Stolen content. It can happen to you.
That sounds likes a cheesy PSA, but it’s true. Whether you’re a conglomerate, a small business, or a freelance contractor, chances are your content will get ripped off and reused without attribution. Content thieves don’t discriminate. Without hesitation, they’ll copy content from your site and post it, as is, onto their own. Or if they’re a bit more creative (a little less lazy), they may modify the content slightly before posting it, so as to make it look original. But it’s still stolen content.
My friend, Meagan Ivory, has been battling with one thief for several months. By day, Meagan works as the Engagement Marketing Manager at Perfectly Posh, a direct sales pampering company. And by night, she’s a wife, mom, brand ambassador, social media promoter, freelance photographer, and fashion and lifestyle blogger.
On Instagram, Meagan experienced her first social media breakthrough. She was able to curate and share products and fashion items that she loved in an ascetically pleasing way, and she quickly learned that she could drive sales and create brand advocates this way. And in 2015, Meagan launched her blog—MeaganIvory.com—to supplement her Instagram feed, which today includes more than 25k followers.
Here’s her stolen content story.
When I signed up for Instagram, the thought of someone stealing my photos never even crossed my mind. The first time it happened, someone took a screenshot of one of my flower pictures and posted it as her own. To add insult to injury, it was a daylily, and her caption read “hibiscus.” Thankfully, a photographer who followed both of us noticed the image, and I was able to have Instagram remove it. (In my experience, Instagram has been great about removing pictures that are reposted without permission.)
So when I started my blog, I already had my guard up. I installed several WordPress plugins to monitor my blog’s traffic and activities that occur when a reader is visiting my blog. I also set up Google Alerts to warn me when content from my blog appears on other websites. And I even installed WP Illegal Content Copy Notice Append to tell me when content is copied, pasted, or saved from my blog.
Because of the plugins I’d installed, I had the information from the offenders blog and was able to submit a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Takedown Notice to her blog host, and that time they removed the entire page from her blog.
Yes, she copied the layout, navigation bar titles, blog posts, and even went so far as to take the same pictures and style of pictures as I did to recreate my blog posts.
I submitted additional DMCA Takedown Requests to her blog host, Blogger, but they rejected them all—saying via their canned email response that it was “unclear” what was infringing on my copyright.
I was furious! I replied with side-by-side screenshots of my blog and her blog. And yet—even though her posts were posted after mine, included the same content (with only a few minor edits) and incorporated many of the same items/photos—Blogger refused to do anything.
After doing some research, I discovered what I was experiencing was unfortunately normal. Blogger, a blog hosting service owned by Google, doesn’t have a great reputation of removing content that’s reported through a DMCA Takedown Report. I also did some research on my own blog host, WordPress, and found that their percentage of removed content wasn’t much better—rejecting 43 percent of all takedown requests.
Other people will tell you that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” or that people only copy me because I’m doing something right. I should just ignore it and it will go away.
But the truth is, it isn’t flattery. It’s not sincere. And just because I’m doing something right doesn’t mean that it’s ok for someone else to take my work and claim it as their own.
I have tried ignoring it, but ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. I can live in denial. Or, I can continue to confront it and try to put tools in place that protect my content and images. I’ve opted for the latter, and I’ll continue to report this person—and any others—who steal my content.
After months and months of no action by Blogger, I’ve decided to rebuild my whole blog and install additional plagiarism plugins. I’ve also notified Blogger that I’ll be relaunching my site. They’re aware and say they’ll be watching her blog to ensure she doesn’t make any similar, “sudden” changes to her blog.
For now, I click “publish” and just hope that the stolen content notifications don’t come.