Content theft and free blogging

[Republishing because I had the wrong link originally - there are two almost identical forms. The one listed now is correct, and I also improved the detail on the instructions for filling it out.)

I've had to inform several bloggers lately that they have reprinted entire articles of mine (or the majority of an article I wrote, which is too big an excerpt for fair use). I really don’t believe these people are ignorant of their plagiarism. I believe they are bottom-feeding assholes who are too stupid and lazy to create a blog of any quality, so they just steal other people’s content, add a link at the very, very bottom, and think that’s okay. IT SO IS NOT.

So let me draw your attention to a couple of the latest plagiarists:

  • ZowieNews just reprints articles in their entirety, tucks a link at the very bottom, and figures that’s “news” reporting. I contacted them, and they did reduce my article to a very large snippet. I’ve just let them know the snippet is too large and the link should proceed the quoted content. Please have a look through their site if you’re a blogger: they’re stealing from all sorts of sites.
  • Check out this Dave character: he’s taken all but two paragraphs from an article of mine, added in about 3 paragraphs of his own (I’m assuming it’s original writing, but maybe he just stole those parts from someone else), without distinguishing formatting to show which bits are quoted (and in any case, he’s quoted far more than a fair use snippet). And can you find the link to my article? Oh, it’s buried in there somewhere, but cleverly, so you’ll never see it, or click it. Unbelievable.

Do you think they’re really just that stupid, that they think this is acceptable? How can you know how to put up a blog on your own domain, with a nice theme and all that, and not know what’s plagiarism? Have schools gotten that pathetic? Anyhow, I don’t care. EDUCATE YOURSELVES, ASSHOLES. Because at the end of this article, I’m going to tell other bloggers how to smoke your blog right out of Google. It’s free, and it’s easy, and it’s quick, and it works.

How to quote properly

For those of you who have never seen a blog with citations before because your spaceship got stuck in orbit for twenty years and you’ve only just recently landed on our fair planet, here’s how it’s done properly, and how we do it at Hathor.

Blah blah blah link to source:

Look how I put this in a blockquote, so you can tell it’s not my writing but a quote from the above link. Note that I’m just using one paragraph, or maybe three at the most. Whatever you do, don’t cite more than about 25% of an article – unless the article is so short that it’s hard to avoid citing more than that. The basic idea: as long as your use of my material is presented in a way that forces people to click to me if they want to read more, then you’re doing me a favor, and I have no basis for suing your ass. But if your readers have no need to click over because most or all of what I had to say is conveniently reprinted on your site, then you have not done me a favor, and I’d be doing the world a favor to sue your ass.

Ha, you’ll never sue me, it’s too expensive

It’s true that a lawsuit is an expensive thing, and most cases of stolen content don’t really merit it. Fortunately, Google fucking hates plagiarists as much as I do. So they make it super easy and cost-free to get these pages removed from their index. Since the Google index still provides more than half the traffic for any site, having pages removed from it sucks and reduces revenue. Plus, when a site has a couple of plagiarism complaints, the Google bot begins to think maybe the whole site is just spam, and that’s what Google really, really hates (because it screws with their holy algorithm). And then the whole site gets banned, and believe me, anyone who steals content is not an original enough thinker to profit from a website that’s banned in Google.

Here’s what basically happens with the DCMA complaint. You file it. Google investigates it and decides if it’s legitimate (don’t report people you feel have reworded your article significantly – save this tool for obvious copy-paste theft of text or photos). They forward it to ChillingEffects.org, a sort of copyright infringement clearinghouse. ChillingEffects posts the complaint publicly for all to see (more on this, and on protecting your contact info from public exposure, later). Google then replaces the page’s entry in the Google index with a notation about the copyright violation, and a link to your  complaint at ChillingEffects.org.

To get a page removed from Google:

  • Fill out the form on this page completely.
    • For “What Google product does your request relate to?”, click “Web Search”.)
    • On “Please specify the nature of your request”, choose “I have a legal issue that is not mentioned above .”
    • New boxes will appear. In the first, select “I have found content that may violate my copyright” and in the second click, “Yes…” to verify you are the copyright holder.
    • Read the warning that appears about the dangers of making false DCMA complaints, and click “I have read the above…”
    • From there on, you should be able to figure out what the forms want, according to your needs. You can report both text and image theft, but not at the same time.
    • Note that you must provide your real name, and it will appear on the DCMA record at ChillingEffects.org for all the world to see – UNLESS you fill in the company name, and then that’s what will appear. You don’t need to be incorporated – just put your blog name in the company name field (I found this out from ChillingEffects.org when I emailed them about this). No other identifying information will be posted online.
    • You may have to sign into a Google account – a Gmail account will do. This also gives you a “removals dashboard” which you’ll get a link to at the end of the process. Check that link to see the status of your complaints.
    • Note that you can report several infringers at one go, which saves you time.
  • Wait a couple of days (usually – sometimes there’s a backlog, but I’ve never seen it take more than a couple of weeks).
  • Search for the actual link to that page in Google, and note with delight a notation like this one: “In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org.” With links to your specific complaint. It’s such a nice feeling.
  • Watch those violation notations slowly sink from the page they started at in the Google index until they reach the digital equivalent of Grandma’s spooky basement that no one goes into anymore because there are spiders and rats and stuff.

And the other beauty of this? If the infringer uses Adsense to make money (look for the “ads by Google” tag) as so many do because it’s the preferred ad service for lazy bottom feeders, Google may destroy their Adsense account, which kills their income stream.

Be sure never to use this tool except on obvious copyright violations. I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. For example, if someone’s significantly reworded your article and printed it as their own, that is unfortunately not something the DCMA can deal with. Leave the DCMA for issues like the above ones I linked to, or the more typical issue of someone simply copying and pasting your text and/or photos. Why is it like this? Because some people have used the DCMA maliciously, claiming infringement where there wasn’t any (just to get a competitor’s site in trouble) or even accusing the original copyright holder of being the copyright infringer! So Google and ChillingEffects rightly take defenses against DCMA complaints seriously. Plus, you could be sued if you accuse someone of infringing when they haven’t.

Good luck, bloggers! I use this form a lot with my more popular websites that get copied regularly. It’s always very quickly removed offending pages. Note that if you have an article that’s popular with thieves, they will probably wait a few months and repost your article again. When re-reporting infringers, I use the “Identify and describe the copyrighted work: *” field to say things like “Please note that ImABigThief.com has had a previous DCMA violation for this very same article.” I don’t know if that makes their fate any worse, but since Google does hate chronic copy-pasters, I thought it worth mentioning.

Comments

  1. Amy McCabe says

    Working as a librarian at a college, sadly I can say many of our students are pretty clueless as to why just copy and pasting something from one source onto their paper could possibly been seen as plagiarism.

  2. says

    Amy McCabe,

    Depressing. I don’t think that was really the case with either of these – every article on Zowie is copied, and they have now complied with my further request. Dave OTOH just removed all reference to and snippets from my article and replaced it with his own anti-feminist crap. Guess he was offended that a woman dared assert her rights rather than be flattered into submission by his stooping so low as to plagiarize her work. Benevolent sexism, anyone?

    Sylvia Sybil,

    Check your stats and see what phrases people are using to find your articles in search engines. Search those phrases in Google and start clicking the other results to see if any of them are copies. You can also Google your titles in quotes (“why beautiful women can’t get dates”).

    And once in a while these people actually leave trackback pings with the offending article, which is hilarious. If you’re using blog software, those come up in your comments. I always check my trackbacks before approving them in case (a) they’re a copy or (b) they’re spam/porn/something offensive that would take my readers by unpleasant surprise if they clicked over.

  3. Maria says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I actually noticed the Zowie ones because of the trackbacks. Normally we get trackbacks from spammy sites, which I delete, but I noticed that this one had a “real” sounding name and was linking to one of our more popular articles (normally it’s the LOGI articles that get linked). So I clicked the link (on someone else’s computer, lol) and was like ?!?!. Honestly it was so weird I at first thought it was someone’s high school project.

  4. says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    Thanks! I felt it was important to talk about here because so many of us here are women who blog, and there’s a whole notion that bloggers should not only be unpaid but also happy for people to steal from/heap more work on them, which totally overlaps with identical notions about women and labor.

    Maria,

    Ah, I was wondering about that, LOL.

  5. Nialla says

    Amy McCabe,

    Yeah, there’s definitely an “If God didn’t intended us to plagiarize, He wouldn’t have allowed the invention of Copy & Paste!” attitude.

    Coming from the same students who in high school would do their “keyboarding class” assignments in the library by typing it once, then C&P however many times they were told to type the practice letters strings or phrases. No wonder so many are thrilled they can type 30 wpm. That would have been a massive failing grade in my classes.

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