Imagine my surprise when I uploaded an article I worked on a while back to use as a sample and Hub Pages stopped my publication because it was a duplicate of other content online. After some investigation, I discovered that my entire article had been copied and posted on another site. Not only were my words copied verbatim, but the thief didn’t even credit me for the work!
This is one of the many reasons why I am extremely cautious about providing samples to potential clients these days, but that is a topic for another article. After the shock wore off, I knew I had to do something about this piracy of my work.
There are copyright laws in this country set up to protect writers and artists. The problem with these laws and Internet piracy is the difficulty in enforcing them. While I would hire a lawyer just for the principle of the matter, the truth is that hiring a lawyer and tracking down the culprits is pretty costly. I might have sole rights to the work, because it is my original work and I did not give them permission to publish it, but my main goal was to get that material removed as quickly as possible.
Tracking Down the Word Robber
Had the person taken my article and credited to me, I might have thought they simply didn’t understand copyright law or how the Internet works with links versus outright copying of material. I would have contacted them politely and explained and asked them to remove it. This particular blogger not only didn’t credit the work to me, they also had no contact information on their site. The site was a very simple WordPress blog. I decided to add a comment under my article that went like this:
“I am the original author of this article and I did not give you permission to publish it. Not only that, but you do not even credit the article to me, the owner of the work. Remove this material within 48-hours or I will seek further action on this matter.”
The comment went into moderation, which means the administrator of that account received an e-mail notifying them of my post. I waited. Nothing.
I went to WhoIs to try to see who owned the site. They had it shielded and private. I then went over to DomainTools and a couple of other similar sites and just started researching.
Contacting the Hosting Provider
The majority of US-based hosting providers run legitimate businesses. They do not condone illegal activity, etc. Through the searches I conducted, I was able to find out who the hosting provider of the domain was. I sent them an e-mail explaining the situation and asked if they could send an e-mail to the person on record for that website. They responded almost immediately and said they had contacted their client.
Within hours, my article was taken off the blog and the link now points to a 404 Not Found page. I credit this to the hosting company, who took action. I sent them a nice e-mail and thanked them and you can be certain that if I ever need a new hosting company I will definitely consider these guys because of their fast response and integrity in the situation.
Steps to Take if Your Work Is Pirated
- Take a deep breath. It is frustrating to see your hard work stolen, so count to ten, take long, deep breaths and calm down so you can handle the situation in a professional way.
- Don’t just let it slide. Piracy is responsible for reduced profits not only in publishing, but in the music and movie industries. If we let piracy slide, then we contribute to this. Also, I just have this sense of justice that will not allow me to let illegal activities, especially one aimed at me or someone I know, slide.
- Do some investigative work. Use online tools to track down the site’s owner or the hosting provider.
- Send some professional, but to-the-point e-mails. Don’t just make idle threats. Be prepared to follow-through on your demands. Are you willing to hire a lawyer? Understand that you may not be eligible for monetary compensation and that hiring a lawyer will simply be to get the material removed. Decide if it is worth it to you before you make demands.
- Follow-up. If you don’t receive a response at first, be relentless. They were when they stole your work.
- Thank those who helped you. If the hosting provider or anyone else provided information or assisted you, be sure to thank them for their help.
- Breathe some more. Your work is back in your hands and the pirates have been stopped.
- File a Digital Millenium Copyright Act complaint through Google. Google will usually act if you can prove the work is yours.
How many of you have had experiences of someone pirating your work? Share your experiences with us.