You might think that because you’ve got Internet Security, use good safe secure passwords for all your cloud solutions, computers and mobile devices, and have a secure system in place for taking online payments that you’re all set, but what about the content of your website? Have you thought about protecting that from theft?
It’s not as daft as it might sound. Plagiarism is more and more common place. In fact I’ve recently been a victim of copyright theft, which prompted me to write this article to give other small business owners some advice if you ever come across it yourself.
Why is this so important?
With changes to Google’s Algorithm, search engines are now more strict on duplicate content. If you’re found to have duplicated content online, you can be penalised. Not good for your website ranking, and therefore in turn not good for new customers or clients finding your business online.
This rule is in place to prevent people creating multiple websites with the same content with the aim of monopolising the search results.
It’s great for small businesses as it means that as long as you put time and effort into creating a website with relevant content, you don’t need to spend loads of money on SEO to be found. Just create good, new, informative content regularly and the search engines will pick it up when people are searching for that word or phrase.
But if someone steals you content and passes it off as their own, you might find that your content has been duplicated with you even realising it.
When it happened to me, I was angry and frustrated that someone had literally copied and pasted my text into their website, right down to my testimonials! After spending time creating my content and managing to do well in the search engines, I didn’t want all this hard work undone by an online thief.
So here are some quick tips to help you find out if your copyright has been infringed, and what to do if it has:
1. Enter your URL into Copyscape (an online plagiarism detection solution) and wait for the results to come through – this only takes a few minutes.
2. If nothing comes back, just get on with your day! But do check back every once in a while to stay on top of it.
3. If websites appear, click on the links Copyscape provide and see what percentage of your content has been duplicated. If it’s high, then you need to do something about it.
4. Try contacting the website owner and explaining the situation i.e. they’ve used a lot of content from your website which is copyright infringement that will have a detrimental effect on your website, and therefore business.
5. Your request? Ask them to remove your content immediately even if this means taking down their website whilst they replace it with their own ‘original’ content.
6. If that doesn’t work, or you can’t get through to the website owner, find out who their ISP is (Internet Service Provider) by running a Domain Name Lookup. Contact the ISP directly explaining the situation and ask if they could contact the owner on your behalf, or take down their website. Whether the ISP in question will act on your behalf depends on the ISP, but it’s certainly a route worth venturing down.
It’s also worth reading through what the UK Copyright Service say and following their simple step-by-step plan to make sure you’ve got a reference for everything to hand.
7. Finally if none of the above works, you can take advice from Google. However this does mean going down the legal route, which could be timely and costly.
8. A last resort would be to make changes to your own website content so you don’t get penalised by search engines. Whilst this is extremely frustrating when you’re the victim, if you don’t reach a resolution any other way it may be the easiest option in the long run.
Great article. I know I’ve spend a great deal of effort to insure that I was not plagarizing. I would be very angry if someone else just copied my efforts. How does one prove that your copy was first?
Thanks Phyllis, yes I was very angry but have since realised it’s obviously alot more common place than I knew. With regards proving copy is yours first, you can register your website as well as get a copy of your site as it exists now for any future disputes (which hopefully won’t ever happen!). The UK Copyright Service has some really useful information that will advise you further: http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/protect/p11_web_design_copyright. Good luck!