Stolen Content

What to do if your blog posts are stolen by a spam “scraper” site.

FAQ

Q. What is a scraper site?

A. Spammers use programs that automatically copy other people’s blog posts and republish them on their own web sites with ads. They do this without the consent or knowledge of the authors of those posts.

Their sole purpose is to generate advertising revenue.

Q. Are scraper sites legal?

A. Copying someone else’s written work without permission is a violation of copyright law.

In addition to copyright violations, such sites might break the rules of the advertising networks they use.

Q. How can I stop them?

A. There is probably no effective way to prevent scrapers from copying and republishing your posts.

What you can do is send a notice to the scraper site’s web hosting company demanding the removal of your copyrighted material. In most countries the hosting company is legally obliged to remove that material.

Scraper sites often (though not always) break their web hosting company’s terms of service or acceptable use policies. If the hosting company receives several valid and verifiable complaints they might shut down the scraper site entirely.

stolen.wordpress.com aims to provide the information you need to send copyright notices to the companies that host scraper sites.

Please note that we’re not trying to blame web hosting companies for scraper sites. Hosting companies just manage web servers, they’re not responsible for the content hosted there. Most of the time they’re probably unaware of the existence of scraper and spam sites.

Q. I really want to stop my posts being copied. Can’t I disable right clicks or something like that?

A. Scripts and tricks that claim to prevent copying from web pages don’t work. The operators of scraper sites already know how to defeat them.

The only measures that can reliably prevent copying are:

1. Password protect your entire blog, and only give the password to people you trust; or

2. Don’t publish your material on the web in the first place.

You might have have some luck reducing the frequency of copying if you set your XML feeds to only include a brief excerpt rather than the full post content. You can do this on a WordPress.com blog by visiting the Options / Reading tab of your dashboard, and setting the “For each article, show” option to “Summary”.

Please note that this will inconvenience some of your readers, and will only affect some spammers – if it helps at all.

Q. Can’t WordPress.com send copyright notices for me?

A. Only the copyright holder can send a notice or claim copyright infringement. We don’t own the copyright on your posts, you do.

Q. Do I have to register my work at the copyright office?
Q. Do I have to put a (c) copyright notice on my blog or in my posts?

A. Probably not. In most countries, any original work that you produce (such as writing, photography or art) is automatically protected by copyright. A copyright notice is not required, and you don’t have to register anything.

If you live in the USA there might be some benefits to registering your work at the copyright office, particularly if you are a professional writer, photographer or artist, but many countries do not even have a copyright registration process. Whether or not your work is registered don’t affect its copyright status — unregistered works have the same copyright protections as those registered at the copyright office.

Q. Is there anything else I can do?

A. Scraper sites probably break the rules of the advertising networks that they use. You can try reporting them to those advertising networks.

You might also try notifying the advertisers whose products appear on those sites. Advertisers don’t like paying for ads that appear on spam and scraper sites. They don’t want to be associated with spam, and they don’t like paying for those ads because they are a waste of money.

Q. If a scraper site just copies a short excerpt of my post, is that legal?

A. Copyright law provides exceptions — often called “fair use” — that allow portions of material to be copied or published in certain circumstances such as academic criticism and parody. Though we are not copyright lawyers, we believe that copying material merely for the purpose of running ads does not fall within those exceptions.

The fair use provisions of copyright law do not make exceptions for excerpts smaller than any particular size. To the best of our knowledge we believe you are still within your rights to demand the removal of even a brief excerpt of your copyrighted material from a scraper site.

Q. Are WordPress.com blogs more at risk of having content stolen by scrapers?

A. Not really. WordPress.com blogs are copied by scrapers because they are popular, high quality and tend to rank well in search engines. If you have a popular, high quality blog and you move it anywhere else that ranks well in search engines, it’ll get copied from there too.

Q. Why do scraper blogs sometimes link to the original posts?

A. For two reasons. One, it makes the scraper sites look more like a real blog to search engines and to anyone who stumbles across it. And two, there’s a slight chance you’ll mistake it for a real post and link back to it.

Q. I found one of my posts copied on a scraper site. What can I do?

A. Briefly:

1. Search stolen.wordpress.com for contact information for the scraper site. Scrapers typically set up many blogs on subdomains, like ‘fakeblog.example.com’ and ‘phonyblog.example.com’. The scraper site is most likely run by the owner of the main domain, in this case ‘example.com’, so you should search stolen.wordpress.com for that domain.

2. If the scraper site is listed on stolen.wordpress.com, follow the instructions on that page to send a DMCA notice or notice of infringement to the company that hosts the web site.

3. If the scraper site is not listed on stolen.wordpress.com, report it to us using this form. Please make sure you include the full URL of the post on the scraper site, and the full URL of the original post on your blog.

We’ll attempt to find the correct contact details for the web site owner and post instructions on stolen.wordpress.com.

If the scraper site is hosted at WordPress.com, send a DMCA notice here and a copy here. We’ll remove it promptly.

If you’re comfortable using DNS records and Whois to find the owners of a web site, it’ll help if you can include that information too.

Please note, you cannot send a DMCA or infringement notice for material that is not your own work. If your blog post consists solely or mostly of a quoted excerpt, image or video that was made by someone else, you cannot claim copyright over it, nor can you make a DMCA claim on the original author’s behalf. Attempting to do so might be a criminal offense.

Q. What shouldn’t I do?

A. Don’t get too upset. Scrapers are spammers, the same people who fill your inbox every day with ads for cheap pharmaceuticals and make money fast scams.

Don’t break the law or attempt to hack, spam or damage the scraper’s web server. The company that is hosting it probably doesn’t know what the scraper is doing, and certainly isn’t responsible for it.

Don’t link to the scraper site. Linking only brings them more traffic, which increases their advertising revenue.

Don’t make false claims when reporting the scraper site, and don’t spam the hosting provider with duplciates. It is probably illegal and will only make it harder to shut scrapers down in future.

Don’t rant or abuse the hosting company, or include unnecessary explanations and information in your report. The best kind of complaint notice — the kind that is most likely to work — contains only the minimum amount of information required by the DMCA.

Q. What if the hosting company ignores my DMCA or infringement notice?

In some countries this makes the hosting company legally liable. It might be that your notice didn’t arrive, contained incorrect or incomplete information, or the contact information was incorrect or didn’t reach the right person.

Let us know if your DMCA notice is ignored or refused. The next step is to notify the “upstream provider” — the company that provides the hosting company with their internet service. We’ll attempt to track down their contact information.

Written by Alex

March 14, 2008 at 2:42 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: