happily cribbing material from people who believe) in things like the illuminati, so anything you do to try to dissuade them is just going to make them think you're One of Them, and probably redouble their efforts to get their message out.

Which is to say that rhetoric won't work, but a C&D might, since they will probably have the energy to fight a war of words but likely won't have the money to fight a legal battle.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 5:51 AM on February 26


This is pretty much the exact situation that DMCA takedown notices were created for. ISPs generally remove content first and ask questions later, so unless the copier wants to do a lot of work to keep the content up they will probably just take your stuff down and rip content from someone else instead.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:58 AM on February 26 [4 favorites]


Kick them in the balls. Complain to the ad networks they're affiliated with. (You could also try and ask for any revenue they've earned off the back of your work.)
posted by popcassady at 6:02 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


The site is a conspiracy nut site and direct approaches like your email, or a cease and desist, may not work if the author already has a loose grip on reality. The author appears to be Dantalion Jones, who uses various sites to promote books and seminars. This may be an alias.

I'd be much more inclined to go for indirect routes like DMCA or complaints to their advertising network.

I would also contact other people/sites whose content has been reposted.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:38 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


They're also hotlinking the images that you've used? (I'm assuming that you have permission to use those?)

If so, you could overwrite those images with embarrassing ones (e.g. "This article is stolen from http://lawsofsilence.blogspot.co.uk"; animated gifs, etc.) and put the original images back in your post with amended names so that your links don't break.
posted by humph at 6:39 AM on February 26 [17 favorites]


Looks like the repostings may be on automatic pilot, with no humans reviewing the content. You might try this tactic reported by Jim Romenesko that outed some blog thieves.
posted by Longtime Listener at 6:39 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what country you're in but I think you should already have copyright - under the Berne convention (I think?) as soon as your work is published in a fixed and tangible medium (web pages count) you have copyright. You can probably register your copyright, but that's almost certainly going to be more expense than it's worth.

The site is hosted (or at least the domain is registered) with GoDaddy. Here's GoDaddy's policy on trademark and copyright. I'd follow the instructions for reporting a copyright violation.

The plagiarism is so obvious and lazy (and, as others have pointed out, very likely robot-driven) as to suggest the person responsible does not give one single fuck what anyone thinks of him, so appealing to him directly seems unlikely to work.
posted by mskyle at 6:41 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Over on We Love DC I stopped screwing around with polite requests or dialog. People who respond to courtesy or will comply without excuses/delays/butthurt are not people who would take your shit in the first place. Determine the host and send the DMCA notice. (I know you're not in the US but their host may be and likely does not care if you are too)

You may still need to be aggressive; I have had hosts loop me in on the matter and had the slime try to delay or negotiate. I restate no, it comes down immediately, and have not had an issue thus far (knock wood)
posted by phearlez at 7:11 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


They're also hotlinking the images that you've used?

Unfortunately all of the images are hosted at Blogspot, so the typical hotlink fix won't work right now, but if you started hosting the images on a web server you control, you could make it so any requests from their site would not serve the requested image but instead serve something else. Then you could serve an image saying "This post has been plagiarized" etc. Or, you know, dirty stuff.
posted by yerfatma at 7:16 AM on February 26


DMCA takedown notice.

Their host is probably WestHost.

Don't worry about anything else (but do be prepared for him to re-open elsewhere).
posted by toomuchpete at 7:32 AM on February 26


Any ideas beyond moving towards copyrighting our material and sending them a cease and desist letter of some sort?

Your work is already copyrighted automatically, and all you need to do is send a standard DMCA take down notice to their host. Problem solved.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:41 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


The content is, it seems, autosyndicated - it scrapes the content as HTML from an RSS feed and reposts it, for ad views and/or SEO.

The site's author (or someone claiming to be same) comments after the post you linked to as an example of this happening to someone else, and apparently agrees to stop scraping the RSS feed of that site. If that worked in that case, it may be worth trying it in yours.

The next step/other option would be a DCMA takedown request, as stated. As an aside, the form advice is to ensure one's own house is in order before getting into a DCMA/copyright shooting war with an approximate peer. Obviously, if one is a multimedia conglomerate, this is less of an issue.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:52 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Stop deleting my posts. My point is valid.

