Want a story about treachery, thievery, and blackmail? A story fraught with danger and deceit?
Yeah, well. That story ain't here. But I can tell you the story of how I discovered other people making money off my bloggy stuff. It's not super exciting, but it'll have to do for the weekend's entertainment.
So, last week when I was checking up on my Technorati profile I happened to glance through the page that lists sites that have linked to little ole' Creature Bug. I recognized all the sites as belonging to people I know except four. I checked out those four pages and discovered that while they did, in fact, have me linked as the source to the post they were duplicating on their site, the post was surrounded by Google Ads and the whole thing smacked of "making money off my work." I normally love other bloggers linking back to me, but this was not along those lines at all.
I know in my last post I said something about plagiarism, but what these sites did wasn't exactly plagiarism (which is when you take someone's work and call it your own). What happened to Jenny at Absolutely Bananas was plagiarism. (Read her whole awful ordeal here.) This was more along the lines of copyright infringement. It's a form of scraping, and in my case the issue might happen like this:
- I have a post called "Pictures from Camden" (two of the sites chose this post)
- The "link site" takes this post and puts it on their blog (with a courtesy link back to me)
- Someone goes to Google and searches for "pictures from camden" and up pop a dozen places to choose from, including mine and the link site's.
- Someone goes to the link site, sees my post and then maybe ends up here afterall.
No, big deal really. Except in the part where someone goes to the link site instead of coming here. That additional step means that someone else might be making money off my posts. They also might have objectionable content on their site that I wouldn't like to be associated with. If it sounds confusing, this post at Blogging Basics 101 explains it much better than I could.
I have now started a folder in my Favorites Center called Thievery, where I am collecting helpful links in my effort to protect my content, as well as the links to the sites that scraped my content.
- Whois Source helped me look up the owners of the domains that were illegally linking me. I obtained email addresses for three of the four sites through Whois.
- I searched for copies of my webpage using Copyscape (came up clean)
- I found a helpful article on what to do when someone copies material from my blog.
Unfortunately, Typepad doesn't offer a "permanent signature line" feature where I wouldn't have to type in the copyright info at the bottom of every post, so that I will do manually. Including the copyright info at the bottom of each post is really only effective against individuals who might take your entire RSS feed and refeed it into their mirror site. Hopefully Typepad will start providing this feature because I know I'll forget to include that copyright info on my posts.
So. That's the ordeal. I wasn't going to do anything about it until I read the post at Absolutely Bananas, and then I decided to at least try some of the tactics she suggests. The end result is that I emailed three of the four, and two of the sites have taken down the post (yay!). One site continues to have my Pictures of Camden post up, even though I emailed AND commented on the post. The fourth site I don't really have any way of contacting. A bogus email address is on their Whois records, and the site itself has no email or comment capabilities. To top it all off, the ISP for the site is in Russia. Call me a product of the eighties, but I have little faith that me emailing an ISP in Russia will motivate them to get a site to remove my link. I'm not pursuing it. But you're welcome to try if you like--here's the page. (I don't see any ads, so I don't think they'll generate any revenue from you clicking through. I can't quite figure out what the point of the site is.)
I kind of feel like I ought to be more irritated than I am, but I'm not. For one thing, I knew when I signed up for this kind of writing that there was always going to be the possibility of someone taking my work. For me, it goes with the territory. Certainly, I'm not going to take thievery lying down...I'll add my watermark on photos and my copyright link at the bottom of posts. I'll email and badger and do sleuth work every once in awhile (like Googling certain phrases from my posts to see if they pop up anywhere they shouldn't).
However, it's quite possible that someone out there has taken a photo of mine, resubmitted it as their own, and is making money and/or a great story out of it. I know bloggers that have had this happen to them, and some of them even stopped blogging because of it. Very understandable since there's a strong "creepy" factor to people taking bits and pieces of your life.
For me, though, I'm just going to keep plugging along. For one thing, if I'm always worried about my content then it would take all the fun out of hanging out here. Even though it irritates me that these sites took something from me, they aren't really taking anything from my life. I'm still the one living it. For another thing, my list of fears is a mile long anyway and I just can't add any blog related items to that list. It'd drive me crazy and make me lose sleep. Meh. I prefer sanity, and we all know how much I love my sleep.
Speaking of which...I forgot. I've been up since 4 this morning. Maybe I should go to sleep.
Final suggestions for foiling potential thieves:
- watermark your photos
- add a copyright signature to the end of every post (or you could just do that "partial post" thing where only part of your post shows up in a reader, but I hate that. I know some of you swear by it, but my secret confession is that sometimes I don't end up reading the post if you don't have the whole thing displayed).
- sign your blog up on Technorati so you can see who is linking to you
- Remember: you can't live in fear because that means they win (see, I'm also a product of the 21st century)
Also remember, don't steal. It's not nice. The end. And have a great weekend, plagiarism free!
(c) 2008 by Creature Bug. All rights reserved.