The internet is more or less the Wild Wild West of Copyright (If anyone else pictures Will Smith in Cowboy duds when I say this then kudos) and I have seen bloggers repeatedly ask for the same advice how do I keep my content my own? How do I stop others from stealing it. The short answer is: You don’t. Don’t get me wrong you have every right to your own content and there are ways to take action against those who steal your words and claim them as their own (and we will go over them) but let me help reduce your stress. You place your content on the internet to be shared right? Otherwise we’d all have private blogs. A cost of publicly sharing your ideas and your words is a constant battle with copyright infringement and plagiarism. So I propose this outlook, don’t worry about your content appearing other places, fight for proper accreditation instead.
What do I mean? By asking others to properly accredit your content to you and post a link they are actually directing traffic to you, they are spreading your message. And it is far easier to ask someone nicely to fess up that it is your content than it is to stop them from putting it up. But as we all know there are those offenders that simply can’t be dealt with when they won’t respond.
A quick list of accreditation and copyright tips:
- Check your site’s comment section or inbox: Many polite bloggers will actually ask if they can use your content and if you didn’t reply, they may have taken that as an okay to post your material.
- Know your rights: Do a little research on the copyright status of whatever content is in question as the rights are slightly different for everything. Art and images are pretty absolute but recipes, for example, have less rights attached to them (you cannot claim copyright over a list of ingredients or “basic” instructions but any original written content like intros or in-depth instructions can be copyrighted).
- Apply for an official copyright: One of the best ways to have a legal standing is to actually copyright your website with the US government. This will allow you to file a copyright infringement complaint with the US government and should prompt an investigation. You can also ask them copyright questions.
- Ask nicely: When you first spot your photos or words on someone else’s site without your permission or in a way you do not approve of, reach out to them first. Use the comments section, the contact page, or when all else fails use a service like WhoIs to get an email address for whomever owns the website. Many times a copyright infringer is simply an admirer that wants to share your posts with their friends, save it for themselves to read later, or they consider themselves a “collector” of blog posts around the web. As infuriating as this can be, try to hang in there and ask in a friendly way that they either take it down or that they provide your name as the author and a link to your blog/website.
- Warn: If your still having trouble or there is a repeat offender in your midst send them a warning and let them know that if they do not honor your wishes that you will have to register a complaint the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.IC3.gov) or if you’re not officially copyrighted, the infringer’s ISP host. Another option is to send an official DMCA takedown notice which does not require that your website be copyrighted.
- Add your name to photos: Using Photoshop add your name or web domain name to the photo. Try to place it somewhere where it can’t easily be cropped out.
- Work with social media: Let’s face it, if you take nice photos, they’ll circulate. Post your photos to Pinterest, etc. straight from your website. Then it will track back to your website and at the very least establish a precedent that it is your photo.
- For Companies, find their Copyright complaint site: Many major internet companies now provide copyright infringement reporting tools for their sites. Someone else using your picture on Facebook? They’ve got a solution. Copyright issues with Google or any of its satellite sites like YouTube? Google’s got a reporting tool too. But if you’re filing a complaint against Google or Facebook themselves and not a user be sure to read the Terms of Agreement in full first.
- There’s always a Lawyer: If someone’s ripping you off in a big way or has just puzzled you, it never hurts to talk to a lawyer (well, except maybe your wallet). See if a family member or friend in Law has some recommendations for you.
My major take away from my experience on the web is that it is for sharing ideas socially. I’m putting up my tech posts so that other people will use and build on them. I want it to be in circulation because honestly, especially in the world of tech and recipes, very little is “new”. Someone else did something similar somewhere and I’d like to make life easier for those techies out there looking for a little help building their SMIL files and whatnot. Everything I post I do so with the knowledge that ownership on the internet is hard to control and I do my best to work with those who like what I write. And I provide a contact page so that I can be contacted in case of any issues arising with my own site. Which coincidentally has led to more people properly and politely asking to use my content.
Ultimately, it’s your ideas and your thought processes. That is not something that someone else can have access to. Meaning if they try and even succeed in taking your content, they won’t actually have the skill to back up that claim and sooner or later will be found out, especially if they are getting attention for your work. My advice is to do your best to get the credit you deserve and take it as a compliment (albeit an annoying one if they didn’t ask first) whoever it is obviously thinks you’re producing good work.