What I Did When Someone Stole my Blog’s Content

S is for Stealing ContentBy Laura Christianson

I am steamed.

A few minutes ago, I received a “pingback” on the blog post I published Monday about redesigns to the major social media outlets. (A pingback is an email message that includes a link to a website or blog that links to your article).

Interested to see who was linking to an article I’d labored over for many hours, I checked it out. The site had reprinted my article, in its entirety.

Not only that, but the site’s owner placed her own byline directly above my article. And she made no attempt to link back to the article on my site.

Even worse, the site that reprinted my article was another social media marketing company! A company that I had liked on Facebook (and have very recently dis-liked). Aaarrrrgh!

As you can imagine, I took immediate action. I posted the following comment on her blog, beneath my article:

Please delete this article from your website immediately. The content, in its entirety, has been stolen from the Blogging Bistro website, where it was originally published March 18, 2013 at http://www.bloggingbistro.com/facebook-google-youtube-pinterest-twitter-get-major-redesigns/.

You did not ask for nor receive permission to reprint the article; thus, you are breaking copyright law.

I can’t believe that a marketing company would have the audacity to steal someone else’s content. You should know better.

I sent a similar message via email directly to the blogger/marketer. A couple of minutes later, I received the following reply from her:

We apologize as we weren’t stealing your content – we linked to your website and state that it is your information in the post. We had planned to also link to your Facebook page tomorrow via a scheduled post. We can remove it if you wish. Didn’t mean to ‘steal’ we were simply sharing an informative article.

The blogger followed it up six minutes later with this message:

I never took credit for it at all. It states clearly in the article that it is yours- with links AND images. I will remove of [sic] you don’t want the shared/promoted exposure that’s your choice.

Can you see the steam shooting out my ears?

After double- and triple-checking my article on their website and taking screenshots of the entire article to see if I’d missed my own byline and the supposed link to my website (neither of which were visible to the naked eye), I replied:

When you reprint an entire article without asking or receiving permission from the author, that is stealing. Check copyright laws on this. I’m not seeing a link or any attribution to the original source — just your own byline and my article, reprinted wholesale on your site.

For future reference, whenever you share someone else’s content, you are allowed to publish a limited excerpt (length of excerpt depends on the length of the original article — for a blog post, it’s usually a couple of lines or a very short paragraph) with an attribution to the author and a link back to the primary source.

But you can never, ever reprint an article, song lyrics, poem, book chapter, blog post etc. in its entirety without written permission from the author.

Disguising “stealing” as “sharing” wouldn’t go over well in court. Please remove the article immediately. If you want to compose your own original promotion of the article along with my byline and a link to my site, you have permission to do that. That would be genuine and honest sharing.

To her credit, the marketer immediately took my article off her site. She replaced the reprint with an appropriate intro, link to my article, and credit line.

If she hadn’t, I would have been sorely tempted to use the power of social media to alert her clients and prospective clients (and the rest of the world) that this woman has no qualms about stealing other people’s content. She really wouldn’t have wanted me to go there.

So, readers, did I do the right thing? What would you have done?

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What one blogger did when someone stole her content (Click to tweet)

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  • http://sefcug.com/ sefcug

    I think you did exactly the right thing in letting them know what they did wrong and giving them the chance to correct it.
    Hopefully, they will be more careful in the future.

  • http://twitter.com/susanizwright Susan Wright

    Yes, you most definitely did the right thing. I would do the same thing. Someone in her position should have known better. And to lie when it is so easy to take screen shots to prove their theft? Clueless.

  • http://www.facebook.com/janetanncollins Janet Ann Collins

    I think what you did was right. Maybe the other person didn’t know what she was doing was illegal, but she should have realized it was morally wrong to take credit for what someone else had written.

  • Karen

    People seem to be getting pretty lax with digital content these days. Good job standing up for yourself. Of course now I’m desperately curious who we’re talking about…

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Thanks, Janet. Perhaps because of my journalism training and background, I am more aware of and testy about copyright issues than many people. But it seems as if online marketing companies should be cognizant of such things!

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Susan – When I showed the email messages from the marketer to my husband, the first thing he said was, “Document it. Take screenshots, right now.” Husbands can be so smart!

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Yes, I hope so, too, Steve! We often justify our “sins” by saying, “I’m just trying to help” Or, “I’m not really stepping over the line, am I? I’ll just do it now and ask questions later.” There are other things one can do, as well, when content gets stolen (if the “thief” refuses to take it down). Those involve contacting the site’s host and requesting that they blacklist the site. Fortunately, this issue was resolved quickly and to my satisfaction.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    It wasn’t you, Karen! As I mentioned in one of my workshops in Oregon last Saturday, people do this all the time with Google image searches. They figure that if it’s a picture they found on Google, that must mean it’s free for them to use on their blog or website. Not true! Those Google images are almost always copyrighted.

  • http://twitter.com/CarolynahYankee The Carolina Yankee

    @Janet Ann Collins: If a social media marketer doesn’t know the laws governing copyrights, then I don’t want to be their client. This was infringement of the most basic of media laws and anyone remotely associated with business writing SHOULD be well-versed in the laws re plagiarism and copyright.

  • http://www.ko-shin.com/ Ko-Shin

    Cheers to YOU! Thank you for sharing this, its a major issue in the digital age, and without well informed and eloquent people such as yourself, most of the offenders would not know what was correct/ or what to even do at all. I am curious, I am a songwriter (and I write blog articles as well) but my question is, so people technically cant reprint my full song lyrics anywhere? I see it happening allllll the time. what would I do in these circumstances? what should I expect? a link? a mention?
    thanks I love your site

  • http://www.ko-shin.com/ Ko-Shin

    Its amazing how people will justify these things, and perhaps the person did actually think they had good intentions, but clearly they didn’t even mention you or link to you, so uhhhh well its pretty obvious what happened there. Do u forsee any changes happening in the future of our digital age regarding legalities and enforcing these legalities. its a major issue in the realm of music copyrights and stealing intellectual property

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Well said, Carolina Yankee!

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Ko-Shin – I will do some digging on copyright law concerning song lyrics. But I have heard of major lawsuits being filed by lyricists whose intellectual property gets reprinted on the Internet, in books — or snippets of songs being used in commercials without permission… things of that sort.

    There are many “old” songs (old hymns, for instance) for which the copyright expired long ago and are now considered public domain. I believe you can reprint the lyrics of those songs in their entirety.

    But for current songs for which you own the copyright (and your lyrics are considered copyrighted by you as soon as you put them in print), it seems to me as if the “reprinter” should definitely contact you and receive written permission from you to reprint any or all of the lyrics to one of your songs. Along with that, they should attribute you as the songwriter AND link back to the original lyrics on your website or blog.

    I’d be interested to hear from any copyright attorneys or others “in the know” who might be reading — could you chime in on this?

    And thanks for calling me “eloquent.” I think that’s the first time anyone has ever described me in that way!

  • Sue Tornai

    Thank you for sharing this experience, Laura. I’ve seen my writing on sites I don’t know anything about, but it is writing I submitted to a publisher. I didn’t know what to do so I did nothing. Since I write devotionals, that’s what it was and I assumed the publisher gave permission for the use since it was the same denomination. So far, I haven’t been aware of anyone stealing my blog posts articles. Good to know what to do if it happens. Thank you, again.

  • http://healthyjourneycafe.com Chris Pedersen

    Way to jump on it, Laura! I wish I had the temerity to act so quickly. I think about things and let them rise to the point of action. By then too much time may have passed for the complaint to be taken as seriously as it should.

  • http://gratefultable.com/ Jennifer Cote

    Laura, your husband was so wise. And you were quite gracious to not post the culprit’s name. It seems to have been a very shady thing to do, but hopefully they won’t move on to new victims. I’d be curious to find out, if you did a word search of key paragraphs of other articles on that site, if duplicate content popped up from other sites (perhaps from other original authors?).
    What would I do? I’d try to check out the authenticity of other articles. For every person who catches something like this, how many other people don’t?!
    PS- Love the dog picture!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000623062447 Victoria Penry Langdon

    You are correct concerning lyrics and music to songs. Unless they are public domain (and it should say that in the copyright area) they belong to the person who wrote them. You may not copy any or all of the music or lyrics without written permission. Also, unless you are in a bonified worship service, such as Sunday morning corporate worship, you may not even sing or perform the music without permission either from the composer or from a controlling company such as CCLI or ASCAP. It is not permissible to even sing or perform the music at a woman’s retreat or small group gathering. Any unauthorized copying or performing is considered stealing in the eyes of the law and there are huge penalties for such actions.

    I know this because my husband was a worship leader for 30 years in a congregation and he composed and recorded many songs. He was always vigilant to make sure our congregation was following the laws.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Victoria – Thank you so much for that extremely helpful information.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    I’m glad you like my pit bull picture, Jennifer, because I searched long and hard for just the right picture (and I attributed it, too).

    Doing a search of a paragraph is a good idea… just like teachers do with their students’ essays! A few months back, another site was reprinting EVERY article from my blog — they had just set up a feed and were feeding the entire content of my blog into their site. It took several stern email reminders from me before they finally stopped doing it. Of course, the culprit blamed someone else… “my webmaster must have set my site up to do that…I didn’t even know it was happening.” Sure you didn’t!

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Thanks, Chris. I advise to act sooner, rather than later, on these sorts of issues. Nips it in the bud (hopefully).

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Sue – Are you saying that you submitted something to a publisher and they printed it or distributed it without even informing you? Bad, bad, bad!

