Blogs are a wonderful way to share creative content on the Internet with people all around the world.
If you run a blog, you are probably aware the amount of creative thinking and effort that goes into producing your own original material.
As with most things you create or write, the original content you produce for your blog is copyrightable.
So, how do you protect your blog’s content from copyright infringement?
To be clear, it is an extraordinarily challenging task to maintain an absolute protection of your work. You can blame this difficulty on the internet’s ever-growing size and complexity.
However, there are certain steps you can take to ensure your blog is as protected as possible from instances of infringement.
In this article, we’ll cover three basic steps you can take to protect your blog from copyright infringement.
Note, however, that we’re just covering basic industry best practices here. If you believe that someone has infringed on your work, it’s highly recommended that you speak to an attorney about your case.
Only an attorney who has reviewed the entire matter can give you the advice you need to properly fight cases of infringement against your blog.
1. Create a Terms of Service Page for Your Website and Follow Industry Best Practices for Website Design
The first and most important thing you should do is to create a terms of service page for your website.
As you can expect from the name, your terms of service should dictate the exact terms that your website’s visitors agree to when they choose to navigate to and around your website.
In the contexts of this article, most modern terms of service include language along the lines of “this site is for your personal use; you are not authorized to distribute, exchange, modify, sell, or transmit any materials from this site.”
Basically, many websites will use their website terms of service to explicitly state and reinforce the otherwise implied copyright protections they are claiming to their work.
Websites that allow for user-submitted content will also explicitly state the terms of such an upload, usually to give themselves an unlimited license to distribute this content to other users as long as they stay on the primary site (such as in the case of people being able to retweet things on Twitter).
Put simply, you should specifically outline the exact terms of copyright use for your website on your terms of service page, as failing to do so could lead to legal issues down the line should you want to file an infringement lawsuit.
Clearly Indicate Your Copyright Claim Over Your Blog
In conjunction with the terms of service page noted above, you should also add some kind of copyright claim to your footer to further solidify your claim over your website and its content.
Generally, this copyright claim will include three components:
- A copyright symbol (or word) ©;
- The year(s) published (usually the current year);
- The author’s name.
As a few examples of acceptable copyright claims:
- Copyright © 2021 Tingen & Williams, PLLC
- Tingen & Williams, PLLC © 2021
- 2021 © Tingen & Williams, PLLC
- © 2021 Tingen & Williams, PLLC
Really, you’re (probably) fine on the legal side of things as long as you note the three components above in some way, shape, or form.
2. Regularly Audit Your Content
Finally, it’s recommended that you take steps to regularly audit your website to see if other people are using your blog posts or other content elsewhere on the internet.
There are several ways to perform this audit, which can vary in price and depth depending on how thorough you choose to be.
The Manual Option: Exact Match Searches
For example, one quick an easy way to see if people are using your content is to copy key excerpts from your content and past it into Google or another search engine to see what comes up.
Make sure you enclose these snippets in quotation marks to ensure Google only returns results that contain that specific phrase.
For example, if I wanted to check if someone copied this article, I could search:
"Make sure you enclose these snippets in quotation marks to ensure Google only returns results that contain that specific phrase."
Generally speaking, the chance of someone writing the exact same sentence as you, with no outside help or inspiration, is so low that it might as well be zero.
Using the example above, we can achieve the following results:
- Searching the first three words (“Make sure you”) returns 482,000,000 results;
- Searching the first four words (“Make sure you enclose”) returns 278,000 results;
- Searching the first five words (“Make sure you enclose these”) returns 429 results;
- Searching the first six words (“Make sure you enclose these snippets”) returns no results.
The likelihood that an arbitrary blogger will write that entire sentence from scratch, without ever reading this article, is practically negligible.
For this reason, matching any unique string of more than 8-10 words to those found in another article will likely lead to instances where someone else has copied your content (or at the very least will produce a list of very few articles for you to look through).
Automated Options: Let the Computer Do the Work For You
If you don’t feel like running these searches manually (or if you have a large amount of content to search) it may be wise to use certain automated options and services to check whether other sites are plagiarizing your content.
As a two common ways to better automate your search:
- Google Alerts — Google Alerts is probably the fastest and easiest way to automate your copyright checks. Basically, you can put in a string of text (usually a string of 6-10 words that are central to your article, as outlined above in the basic search section) and Google will alert you if any new content is posted that contains those specific words. Most brands will use this service to monitor their presence on line (such as by creating an alert for their business name), but it works just as well, if not better, as an automated content checker.
- Backlinks / Referral Traffic — People who copy content are often lazy. For this reason, they will often forget about changing the backlinks in the posts they copy. If you use internal backlinks in your articles, the plagiarizer may forget to remove these links when they republish your content, thus giving you an unintentional backlink. While checking your overall backlink health in sites such as Ahrefs and Moz, you may want to also look for sites that link to your content from copy that’s all to familiar to your own. Services such as Google Analytics may also tip you off if you receive a significant amount of referral traffic from one particular link, should the stolen article be popular in the plagiarizer’s circle.
There are certainly other methods, such as services like Copyscape, but the above-mentioned strategies are the most popular in the industry.
3. Enforce Your Copyright Online
Finally, and most important, you should take steps to enforce your copyright should you find any instances of copyright infringement online.
Often, this means contacting the infringing party and asking them to remove their content on grounds of copyright infringement.
If the “nice” way doesn’t work, you could also try strategies such as DMCA claims or cease and desist letters asking for the removal of the content.
As a last resort, you could also try speaking with an attorney about whether or not it’s worth pursuing the case in court.
Damages can add up quickly even for smaller cases of infringement due to the “per instance of infringement” language in the section of the law that covers copyright infringement lawsuits.
For this reason, your case could be worth much more than you might think, especially if the infringing party copied multiple articles from your website.
Given the time and creative effort that goes into creating and maintaining your blog, you should take the appropriate measures to protect your work from copyright infringement.
- Make sure to create a strong terms of service page that explicitly lays out the rights and licenses relating to copyrightable content on your website. Also make sure to place a copyright notice in the footer of your website further assert these rights.
- Regularly audit your content to ensure other websites aren’t stealing your content. You can perform this process manually through search engines such as Google or automatically using services such as Google Alerts, Ahrefs, Moz, or others.
- Enforce your rights in instances where you suspect someone is copying your content. Often, this means directly asking the infringing party to remove the content, or going through some other mechanism (such as a DMCA claim) to forcibly remove the content from the host’s network.
Finally, please keep in mind that this article simply summarizes the basics of the process.
If you’re considering whether or not to file an infringement claim against another party you should talk to an attorney immediately.
Only an attorney who has reviewed your entire case can give you a clear picture of your chances for success in your particular legal matter.