First of all, who's "we"? We aren't going to help you report them, this is something you need to face. Both of the articles are on the same date so I have a hard time believing who posted first. There isn't really any evidence, so I doubt their ISP would do anything. My suggestion is to contact the website owner and talk to them about it, if they don't respond there isn't a lot you can do considering the lack of evidence you have that you wrote it first. Goodluck in your travels.
posted by vulnus at 1:16 PM on February 26


You can make your blog posts in a graphic format - as in screen caps of your blog text*. That will stop the instant copy and pasting. And then do the link swap suggestion above where they can't steal your pictures, or if they do, something else appears.

*I saw this done where a blogger wanted to list these red flag words, but didn't want his blog coming up in the search for those words, or get red flagged himself. He took a screen shot of the words and posted the picture.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:39 PM on February 26


There is a term for what the people who run this site are doing to you and others that you should learn, if you haven't already: blog scraping. Knowing what it's called will help you research ways to stop it.

In addition to sending a takedown notice, you can report scraper sites to Google. That won't necessarily make Google delist the scraper immediately, but on the bright side once you've done it you can take a screenshot of the form and then email it to the scraper site to let them know they've been reported.

You can also work to outcompete the scraper for SEO by optimizing your site according to Google's own beginners' guidelines for SEO, available here (PDF).

If this is really bothering you, I'd also recommend placing a blurb at the bottom of each of your posts that says, "If you're not reading this content at lawsofsilence.blogspot.com, it has been stolen. Please visit the original authors' site for more great content like this, and if you have a moment, we'd love it if you'd do us the favor of contacting us to let us know you saw our work reproduced elsewhere without our permission."

Yes, the scrapers can just take that out, but it's a little extra work for them to do so, and if they are using an automated program to scrape your content it might take them some time to realize that they are advertising to the world that they've stolen your stuff.
posted by BlueJae at 1:45 PM on February 26 [3 favorites]


(I would not take NoraCharles's advice to embed your blog posts in an image, by the way. That will make YOUR OWN site almost impossible for search engines to read, which is the opposite of what you want to do to beat these thieves. Google can't read words when they're stuck in an image.)
posted by BlueJae at 1:47 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Vulnus, the "we" being referred to are the two people running the blog... agog and friend of agog.
Agog isn't imploring AskMe readers to take action in this question.
posted by smalls at 1:54 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


Oh, sorry to dominate the thread for a minute, but I just thought of one other thing-- something I myself have done successfully in the past to stop a scraper. You might consider contacting the authors of the other content you've found on the site, and getting together to SIMULTANEOUSLY put up blog posts about the theft, on all of your blogs, all on the same day or within the same few days. And be sure to link to one another's posts. By organizing a group effort like this once, I managed to not only trick a notoriously annoying scraper into accidentally posting a bunch of stuff to his own site about how he was stealing from people, but I ALSO wound up making the first several Google results for the name of the scraper be a whole pile of blog posts about how he was a content thief.

So that was pretty sweet.
posted by BlueJae at 1:55 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]


Wow! Thanks for all of the great advice!

I'm inclined toward a little pranking, plus action to stop further scraping (new term for me, so thanks!), and maybe a DCMA, but it may take me a little time to fully respond and favorite because I need to coordinate with my co-blogger who lives across the globe.

Meanwhile, here are some responses to a few questions/suggestions that have popped up:

* vulnus, as smalls noted, the "we" in my opening post refers to me (I blog as "The Gid") and my co-blogger (Daurade). I'm just looking for advice that I can implement, not asking anyone here to take action. As far as who plagiarized whom, I do have clear evidence that I'll hang on to in case it's needed on down the road. I hadn't even thought about the necessity of proof or noticed that the publication dates were the same, so thanks for bringing that up.

* Some people noted that I'm automatically copyrighted, which got me to re-thinking. My co-blogger put up a CC notice on the blog which states "You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one. Please click on the "CC" image above for the full details." Does that alter anyone's advice about DMCA?

* Can anyone point me to an easy-to-understand guide on using images in blogs without breaking copyright laws?

