Shelly Kramer
January 19, 2017

Are You The Victim Of Content Theft? Here’s How To Find Out

Content Theft

This is another departure from our usual content, but this is oh so important! Chances are, some of your content has been used by others without attribution or permission. Content theft, which is what that ultimately comes down to, is a problem many are aware of but everyone should be. Shelly Kramer gives plenty of tips on finding if you’re a victim…. and what you might do about it if you are. Another one to bookmark! And another in our “Great Articles You may have missed” series.

Content Theft: Are You a Victim?

The process of creating thoughtful, value-rich content that drives engagement isn’t cheap or quick. Brands know this, and that’s why many of them outsource at least some of their content production—a smart move, and one I’m obviously all for. If you’re one of those purchasers, though, it’s never been more important to validate the integrity of the content you’re purchasing. It’s also never been more important to protect the content you do produce in-house and then set free on the internet. Why? Big brands are stealing and profiting from skimmed content. Let’s explore what you need to know about this problematic trend—and what you can do to put a stop to it.

Swiping content: Same old problem, new big culprits

There’s a ton of copyrighted content on the internet—images, presentations, articles, you name it—and, frankly, it’s never been too difficult to steal. This is especially true in this age of brands with an “if you can’t create, then curate and syndicate” attitude, when it comes to content. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as those brands both give attribution to and get proper permission from original authors. (NOT the same thing, by the way. Attribution does not equal permission.) Oh yeah, and they don’t sell it to anyone else for a profit—which, unfortunately, happens quite a bit.

In fact, an investigative article my smart friend Kerry Gorgone,  who also happens to be both a writer and an attorney, recently published on Mark Schaefer’s blog revealed that big brands like Business 2 Community and NewsCred are essentially taking content that people have written (sometimes for themselves and sometimes sponsored by brands), swiping it, and then reselling to their clients as a way to help them “feed” content marketing machines. For example, if you contribute to Business 2 Community, there’s a line buried in their terms of use that allows them unrestricted access to not only use your content, but to sublicense it to their assignees—an agreement that is, of course, royalty-free from your perspective.

Basically, if your article had a soul, you’re signing it over. And if it does good things in the Internet world, you’re foregoing any reward. Does that sound like a good deal? It’s not, but most people don’t even know they’re making it. I encourage you to read Kerry’s full piece, titled Someone’s making money off your copyrighted content (But it isn’t you), to learn more.

DIY tips to theft-proof your content

We can all agree that having your content stolen—or unknowingly purchasing stolen content—is a real issue. To stop it, there are a few DIY tips you can try before moving on to larger solutions. First, I’d like to preface this with the caveat that I use “DIY” very loosely when it comes to protecting your content. There are certain things you probably don’t want to DIY—wiring your house, performing minor surgery, setting up your own parachute because you watched that 10 minute YouTube tutorial titled “What to do before the big jump”—you know, things like that. Sarcasm aside, though, there is something to be said for identifying a problem and taking ownership of the path to its solution. In that sense, DIY away!

Tracking Tools

That said, there are steps you can take on your own to help keep your content under lock and key. Consider checking out the following resources to see if your content has been stolen and get it back:

  • Google Alerts. This is the simplest way to search for stolen content. Just visit Google Alerts, type in a portion of your article, and choose the kinds of sites to search. You’ll be contacted via email in case of a match.
  • Copyscape. If you publish a ton of content, try Copyscape, a paid site that scours the web for repostings of your content. If you find any unwanted scrapes, contact the site owner(s) and ask for your work to be removed.
  • Who Is Hosting This. In the event you’ve found your content has been stolen and contacting the site owner has not remedied the situation, try Who Is Hosting This. There, you’ll find the website hosting service for the culprit URL and can take your complaint one step higher.
  • Google Webmaster Tools. If your content is doing exceptionally well for another party and other steps have failed, try filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) complaint via Google Webmaster Tools.

How to prevent the theft in the first place

I just mentioned what you can do to see if your content has been stolen, but is there anything you can do to prevent the theft in the first place? Yes! Consider installing WordPress plugins like the following: Feed delay, Copyright notice, Yoast SEO, WP content copy protection, and Tynt Insight for WP.

That covers the DIY side of things, but what if you need more high-level, professional protection? One solution might just be worth experimenting with. Let’s go there.

Need a big picture, professional solution? Try Iperial.

Iperial is a technology that provides secure, fully automated intellectual property rights protection—and it’s cost-effective to get started. It’s also highly scalable, so it’s good for everyone from enterprise corporations to non-commercial bloggers. You can access Iperial through APIs, cloud connectors, client software, or even mobile apps.

Sounds great, right? I know what you’re thinking: Exactly how does this work? The protection is built on cryptographic hashes—i.e., exceptionally large numbers that identify each piece of content.

Think of it as assigning each piece of content you create a unique social security number and signature—a trackable, time-stamped piece of data that proves the content belongs to you and shows exactly when you created it. Instead of tracking a paragraph or post title using multiple tools, just track the duo of cryptographic hashes assigned to your content. Registering your content with Iperial also comes with Blockchain protection as an added security measure. At only $3 per user per month for businesses, I’m not sure why every writer doesn’t do this.

Over To You

Do you know if a piece of your content has ever been scraped? How did you handle it if so? (If you’re purchasing content, I trust that you’re doing your due diligence.) At the end of the day, content theft isn’t a new problem, but new tools like Iperial might be able to help us get it in check. Do you think you’ll give it a shot? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


This piece was originally titled “Brands Are Stealing [and Profiting from] Your Content: What to Do About That” and posted on V3B. It is republished here with permission.

Shelly Kramer is the Co-CEO of V3 Broadsuite, a marketing agency specializing in the digital space. Also a Partner Digital. A 20+ year marketing veteran, she’s a brand strategist focused on delivering integrated marketing solutions and helping businesses leverage the web for growth and profitability. She’s an expert at content strategy and execution and tying social media to business initiatives.

Recognized by Forbes on a number of occasions, including as one of the Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Experts and Top 50 Social Media Influencers. She’s half marketer, half geek, with a propensity for numbers, producing results and a dash of quick repartee. Her blog has been recognized by Forbes as one of the Top 20 Best Marketing and Social Media Blogs and by PostRank as one of the Top 100 Most Engaging Social Media Blogs. Find her on LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter


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