In simple terms, content theft refers to the stealing or unauthorized usage of web content (both graphics and text) by another website. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”? Certainly not in the case of content theft. Most content thieves steal content simply to fill space on their websites and attract traffic (think Google AdSense).
Content theft also damages your standings in search engines. Search engine consider duplicate content on multiple web sites spamming, which can result in a drop in placement on search listings or elimination from the search engine altogether.
To catch the thief
There are many tools available on the Internet that you can use to catch a content thief:
1. Google Alerts – Google Alerts are email reports of the latest relevant Google search results (including news, web, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. You can setup an alert for your blog name or a unique phrase from your website.
2. Copyscape – Copyscape is a search engine to locate duplicated materials on the Internet. All you need to do is provide your URL and Copyscape will check whether text content found on the provided URL appears anywhere else on the Internet.
If you find a thief:
Once you have found a content thief, your next step is to preserve the evidence you have found. Often infringing sites are either altered or taken down once you attempt to contact the site owner, host or search engines, having a copy of the site for your records and to verify the infringing content will come in handy in case a dispute arises later.
As there are tools to help you catch the thief, there are tools to help you preserve evidence:
1. WebCite – WebCite is a service that archives web pages on demand and stores them in simple URL that you can easily access later without worrying whether the original web page is revised or removed.
2. Furl – Furl is a free social bookmarking website that allows members to store searchable copies of webpages and share them with others.
3. The Internet Archive – The Internet Archive preserve websites by taking regular “snapshots”.
Cease and Desist Letter:
Once you have caught the thief and preserved the evidence, your next step is to try and resolve the situation – contact the thief with a Cease and Desist Order.
A Cease and Desist Order is simply a “stop, or else face legal action” order. While a cease and desist letter can be sent by anyone, they are best written by lawyers.
You can use Whois to find the site owner contact information.
Contact Host, Advertisers and Search Engine
A domain’s Whois data will also include the website’s nameserver, which you can use to look up the site’s web host.
You can send a copy of the Cease and Desist Letter to the site’s web host and advertisers. But to make a stronger case, you may also want to advise them of your attempts to resolve the situation with the site owner, including copies of the ignored Cease and Desist Letter. You may also wish to send a formal DMCA letter. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires hosts to remove infringing content once they have been properly notified.
Contacting search engines:
Before you contact Google to report the infringing website, you have to make sure that it is indexed by Google. You can search a website if it is already indexed by visiting Google.com and type site:yourdomain.com. For example, if you want to see if Doteasy.com has been indexed, go to Google and type site:doteasy.com. If you see results, the website has been indexed.
Additional guidelines from Google: