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Stolen Website Content

This week I found a fairly large landscaping company using one of my images on their website, renamed in their content, without permission or any attribution back to my website. So, here’s the catch-22. I am both flattered and upset. I have put a lot of work over the years into making the content on this site personal, a representation of what I am about and how I garden. I have seen my images and content often-times referred to on other websites, but until this week everything I have seen has provided a link-back and reference to my own site as the source. In other words they have given credit to me, the originator and copyright owner. Since I am not a professional photographer, that suits me just fine. That’s where the flattered overtakes the upset. But this weeks find, a blatant copy, name changed and all, really bothered me. So what did I do? I contacted the company via their website and asked them to take down the item or make reference to my site as the originating site and copyright owner of the image. I am pleased to say that the next day I received an email notifying me that they had removed the image from their site and sure enough, a quick check and they had. While I’m satisfied with the outcome, it still leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. A search of other items on their landscaping website and I noted several other images taken from flicker & elsewhere, no credit given. I guess this is common and the owners just hope they don’t get caught and, if they do, I assume it’s easy for them to find another image.

How can you find out if your material is copied?

For text copy, a useful site is copyscape.com. Enter you site or page into their free plagiarism checker and they will tell you if your material has been copied. They provide more in-depth paid services as well but the free service is a great way to do a quick check on your own.

Checking for images was a bit harder. How I came across the fact that my image was copied was by entering a name of a plant because I was doing some research on a new variety I was considering. I switched to google’s image view and saw one of my website pictures. When I scrolled over it however I noted that the reference was not to my site, but someone else’s. I then had to follow up with the site owner. A search of other popular garden plant names & gardening content on my site found no other offenders but it is a lesson learned.

So what can you do if you find your material stolen on the net? It is impossible to prevent someone from copying and using your content (even blocking images doesn’t work — anyone heard of screen print?). However if you find stolen content you can do something about it.

Step 1: Contact the site owner. This is what I did through their contact page. Tell them you are the copyright owner of the content or image and that they are using it without permission. Ask them to remove it. In my case I asked them as an alternative to link to my website as the originator. I’m satisfied with getting credit for my work. Others may prefer removal.

Step 2: The US has established legislation to request the removal of infringing material. Called the Digital Millennium Copyright ACT (DMCA) it allows copyright owners to demand that their stolen material be removed. The process can be a bit tricky. Here is a website that provides an excellent DMCA Takedown Tutorial. Canada does not as yet have such legislation however Bill C-60, which is currently undergoing a second reading, does have some equivalent wording to the DMCA Takedown.

I recognize that the digital era we live in makes it very easy to ‘reuse’ content. While some may not think it a big deal when the owner is a small blogger like myself, I am constantly telling my children that if you worked on it, it belongs to you. We remind them that if they use any material from the web, either on-line or in a school project, they have an obligation to site the original owner of the material. And if that owner says don’t copy, then don’t. It is the only decent thing to do.

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