What Constitutes Content Theft? Here’s What We Think
A few days ago, Curatti founder and CEO Jan Gordon noticed that someone who promotes Website Jacking was following her on Twitter. Actually, he’s one of many resellers of a $27 program that promotes a practice that we call content theft. He’s following me also. Is he or are any of his customers using our content for their gain? Are they using your content?
I haven’t looked at the fine details of this program, so can’t tell you about the step-by-step advice. Does it suggest that people attribute the content owners as they hijack their traffic? If anyone reading this knows the answer, please let us know in the comments. Certainly, the sales blurb on this is something I find repugnant.
(FYI: Step 1 was “build your slide in….”)
There is someone far better known than this person, who has apparently built great authority and earned a lot of money off the content others create. He does recommend that people credit the authors. But the link is his, as are the highly visible Calls To Action (CTA) at the top and bottom of the page.
We’re not in the business of naming and shaming. What’s more, when Jan discussed this practice with a leading influencer, he had no problem with it. Yet another influencer actually endorsed the second of these practices.
We know that some people are outright using other people’s content without any attribution given.
We know that others are mentioning author names and article titles, but are not hyperlinking to the original article.
And then there is that grey area. It’s the one where someone replaces your link with theirs.
They point to your site, and the links in the content act as intended.
But the first CTAs anyone sees are theirs, not yours. So they are profiting off the back of your work, even as they give you credit.
Let’s look at each of these 3 methods of piggybacking:
1. PLAGIARISM = CONTENT THEFT
I know Caps are considered shouting on Social Media. Maybe they are on blogs also. But you know what? That needs to be shouted.Content theft = Plagiarism. Plagiarism = theft. And theft is theft is theft is theft…Click To Tweet
2. Is Naming An Author But Not Hyperlinking Also Theft?
We say yes. Although we realise that some people don’t know better. And mistakes will happen.
Before the Internet, all you could do was reference your sources. And if your sources now are old works that have not been digitized, you can only attribute the old fashioned way.
But the great majority of articles that might be referenced were either originally published online or have been digitized and their rights are owned.
We contend that not hyperlinking also constitutes a form of theft, if not meeting the definition of plagiarism. We have received guest posts on Curatti that don’t hyperlink original works, and have outright refused to publish those references if we couldn’t easily find the sources ourselves.
3. Taking Your Link Traffic And Leads While (Sort Of) Sending Traffic To Your Site
Guessing you can figure out from that subtitle that we don’t like this either.
We (us, you, our guest bloggers) do the work
Someone runs it through a link generator
People go to your site, or something that looks like your site, but there are highly visible CTA for someone else
Worse? Depending on the link type, you may get no credit for the visit.
Someone Else’s CTA on Your Page
One thing about CTAs – common wisdom, if you like – is that there should never be 2 competing ones in view at the same time. What do you want people to click on? You surely have a preference. You can’t control what CTA visitors will click on if you have more than one on a page.
This form of linking gives visitors that same dilemma. Except one of the CTAs they see – likely the most visible – doesn’t belong to you!
You are doing the work. You are hosting a website. Ultimately, you are doing this to gain customers. And along comes someone else, who grabs the people who want to read your article.
Is This OK?
I can’t wait until the bottom of the article to ask these questions:
- What do you think?
- Do you find any form of link hijacking acceptable?
- Are you OK with other people using your work to get signups for their offer or newsletter?
My take. If I put in the work to write an article, either I, or the blog I post it on, should get the benefit – preferably both. I feel as strongly about other people’s work.
There Are Ways You Can Stop This From Happening
When I searched for ways to stop people from stealing our content, I found an article by Lorelle dating back to 2006. So this is far from a new problem!
The article 7 Tips and Tools Stop Content Thieves in their Tracks by Chris Dyson, appeared on jeffbullas.com 4 years ago.
Here are a couple of the suggestions you’ll find. But I’d advise you to click-through and read the whole thing:
- Install the Pubsubhubbub plugin
- Install Tynt or the Yoast RSS Footer Plugin on your blog
- Set up a new Google Alert to send a notification when either the exact title of your post has been republished online or a unique sentence from the post has been published. (That’s a paraphrase from the article.)
A more recent article, by Philip Garret, was published on Kissmetrics: “How to Keep Content Thieves from Stealing Your Work”
This article offers a step-by-step guide to setting up google alerts, and also what to do if you find that your content is being stolen. Again, a highly recommended read.
Takeaways and questions
People are using other people’s content for their own gain. Maybe they’re using yours. Not everyone finds this wrong. For those who do, there are ways you can stop it from happening.
Curious to know what side of the fence you’re on and where you draw the line. Have you taken any action to stop it? If so, please share.
Footnote / Addendum
Within minutes of this piece going live, Lorelle, the author of the 2006 piece “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content” that I quoted above, left a comment. I know not everyone will scroll that far down, but it is important. So I wanted to paste it in the article body:
I’d like to be perfectly clear about this.
It doesn’t matter if people hate copyright infringement, feel hurt, violated, or don’t care, it is illegal.
What you can do about it to start is create a clear and specific copyright statement that defines your policy for fair use, then stick by it. If you want to give it away, say so. Want to control how much and what people can use and what permissions they need, be specific. The techniques for responding have not, changed in 10 years. NEVER seen public revenge or finger pointing but be professional and report it in compliance with the laws of your country and state. The DMCA and laws that followed it protect our rights.
Thanks for bringing this up again. It is never an old topic until people get it into their heads that the same rules that get you kicked out of school for plagiarism ate the sane rules in the web. Thanks!
Related reading: Are You The Victim Of Content Theft? Here’s How To Find Out
Featured image: Copyright: ‘https://www.123rf.com/profile_vectorfusionart‘ / 123RF Stock Photo
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