Is someone stealing your blog? (And what to do about it)
How do you know when someone is stealing your blog?
And what can you do about it? I’ve just had this experience (not for the first time).
So have several other bloggers. As I occasionally cover blogging and writing help as well as gardening, I thought a post might be helpful.
Firstly, what is ‘stealing your blog’?
When you write a blog (or anything else that is published), you automatically own the copyright. The moment you press ‘publish’ or the presses roll, the words go out into the world, but they remain your property.
If someone reproduces your blog post on their blog exactly (in full or almost in full), this is called ‘scraping’. The Middlesized Garden has often been ‘scraped’.
That means that my whole blog post, complete with photographs and sub-headings is simply rolled out on someone else’s blog.
If you are reading this on a blog called ‘The Middlesized Garden’, you are reading the original. If you are reading this on a blog about – for example – healthy living, then it has been stolen (or ‘scraped’).
There is usually a credit or a link tucked away somewhere, but that doesn’t legally justify stealing paragraphs of words and pictures that I have worked hard to create.
Bloggers who scrape do it to gain money through advertising or affiliate schemes.
Scraping is completely different from linking. Maybe you’re here because you were reading another blog. They mentioned or quoted a few lines from the Middlesized Garden with a link through, so you could read more.
You clicked on that link and here you are, on the Middlesized Garden itself. That’s great. It’s good blogging etiquette and it helps everyone.
And you can’t use photographs you find online
No-one is legally allowed to ‘right-click’ on your photographs and use them without your permission.
In fact, if you yourself have been using photographs you found on the internet (for your blog, website, posters, flyers…anything), then you need to stop.
Because photographic agencies now apparently make more money fining people for using their photos illegally than they do from actually selling them.
So let’s be absolutely clear. If you use a photograph – in any way whatsoever – without the permission of the photographer, you are breaking copyright law. You can be taken to court and/or fined.
The photographer will tell you how much to pay, whether you have to credit them, or link back to them. Or what any other conditions are. You can’t use photos without permission even if you do credit the photographer or link back to them.
You need to understand the basics of copyright law
When I asked the scraper to take my posts down, he said they were ‘in the public domain, so he had a right to use them under Creative Commons.’
He was wrong.
‘In the public domain’ means that everyone knows something. For example, everyone knows that Prince William married Kate Middleton. That knowledge is in the public domain. Anyone can talk or write about it.
However, if someone writes a book, an article or a blog post about the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, those books, articles and posts would be protected by copyright.
You couldn’t just publish the author’s words on your own blog, website or company literature.
Then what is Creative Commons?
But sometimes people do want others to be free to use their work. In that case, they can apply for a license called ‘Creative Commons’.
A Creative Commons license can apply to blog posts, books, poetry – anything which is published.
Photo agencies often have some photos available under ‘Creative Commons’. They allow free use of the photo. But they may impose conditions such as ‘credit the photographer’ or ‘non-commercial use only.’
You need to stick to any conditions of a Creative Commons license or you could be fined.
So how do you find out who is stealing your blog?
I use wordpress.org and when other sites link to mine, the link comes up for me to ‘approve’ in the Comments section. I always check links before approving them.
You can also set a Google alert. Copy and paste a paragraph of your post into Google alert and if Google finds a duplicate it will tell you that someone is stealing your blog.
There’s an excellent post here with some good resources from Kissmetrics.
And let’s work together…
We can all let each other know. When I find someone stealing my blog, I usually notice that they’re stealing from several other bloggers too.
You Grow Girl even has copyright watermarks on her photographs. That hasn’t prevented them from being used illegally – they’re still on the photos on the scraped site.
Even though we act individually, I’m sure it helps if several bloggers ask for their posts to be taken down at around the same time. We also all exchange information, and that can be very helpful all round.
So, if you’re active in any blogging/garden blogging forums or groups, do please share this. The more people who know about it, the better.
And you can discover other interesting things…
When I was going through the site that is currently scraping me, I discovered more puzzling blogging behaviour.
(I’m not going to name the scraping site, by the way, because I don’t want to encourage click-throughs. These people just want click-throughs, so let’s not give them any.)
However one of the other garden bloggers apparently being scraped had a site with a huge banner saying ‘Welcome to the UK’s Number 1 Garden blog’.
I’ve never seen this gardening blog – shall we call it ‘Alleged Number One’ – on either.
But listings, like awards, can be quite random. Good blogs are often left off. And there are loads of other Garden Blog listings, all featuring different blogs.
So I decided to run Alleged Number One through Buzzsumo, which tells you how often a site’s posts are shared and how many shares they got. According to Buzzsumo, Alleged Number One has only ever had one share (on Twitter).
And Alleged Number One’s name has very slight similarities to Alternative Eden, which was the UK Number 1 Garden blog (Vuelio) for around four years.
However, after a bit more poking around, it looks like that is just a coincidence. Sorry, getting diverted…
What can you do about someone stealing your blog?
Firstly, write to the blogger. Contact details are often tucked away on scraping sites, but they can usually be found. Ask them politely to respect copyright and take your posts down.
So far, hardly anyone has ever even replied. The man who thought he was allowed to reproduce other people’s posts under ‘Creative Commons’ did get back to us all. He eventually took all our posts down.
He genuinely hadn’t understood copyright law, and thanked me for being polite.
Next, you find out who hosts the blog by running it through WhoIsHostingThis. This is a website which tells you who hosts the blog you are trying to contact.
If you don’t recognise the hosting company, google it. Then look up ‘report abuse’ on its site. There is a form to fill in. Like all forms ,it may not be wholly clear.
The hosting company should take the offending posts down, and may even shut down the whole site. That’s why it’s helps if everyone acts. Several complaints are likely to be more effective than just one.
What a faff…
All this is stressful and time-consuming. I usually find out I’m being scraped when I’m checking my comments – just as I’m about to write a post. It takes me ages to contact everyone and fill out forms.
So why bother? What harm does it do? Don’t you get a few visitors via the link that is stealing your blog, if the scraper has included it somewhere in the post?
I’ve never seen any evidence that I get readers from scraping sites. I’m not happy about my posts ending up next to belly fat ads or suggestions that I might like gaming or senior singles. If I was, I’d take ads myself, and I don’t.
And I often contribute tips or photographs to other bloggers’ round-ups, but I really don’t see why someone should simply take my (or anyone else’s) work in its entirety and place ads against it to earn money.
If someone is reproducing other people’s posts on the grounds that they believe everything on the internet should be free, then they shouldn’t be charging for it through advertisements. Earning money from other people’s work doesn’t equal ‘free.’
I get the sense that this particular scraper is just rolling all our posts onto his site without even bothering to read them.
So it will be rather funny if this pops up on it (especially with this image).
Anyone who has read this far is probably a blogger, so please do share this in any online blogging groups or forums you’re on. Copyright theft is illegal. It’s like stealing fruit or vegetables that someone has spent time growing, then selling them at a market.
And let me know if someone has been stealing your blog – all experiences and advice very welcome! Thank you!