  • http://gratefultable.com/ Jennifer Cote

    The nerve!!! I had no idea people would be so blatant in their stealing :/

  • Angie Tolpin

    I think you did the right thing and I applaud you for having the courage to do so. Just yesterday I was preparing a power point presentation for a retreat I am speaking at and found that “my websites button” is linked to an entirely different website because they used it! Ah! Not totally the same thing, but it took hours to make that button and I paid good money for it!

    I contacted her today after reading this post and she is giving photo credit! Thanks for sharing what happened. It helped me to feel good about my decision to speak up.

    I am constantly in fear that my content will be stolen… and I have seen it taken as well. And not done anything… my heart grows bitter. Maybe I should go say something?

  • http://rmabry.com Richard Mabry

    Laura, You acted correctly, and despite the firm tone of your communications were probably much nicer than I would have been. Thanks, also, for giving us a template to use if–God forbid–we ever end up in the same situation.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Richard – I hope you never do end up in this situation, but with so many unscrupulous people on the Web, it’s best to be prepared.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Way to go for speaking up, Angie. If we don’t say anything about these issues — whether the person did it intentionally or it was an honest mistake on their part — we can’t expect things to be made right. I urge you to continue speaking up rather than allowing yourself to grow bitter over it. From personal experience, I can testify that bitterness is not healthy for the spirit, mind, or body.

  • Pat W. Kirk

    Oops. I’ve been guilty of that. Promise it wasn’t meant badly. As you said, it was on Google images and didn’t appear to have a copyright notice.

  • Diana Flegal

    I agree with Richard, but you applied the well worn adage this industry has to live by- “do not burn any bridges”. Well done!

  • Linda Wood Rondeau

    It’s a crazy world out there. Some blogs have the option of reblogging at the bottom of their posts but it is an automatic link back to the original blog. I always let the original blogger know that I have reposted with the option of voluntarily removing the posts if they so desire.

  • Cyn Mobley

    This may post twice — apologies in advance. I had a reply typed out but then it disappeared when I logged in.
    I’m an attorney and a published novelist, though not specifically an intellectual property attorney. I’ve read the statutes, and I’m not aware of any exception to copyright laws for music for worship services. The rules for music and lyrics are more stringent than those that apply to novels and blogs. There’s fair use, there’s satire, there are other exceptions — but not worship exceptions. I’d be pleased to be corrected if someone has a cite to an applicable statute.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Linda – Interesting about the “reblogging” option. Excellent idea to let the original writer know you reposted — I assume you’re doing this only for blogs that do include that “reblog” option. If they don’t, you should consider the article copyrighted, in which case you would need to obtain permission before reprinting it.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Diana – Thanks. Missed you at Mount Hermon! People were talking about you… in a good way, of course.

  • RhondaHurwitz

    Laura, great blog post. And as is often the case, the comments of your readers made it twice as good! I have a professional interest in this topic related to my client, icopyright.com — perhaps I could interview you for a future blog post. Will contact you offline!

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Thanks, Rhonda. Just received your email and will get back to you after reading your article.

  • Judy Vandiver

    Laura, I took a long break from writing to take care of a friend with leukemia. Recently I have reopened my website and facebook page and was reminded of so much you taught me at Mount Hermon in 2011. Reconnected to your site, but now I have a question about pingbacks. Do I have to set something up on my page so that I receive pingbacks? I’m reading everything I can on your site. Thanks for all the great information.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Hello, my Texas friend with the cool jewelry! To make sure WordPress alerts you about pingbacks, in your Dashboard, go to Settings>Discussion and check the box that says “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks).”

  • Judy Vandiver

    Laura, thanks… now how did you remember that I love jewelry so much. (My daddy used to call me Gaudy Maudy! I like my bling!)

  • Haloot

    I need your advise. I am about to put a feature in my website which is the real estate news. My plan is to get maybe 3-4 sentences of the news from other website and when the reader click the read more the reader will be redirected to the website where I copied the news. Is it ok if I do that or I still need to ask permission from the owner? Thanks..

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    I would definitely ask permission from the owner — it’s just a polite thing to do. Also, if you’re excerpting 3-4 sentences, copyright could depend on the length of the original article. For instance, if the entire article is 5 sentences long and you quote four of them — not good. But if the article is 35 sentences long, quoting 3-4 sentences may be okay. Regardless, I’d get permission first. Most people appreciate incoming links, but they want to make sure that the sites that are linking to them publish quality content and are reputable.

  • http://www.jamhands.net/ Ali

    This happens to me on a weekly basis at least. It is so frustrating. Between facebook and random blogs stealing content, it is millions of views that have not gone to my site. The few times I have asked people to remove my content they have stolen, they get extremely angry and urge their hundreds of thousands of facebook fans to visit my site and leave nasty comments. It happens to most bloggers eventually and it sucks every time. :(

  • Lynda Jones

    Way to go! Good for you! I’ve had my blog and website duplicated, with a few words changed so it’s not exactly the same, and there’s not a single thing I can do about it!