How To Get Stolen Content Removed
By Eileen Smit on June 16, 2011
One innocent day, I was looking around the "behind the scenes" of my site Bringing Up Bronwyn. If you aren't a blogger, there is a dashboard where you post from and you can add nifty tools and much, much more. Since I use wordpress as a platform, there is a spam blocker called Aksimet. It catches all the yucky comments like the stupid stuff that ends up in your email inbox. Occasionally Akismet will catch real comments by mistake. So I check in there on a semi-regular basis for real comments. I was surprised by what I found.
I came across a trackback. A trackback, or sometimes they are referred to as a ping, happens when someone links to you. So let's say you post a link to this page on your website. I might get a trackback listed showing me you posted a link to my site. Then I'll probably get really excited and come visit your site. Small time bloggers don't get a ton of trackbacks, so they are usually noteworthy. On this day I came across a trackback to a site I had never heard of. I clicked the link and I found the post they were linking to typed out word for word, except the words were thesaurusrized. I just made that word up. Like the words "part two" turned into "partial duo."
I had been blog scraped.
Dunh, dunh, dunh, cue ominous music.
I started looking around. The website had a LOT of content on it. Something like 2000 posts, since February. It became quite clear to me that ever single post had been "scraped." What is blog scraping, you ask? It's copyright infringement. This particular site was scraping breastfeeding-related content. Basically the owner was probably utilizing a bot to scan the Internet daily for any posts or articles related to breastfeeding. It would then run the content through a filter to change the words a little bit, and then post. Luckily in the first paragraph of my stolen content, I had linked back to a related post. That was how I got my trackback. I scanned the page some more, I saw photos of people's babies. One particularly disturbing sight was a post that had a picture of a NICU baby tangled among the wires. My heart broke for the owner of that picture. The skeeviest part of all of this, was when you took out the category in the web address and just went to the home page, it was a political conspiracy website. I did not want to be linked in any way shape or form to a site that talked about taking down a president.
I WAS LIVID. I immediately set out to my favorite resource. The Twitter. No one really knew what to do, just that "it happens." Quite a few people responded that the same thing had happened to them. I asked what they did about it. No one had answer. That wasn't enough for me. I wanted it down. So I started researching. I found out a lot of information, but none of it was in one place. After doing my research I sent a demand letter and my content was taken down.
I then was on a mission to get the website shut down, AND I DID. I contacted as many people as I could via Twitter, email, blog comments, etc. People who had content on the site. I found enough people, sent them instructions on how to get their content removed, and ta da! The site is GONE.
It wasn't as easy as just sending an email to the site owner. The site did not list contact information. Of course not. I had to go to the host directly. Not only that, but I had to use specific language or they were under no obligation to remove it.
So what happens if your content is stolen? If you find yourself in the same predicament? There will be a little bit of research, but I've decided to take the guess work out of it. Each host out there has it's own rules and guidelines, but for the most part it's the same basic premise.
Step 1: Make friends with the site http://who.is. Oh as an aside, if you have a domain, you probably want to run to that site and put in your web address. If you didn't specify private registry when you bought your domain, I'm guessing your full name, home address, phone number, personal email address are posted there. Feel free to check mine out. Just click the link and type in bringingupbronwyn.com. It'll show some registry in Washington. That's because I registered my domain privately. Scary how much information might be out there, huh?
Step 2: Print out, screen shot, take note of the information on this page. Sometimes you will get lucky and it's got the actual contact information of the site owner. Other times they are privately registered and it'll have an agency contact, like mine does.
Step 3: If there is contact information, send them an email asking them to take down content. If they don't comply we move on. In my case there was a name and an address, but no email. So I had to move on to step 4.
Step 4: Click the button in the header on who.is called DNS RECORDS. Ta da!!!!!! Magic, you have their web host information. Now if they have their own server, it might not be as fast, but if a host is aware of illegal content, and they have been notified by the copyright owner, they could be held liable, so 99.9% of the time they will remove it. If they don't, you should probably call a lawyer. There should be an email address on this page. Or, if you are lucky it's Go Daddy, or some other larger host.
Step 5: This is where it's sort of Choose Your Own Adventure. On the DNS Records page, it will say where the host is located. Once again 99.9% of the time it will be in the United States or the European Union. If it's not, once again, probably call a lawyer. The steps are very similar for either the US or EU. The one thing that I know is different, is that in the EU you have to attempt to email the owner of the site before contacting the host. That's why you shouldn't skip Step 3.
Step 6: If the host has a website, go on it and search around the site for the contact for copyright infringement, and if that host has any specific rules.
Step 7: Download one of the following letter templates that I have created and am giving express consent to all readers to use for your own personal use. It may not be replicated for profit. If you want to share the document, PLEASE direct them to this article. The first template is for a US based web host, the second is for a EU based web host. I've tried to make it as easy as possible. Anywhere you need to change information is in red.
Step 8: Some hosts require receiving the notification via mail or fax. Others will allow you to email. Make sure you have checked with the host on what method they require. Send it via that method.
Step 9: Check up and follow up until your content is removed. Mine was removed within 24 hours.
A few things of note. In the letter you have to swear under the penalty of perjury that it is your content. This protects anyone who publishes content. Basically if someone sent me a demand letter saying that what I've written here was written by them, when it wasn't, now they are liable for perjury.
Only the copyright owner, or someone legally authorized, can send the demand. So, when I saw other people's content scraped, I couldn't do anything, but guide them.
If you would like more information on the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA or the European Union's Electronic Commerce Directive you can go to the following links:
Please know, it doesn't matter if you have a typed out copyright statement on your site or not, it can help, but if you wrote it, and posted it? It has a copyright. It is yours, but put a copyright on your page, always include all years that your site has existed.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Or if you have found your content somewhere and want help, I can see what I can do.
Please note, I am not an attorney. Any of the information given should not be construed as legal advice, and I cannot be held liable for any actions you may take with the information provided. Please consult an attorney if needed.
Photo Credit: Daily Invention
Eileen occasionally blogs over at Bringing Up Bronwyn, sharing stories about parenting a toddler, while working full-time outside the home and trying to maintain her sanity.