A guest post by Colin Ollson
The internet has made it easier to share information and communicate than ever before, but this easy access to content is a bit of a double-edged sword. Unfortunately, being able to share one’s thoughts and ideas freely in the electronic media also means that it is all too easy for people who either don’t realize or don’t care that copying the work and using it without attributing it to the original author is plagiarism.
Copyright laws give people who create blog posts, articles, e-books and other materials ownership over these items. The author has the right to sell or distribute his or her own work. A person who takes someone else’s work online without permission is stealing it.
How to find out if your content has been stolen
If you are blogging or sharing original content online, your first step in protecting yourself from online plagiarism is to be vigilant. Make a point of checking to see whether your content has been copied and posted on other websites without a link to its original source.
There are a number of websites which will allow internet users to check to see whether specific phrases appear elsewhere online. You simply copy and paste a sample of a piece of text into a search box and hit the site’s “Enter” key to find out whether it has been used elsewhere.
If your content has been plagiarized
Once you discover that your content has been stolen, your first course of action should be to contact the site owner directly. You may be able to resolve the matter at this level by sending a cease and desist letter. The letter should include the following information:
- the specific blog post, article, or work you are claiming was stolen
- what you would like the site owner to do (give proper credit to your content or remove it from the site)
- a deadline by which you want the site owner to comply with your demands
- what you will do if your demands are not met
Your next steps may be taking legal action against the site owner or reporting the fact that stolen content was used, to his or her Internet Service Provider. If the person either does not respond or refuses to deal with the situation, you will need to take the next step and find out the name of the site’s hosting company.
Hosting companies in the United States
If the hosting company is located in the U.S., it is under the jurisdiction of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This law requires hosting companies to either remove or disable access to content in instances where a claim of copyright infringement has been made. In most instances, the content will be taken down within 48-72 hours after you contact the hosting company.
International hosting companies
Not all Internet Service Providers are located in the United States, but that doesn’t mean that writers and bloggers don’t have recourse. There is no blanket law which covers copyright in all countries. Most countries recognize a content producer’s copyright, but the law varies from nation to nation.
Before you file a notice with a hosting company located outside of the United States, it’s a good idea to look up the copyright law for that country. If you can find a notice and takedown policy, then it’s easy to ask that it be implemented for you. In cases where the policy is not clear, simply explain the situation politely and ask for help on a personal level. The international hosting company may be willing to help if you present your case in that manner.
Protect your work online with a Creative Commons License
If you want to allow others to copy and distribute your work so long as they give you credit, consider getting a Creative Commons License for your content. This not-for-profit organization provides free legal tools for people creating content which needs copyright protection.
You can choose to add a license to your website allowing your work to be shared and re-used under terms which comply with copyright laws. The organization has different versions of licenses available, so users can choose the one which best fits their needs. These licenses have been prepared using language which can be legally enforced around the world.
Adding a Creative Commons License to your work does not mean you cannot sell or distribute your own work. The license applies to users, not the owner.
Taking action against online plagiarism when you discover that your work has been copied is the only way to stop others from benefiting from your work. It is a form of stealing, and should be dealt with promptly in each instance.
Colin Ollson is a freelance internet marketing and content writer at PlagiarismDetect.com – a plagiarism detection system that helps you check if your text is unique.
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