Am I the first blogger to write about blogging FAQs? Probably not. Am I stealing someone else’s idea? No, I’m not. Is someone else going to see this series and think “hmm, I can do better” and write their own series? Possibly. Do I care? No. Should I care? No.
Once your work is in the public domain it’s out there for anyone to riff off of the idea, add their own unique voice to their posts, tailor the idea to a different niche, the possibilities are endless. And yes, it’s nice to acknowledge the source of your ideas and inspiration, there’s no law saying you must, although Google loves content that cites its sources, oh and karma will bite you on the asslet if you don't. Many people assume that their readers only read their content. They don't, they read a range of content from a variety of sources. When someone copies… They know. They may even email you and tell you that someone has “stolen” your work.
If you are reading this series of blogging faqs and have your own, I can assure you I didn’t see it. I didn’t even do a search to see if such a thing existed. Why? Because if I searched I might find something, read it and subconsciously absorb the content, and think that your idea was mine. This is known as Unconscious Absorption, and everyone does it. I didn’t want that to happen when I wrote this post, so I didn’t search and look at other people's content.
But people ARE stealing my work I hear you cry…
Now there are some people who will copy your work wholesale, they are usually known as scrapers. You can run all over the internet and try and get them pulled down but they will always get the upper hand, find a way around your efforts to protect your work. Yes, scrapers are a pain but you should focus on more important things like attributing your images correctly…
Then you have the “legal” scrapers, if you submit content to article marketing sites depending on the sites T&Cs, it means other people can usually re-post your content providing they link to the original. I used to do this with articles to my transport blog, but in the end the people that stole the articles and didn’t attribute them overwhelmed me… Especially Bruce, from a Mississippi courier company who copied my article wholesale, with all the UK references and said he didn’t attribute the post to me in case my courier site was a porn site… Yeah, I gave up article marketing after that run-in with Bruce. It seemed that every day was filled with a Bruce from somewhere in the world. But I was convinced I was doing the right thing.
Then you have those awful people who take half of your article and add a new introduction and think you don’t notice… And the only time you find out is when you run an article through CopyScape or you pay for CopySentry.
You do have options to try and protect- you can license your work under Creative Commons. There are 6 different options and you can add a badge to your site informing your readers how your work is licensed and what it means to them.
You should always deep-link in your content, if someone is going to scrape the post and remove all the links I’m going to make them work for it.
Now let’s move onto someone actually stealing your images or your nice copy-written content, word for word…
Unlike ideas, this is actual theft.
I had a blogger last year join Birds on the Blog. She was adamant that she knew everything about blogging, and paid scant attention to my instructions. She copied an article from the Daily Mail Newspaper and tried to pass it off as her own. Well, we (by we I mean me) called her on it, and she said she never knew it was illegal to copy a newspaper article and republish it and claim authorship. Needless to say, she was fired. I then had to remove the other three articles she’d written in case they were copied from somewhere.
Another more experienced blogger wanted more timely images on her posts and started to borrow them from newspapers… again, even with attribution, this is a no-no. We’ve had to remove all the images.
And then we have the case of people who accuse you of content theft and have no idea that they did not own the copyright of the article in question.
A client recently published an article from a guest blogger. The post had appeared on another site, and the author stated it wasn’t original but it was a nice post, and he thought his audience would like it. The guest blogger didn’t tell the other site that she was sharing her content elsewhere, and the first site slapped a DMCA notice on my client. I contacted everyone involved and the original author maintained she did not give up her copyright, so the DMCA is invalid. However, we could find no one at Google or ChillingEffects.org that would listen, they’d issued an illegal DMCA and it was tough to get it removed. Eventually, the DMCA was removed, but it appeared in every single search for my client's name… and it wasn’t making him very happy at all.
Copyright is retained by the content’s creator unless they sign it away. For example, an author may sign over the copyright to a publishing house. As a blogger, you are liable for what you publish on your site, but you may not hold the copyright of what you publish.
And finally we have the PLR users.
If a blogger buys PLR and rewrites it so that it becomes a new article or post, then that isn’t theft. They’ve licensed the content and are allowed to do this. In some instances, you are allowed to publish “as is” but I can’t see any advantage for a blogger to do that. If you don’t feel like writing a post, ask someone to guest post, curate content, write a post around a video… repurpose some of your existing content – there are endless better options.
When you blog on multiple sites it can be hard to write something completely original. You have your own cliched phrases and content style. It can be tough. On Birds on the Blog we use the Duplicate Examiner Plugin. This means that each contributor can see how much her post differs from the original post on her own site. If she chooses to write about the same topic twice, each article will be fresh for its intended audience and won’t be filtered out in the search results.
In both of these scenarios, it’s not content theft, although some would argue it's still plagiarism.
So how do you know what’s content theft and what’s not?
As a reader, you won’t know at first, but from time to time you’ll feel a niggling doubt in your mind, but as a content creator, you will know. You’ll learn to recognise what is outright stolen (Like I did with Bruce from the courier company, he copied my information about postcodes). Experience will help you deal with what you think is idea theft and hanging around other bloggers will help you work out what is plagiarism, and what isn’t.
Ultimately, when blogging you need to have a thicker skin and only experience will tell you which battles to fight and which ones to avoid.
You'll find your energy is better when you focus on promoting your content, visibly branding it and creating what your audience wants rather than worrying about something that has yet to happen. At some point, someone will nick your content and generate a heap of bad karma on themselves. That's not your fault. You are not responsible for how other people behave.