If you publish anything online, sooner or later somebody is going to plagiarize your content, steal your images and maybe even copy your entire website. The internet is a large place, filled with lots of people that have bad intentions of looking to profit from other people’s talents. No matter how much time you spend working on a website, a photograph, a work of art or a piece of writing, there’s always someone out there who doesn’t care about your efforts and who simply wants to use them for their personal gains. Over the years I’ve tackled this issue many times, in fact I even helped educate one of the largest ISP’s here in Australia all about this and their legal responsibilities… What you should do when your work has been plagiarized.
The good news is that you don’t have to accept this, there are ways that you can fight back and over the years I’ve had many a website closed down, deleted and removed for stealing content.
What you should do when your work has been plagiarized.
Track Down the Source
Quite often the people stealing your work will most likely be a single individual working on their own. When you come across your work somewhere on the internet, you need to identify who is actually stealing it. The first step would be to gather information such as address, email address or any other contact information relating either to the person who is using your work or the administrator of the website which it appears on.
The next step is getting in touch with that person. The best thing you can do during your first contact attempt is be civil and polite, you can often get what you want with a little honey as they say. If you come off as hostile it could escalate the situation as both sides will dig in, so remember the bigger picture always. Contact them in a calm manner, whether it be by email or phone, then inform them they have stolen your work and go from there. Give them the chance to remove the material which has been stolen or plagiarized and if they refuse then it’s time to take things to the next level.
Cease and Desist
Should your attempt to contact the guilty party not be successful, the next step is a Cease and Desist Order. A Cease and Desist Order is a legal document that basically tells the guilty party to stop using your property or they will face legal consequences.
You can find templates for a Cease and Desist Order available for use on the web and you can edit them to fit your specific situation. If this Cease and Desist Order still doesn’t get the attention of the person who stole your work, the next step would be to contact the server which hosts the website. These are the type of legal situations which servers try to avoid, so contacting them directly may result in the thief’s website being suspended.
Contact the Search Engines
Thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, search engines such as Google and Yahoo are obligated to get involved in your situation at your request. If it comes to this point, gather all the information you have which proves the work is yours and present it to Google or a search engine of your choice. After reviewing the information, the search engine will contact the other party on your behalf and will remove them from their search engine and I personally like this as even if they move the domain name over, it’s still blacklisted.
Contact the Hosting Company
Very few people host their own websites and often one of the quickest ways to get content removed if the owner of the website is unwilling to help, is to contact the hosting company. If your website is hosted in the USA or even Australia, thanks to our free trade agreement, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 applies and all you need do is send a cease and desist notice to the hosting company, informing them that the website in question has stolen your content and that you would appreciate them removing such content immediately. In my experience, each hosting company wants things worded slightly differently but thankfully most hosting companies are extremely helpful in this regard and will often tell you what you should do when your work has been plagiarized.
As you can see, you have options when it comes to fighting plagiarism. There are many resources at your disposal which will make your life easier if you’re trying to protect your intellectual property. Don’t let a thief get the best of you. Follow these steps and protect your work now that you know, what you should do when your work has been plagiarized.