What to Do When Someone Steals Your Stuff

vengeance by Katie Gail on Flickr

vengeance by Katie Gail on Flickr

This article is just what it says on the tin. How to bring the pain when you find some mealy-mouthed thief has attempted to use your own material on his site, with OR without attribution. Fair use is fair use, but grabbing entire articles is not fair. It’s also not legal. And it’s surprisingly easy to lay the smackdown on them when they do this.

Blog scrapers are an entire industry unto themselves; increasingly, thanks to copyright law and international treaties, an industry relegated to third world countries. They do, however, occasionally surface in the first and second worlds, giving original writers the opportunity to deliver what is known as “a learning experience” to the scraper.

It’s been quite a day at The Cryptosphere HQ, kittens. You may have noticed a dearth of new features. That’s because we’ve been up to our fuzzy little ears in DMCA notices (sending, not receiving) and somewhere in the Midwest a young boy cries in his mother’s basement. Because his domain registrar, his web host, his ad provider, and soon his mother, have all recieved notices of Terms of Service violations with DMCA attachments. If you’d like to learn how to wield the sword of justice in similar fashion, please check out this wickedly righteous post from a different blog of mine. Note this is not violation, because I have permission from the copyright holder, moi.

“I assumed they were already in the public domain on other wine review sites and liquor store sites.”

So says Canada’s #1 wine writer, Natalie MacLean, in a statement as disturbing as it is wrong-headed. It seems that, despite seeking legal advice (where, in a bar after closing time?), MacLean is under the bizarre notion that just because copyrighted work is posted to the internet, it is thereby stripped of copyright.

Allow me to disabuse her, and everyone, of this notion once and for all.

All original work published online, whether paid for or not, from CNN.com to the humblest Tumblr, is copyright the creator, as of the moment of publication, automatically and by law.

Web hosts are legally obliged to take offline copyright-infringing content, and they don’t really give a rat’s ass how “important” the blogger is in his/her niche. If they don’t act on a DMCA notice, they risk losing their entire business, and they are not going to take that chance. That’s why this is the heavy-handed, but more productive, way of dealing with copyright infringement. It’s rare that anyone with a blog is stupid or ignorant enough to think they’re really allowed to do this, so asking them is often a lesson in fruitlessness. When their web host removes their entire site from the internet, that teaches them a lesson they won’t forget.

And what can you do about it? Why, that is also covered in that article, but for those of you pressed for time, we present the Cliff’s Notes version:

  1. Search their site for contact info (they probably won’t post any, since they know they are stealing) particularly an email address
  2. Find their web host by using a tool like http://www.whoishostingthis.com/ and locate the email there to which one reports abuse
  3. Determine who supplies their ads, if any, and find the abuse email there
  4. Find their domain registrar and locate the abuse email there
  5. Fill out a DMCA notice http://wordpresshacks.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/dmca-complaint-template/
  6. Send it to all the above
  7. Have a cocktail. You’ve earned it.
  8. Wait.

In the case of Adsense, you probably won’t have to wait long. Remarkably for a Google product, they respond very quickly; they don’t email you generally speaking, but they DO examine the report, look at the site, and either remove the ads or replace them with non-revenue-generating nonprofit ads, often within 24 hours.

Now go forth! Go forth and DMCA!

Featured image by Katie Gail on Flickr and used OBVIOUSLY in accordance with her posted CC License.

Categories: Blogs, Copyright, Cryptosphere, Hacktivism, Media, Philosophy, Regulations, Rights, Spam

7 replies

  1. Never thought of sending a DMCA to the Registrar also – will they really do something to the registration?


  2. PS thanks for the article & links

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What is the “re blog” button on WordPress? Sounds like it could lead to similar problems…(I’m not going to click it now to find out; I’ve never used it). Pictures are iffy, too. Sometimes the photographers change their terms of service and the user is still responsible! Always best to keep the original screen shot of their terms, when possible. I am 100 percent for protecting one’s work, but there are a lot of overzealous lawyers out there making a full-time living by filing lawsuits, also on things that are clearly not violations of copyright.


    • The Reblog button takes a snippet of a post, no more than 75 words, and puts it in your blog with the original source prominently attributed and a link, and gives you a small box to add your comments. I don’t love it, let’s just say that, but it DOES prevent stupid people from taking an entire post just because they think it’s okay. And once it’s done, you can’t tinker within the reblog to make it bigger or pretend it’s your post. So that’s a point in its favour.

      Since most of the images I use come from Flickr, and all are Creative Commons licensed and unmodified, I’m not worried. If someone changes the terms of use after the fact, I’m not bound by the new terms and Flickr keeps a record of when that change was made.

      That said, it’s nice to have a couple of excellent lawyers on hand!


  4. Thanks Raincoaster! Been in this position before (of having my content stolen), so your taking the time to explain what to do, should my content ever be pilfered in the future is very much appreciated. Thank you!


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