* yerfatma wrote: Unfortunately all of the images are hosted at Blogspot, so the typical hotlink fix won't work right now, but if you started hosting the images on a web server you control, you could make it so any requests from their site would not serve the requested image but instead serve something else. I'm not sure how to do this, but I do have an empty website that I could use to host images for this purpose. More details on this, please?
posted by agog at 8:51 PM on February 26


Right, well, now you're in a mess.

You are publishing an RSS feed; RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and the blog in question is doing exactly what it says on the tin: syndicating the content you have made available in your feed. The blog in question is very likely automating this process, so the request on this page that the blog admin "use only my first paragraph" isn't going to work -- these posts are not being done manually.

Furthermore, you have attached this Creative Commons license to your blog. As the license says, You are free to... copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, so there is nothing stopping anyone from republishing entire articles at will. However, the license very specifically requires attribution to the original source, and that is where this all falls down because that's not happening.

Of course, you are doing more or less the same thing by using images for which you do not own the copyright, without permission and without attribution. Note you cannot file DMCA take-down requests for these images, as you are not the copyright holder for them.

Honestly, were I you, I would focus on getting my own house in order going forward, and do the following:

1) Change your RSS. Switch from full feeds to partial feeds, or turn feeds off completely. The problem at the Illuminati blog will go away.

2) Learn about using and attributing images properly. You cannot just use any image that takes your fancy. Most images you cannot use at all. Sources for images you can use: Morgue File. Flickr Creative Commons. stock.xchng. "Attribution" is generally linking the image you put in your post not to a pop-up but to the original image and/or including the creator's name below the image or at the bottom of the post:

Images (c)DarlingBri, agog.

3) Do not prank or be a dipshit about this. You are only barely on the moral high ground here. The only difference is that Mr. Illuminati's failure to attribute is probably intentional, while yours is accidental.

Your Creative Commons license allows you to revoke permission if the terms (ie, attribution) are not followed. Do this by sending a DMCA takedown request to abuse@westhost.com -- this is the correct email address to use. Follow this example. For PROVIDE WEBSITE URL list every single URL on the Illuminator blog you want to have removed, and below that provide every single URL on your blog as the original source. Be tidy and do not add any additional extraneous information, backstory, etc.

You will need to complete this procedure for your articles, and your friend will need to repeat it for his or her articles as takedown requests must be issued by the individual copyright holder.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:51 PM on February 26 [3 favorites]


More details on this, please?

Here's the basics on how to tell Apache not to serve images requested by someone at a different site. If your server is not using Apache, the idea is the same, it's just the syntax and file to change that's different. However, as DarlingBri suggests, unless you own the images, it's probably not worth doing this.

If the site is simply using your RSS to create the articles, you can set up a custom robots.txt file at Blogspot to deny the site's address from reaching any of your files including your RSS.
posted by yerfatma at 6:18 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]


1) Change your RSS. Switch from full feeds to partial feeds, or turn feeds off completely.

Do this if you so desire but you have no legal obligation to do so. The fact that RSS feeds can make it (marginally) easier to scrape & repost other people's content is in no way permission for them to do it. Over at WLDC we have successfully stopped this kind of use while continuing with full-feed (because we think it's the way RSS should be)
posted by phearlez at 2:12 PM on February 27


If the site is simply using your RSS to create the articles, you can set up a custom robots.txt file at Blogspot to deny the site's address from reaching any of your files including your RSS.

Robots.txt is an entirely opt-in voluntary thing. Many tools that handle RSS reposting will honor it by default but are easy to override.
posted by phearlez at 2:14 PM on February 27


Thanks for the additional feedback! I'm continuing to move slowly as I coordinate things with my comrade on the other side of the Atlantic, but here's where we stand right now:

1. We've neither pranked nor been a dipshit about this (thanks, albeit it wincingly, DarlingBri). There are already multiple robot posts that do stupid things like refer to our actual website name, etc., so, for now, we're not going to put up a "you stole this post" post or start messing with hotlinked photos, although I greatly appreciate those suggestions. Just considering the possibilities has made me chuckle, so thanks!

2. We switched from full RSS feed to partial feeds (thanks again, DarlingBri). I personally agree with you, phearlez, that RSS ought to be full feed, but we've chosen pragmatism over idealism this time.

3. We've reported them to Google as blog scappers (thanks, BlueJae). It seems like I'll have to possibly submit a separate report for each post, and, even more confoundedly, limit my examples to search result that runs the wrong way. So still working on that.

4. We may take BlueJae's advice about putting up "a blurb at the bottom of each of your posts that says, "If you're not reading this content at lawsofsilence.blogspot.com, it has been stolen" (etc.)." Note that the robot is smart enough to change internal links (i.e., links that we made from one of our blog posts to another part of our blog), so it seems like we'd have to just type out the link location without actually embedding the link for this to work. Ugg.

5. We're taking to heart the message to make sure our house is in order (thanks running order squabble fest & DarlingBri). I hope that everyone can give us the courtesy of letting us leave the last word on that topic here: most of our images are original or from Wikicommons; most of the others, in our opinion, fall under fair use (e.g., when commenting on some facts or reporting about a company, you can use its logo under a “nominative fair use”); a smaller subset of photos are in squishier territory, so we're investigating. I have more questions about this, but I don't want to derail my own post, so I'll ask more questions in a future AskMeFi.

6. We're reconsidering our use of the Creative Commons License. This decision comes with a number of consequences that we have to consider. In general, it seems simpler to revert to standard copyright, but I'm not happy about that. Please weigh in with pros and cons on this last point.

7. We hope to resolve this without DCMAs. I know this is counter to most of the advice here. If you'll just be patient with me, I may eventually crack and prove you right. Meanwhile, I'm still naive enough to try other measures first.

Thanks!! I'll add favorites and close this post soon!
posted by agog at 10:01 PM on February 28


Sorry, I wasn't implying you were being a dipshit, but rather that some of the suggestions were dipshitty ("juvenile and ineffective" would have done just as well but is longer to type.)

Re the DMCAs, just so you know, they are a totally routine part of running a website, as you can see by the many Ask posts covering this topic. We file them all the time for clients. The process is not adversarial, we've never had the respondee actually respond in any way, and 99.95% of the time, the problem just goes away. The host's abuse@ address exists specifically to deal with these notices.

In considering what further action you want to take about this site, see particularly this comment. There is very little chance that doing anything other than tidying your end and then filing is worth your time and effort.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:43 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


It sounds like you like the idea of a CC license, but you don't actually want one (or the one you have, anyway).

The whole point of CC licenses is to allow people to reproduce your content (within certain parameters). So this is what you need to think about: if this guy had posted all of your articles with the appropriate by-line at the top, would you be a-okay with what's going on?

If not, you need to change your license. It's as simple as that.

The issue of how to license your content is not an idle, ideological decision. You need to think very carefully about whether you're actually okay with what CC permits.

As for your reluctance to use the tool that was, quite literally, invented specifically for the sort of problem you're having: I hope you come around to it sooner rather than later. You have a very permissive license. If this guy had any interest in playing fairly (with you or anyone else) he'd be adding attribution to your posts. It would be a dead simple thing to add to that script.

He hasn't because he's not interested in abiding by your wishes. You can try other methods but, at the end of the day, these sorts of people tend to not give a single shit what you want. They're running content mills to up pagerank / sell things via ads / or some other scheme of questionable legitimacy and they do their work by volume. They simply do not have time to screw around with every single blog author and abiding by the various licenses. A DMCA or two and he'll remove your feed from his list of feeds to steal from because it won't be worth the trouble.

You can go through a big song and dance trying to get them to see the light, you can take a bunch of arms-race countermeasures (redacted feeds! embarrassing images! etc!) and waste a bunch of your own time, or you can go grab one of the thousands of simple DMCA takedown form-letters, spend 10 minutes customizing it, and fire it off to his host.

For most hosts, his content will disappear within hours (if not minutes).
posted by toomuchpete at 1:22 PM on March 1 [1 favorite]


Thanks, everyone. I've marked a number of "best answers" because several people suggested several tactics that seem sound to me: some advice for solving the immediate issue, other good advice for preventing subsequent issues, and still more advice to help me overcome some reluctance regarding the best approach. On top of that, it took many people repeating advice before I started listening. This was a lot of new terrain for me, and I can see that I was naive about a number of things.

Special thanks to DarlingBri and toomuchpete for hammering this home. It's always good, if difficult, to reframe my thinking.
posted by agog at 9:59 PM on March 2


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