How to Handle Plagiarism, Part 2

Friday, April 18, 2008

I've talked about how to handle plagiarism in this post, and I wanted to follow up on the information I previously shared. This week I was notified that a site was plagiarizing copy I had written for my own website. I then ran a Copyscape search and found that another site had stolen some of my content and was passing it off as their own as well.

Does this really matter? If you're operating in different parts of the country or world, does someone copying your content really do any harm? In short, yes. For one thing, it is illegal and that should be enough of a reason. But another reason is that unless you link to the site you found the information on, citing it as the original source, Google and search engines will sometimes think the plagiarizing site is the original source and penalize your site for copying by dropping its search engine rank. If it happens too often, they may blacklist you and stop crawling your site all together, making it near impossible to find you in online searches.

Earlier this week, I sent the head of both companies cease and desist letters via email and requested that they have my original content removed from their sites within 36 hours. One obliged, and the other has ignored the notice.

So what do you do when the cease and desist letter goes unacknowledged? One option is to invoke your rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. The what? Basically (and this is a huge dumbing down of the laws the Act contains, so definitely do a bit of research on it yourself and/or ask your attorney), the DMCA gives you the right to send a notice to the plagiarizing website's hosting company (GoDaddy, 1 and 1, etc) and they will take the offending site down. The Blog Herald has a post with more information on the DMCA and this post has some tips on how to correctly craft a DMCA notice to send to the hosting companies.

Hopefully you won't have to followup on an original cease and desist letter, but if you do, it's important to make sure you are doing so correctly.

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