Blog Content Theft – How To Deal With Splogs

content-theft

Today while on Facebook, I was alerted to recent theft of blog content produced by various genealogy bloggers at http://genealogy9966.blogmas.com by Elyse Doerfliger of Elyse’s Genealogy Blog:

Warning all geneabloggers: I found a spamblog that is stealing our content. I found posts from a variety of geneablogs and I highly suggest we all complain to the blog platform since there isn’t an email for the person running the blog. Here is the address to the blog:http://genealogy9966.blogmas.com/

Kathryn Doyle of California Genealogical Society and Library blog has written previously about “spam blogs” commonly known as splogs and how the content of many genealogy bloggers was being stolen back in December, 2008.  In addition, I’ve discussed how to send a cease and desist email to a splog owner, the many ways splogs can steal your blog content, how to combat them and also how to set up alerts so you can be notified of how your blog content is being used.

I think it is time for a recap and some tips on this issue which won’t go away anytime soon since blogs can be set up by almost anyone for free (thus the double-edged sword that is the wonderful world of blogging):

How Splogs Work

A spam blog or splog uses automated methods of gathering content from other blogs – using blog posts that you and I worked very hard to conceptualize and then put into words.  Why?  Well very often splogs are set up by unscrupulous people who also place advertisements to channel traffic to their own sites where they are making profits.

Splogs will ingeniously try to get around the Fair Use section of copyright law by not using more than three lines of content in one section.  Many times they will “mix in” other blog posts, nonsense words.  Take a minute to read any splog content and you’ll see that it just doesn’t make sense – but just sense enough to help its site get picked up on Google and other search engines.

Usually if genealogy blog content is being stolen, the ads will deal with web hosting or trying to locate people, etc. but almost every type of advertisement can be used.  Also, do you really want your content used on sites which may be pushing porn sites, or worse yet linking people to phishing websites, etc.?

Why Should I Be Concerned?

Wouldn’t you be worried if snippets of your blog posts – especially those that outright mention your blog or your name – were being used on sites with other content or advertisements that you disagree with? Wouldn’t you be concerned if a family member went to search for your blog post on Google and they found a splog with pornographic advertisements?

Just as any item that you work hard to create, you should be concerned how it is used.  While it may be easy to explain to Aunt Frieda that your blog content was stolen, consider the first impression such a finding would make on someone who doesn’t use Google or “The Internets” as often as you and I do!

How To Send A Cease and Desist Notice

Do Your Homework.  Become familiar with how to handle blog content theft by reading this fantastic post over at Lorelle on WordPress entitled “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content” which outlines what you can do about copyright violations.  Also review the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – Blogger information.

Compose a Cease and Desist Notice.

Here is a sample cease and desist notice that I have, unfortunately, needed to send in the past:

Dear [Name of Blog Owner Violating Copyright]:

This is to advise you that you are using copyrighted and protected material on your website/blog. Your illegal use of various articles including “[Blog Title]” at “[URL of blog stealing your content] is originally from my website/blog called “Magazines Now Included With Google Book Search” at [URL of your blog post]. This is original content and I am the author and copyright holder. Use of copyright protected material without permission is illegal under copyright laws.

Please take one or more of the following actions immediately:

• Provide compensation for use of my copyright protected material of $[amount] USD for each article paid via PayPal.

• Remove the plagiarized material immediately.

I expect a response within 5 days to this issue. Thank you for your immediate action on this matter.

In addition, I am sending this report to Google via mail/fax per Google regulations to report the copyright violations. See http://www.google.com/blogger_dmca.html.

In addition, you may want to keep this cease and desist notice as a draft e-mail in your e-mail program or as a text file so it can be easily copied and adapted for future use.

How To Be Alerted As To Blog Content Theft

Use Google Alerts.  Not only can Google Alerts be utilized to notify you of important genealogy topics, you should also be setting up alerts with these criteria:

  • Your name – remember you should be keeping tabs on your reputation on the Internet and how your name is being used.
  • Your blog name – although few splogs will mention you or your blog name outright it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Utilize Monitoring and Content Comparison Sites.  Sites like Copyscape are free but rely upon you having to actively monitor and check for content theft.

My favorite is FairShare which lets you track your content, how it should be used and notifies you when a certain percentage is being used.  The best part about FairShare: you then get an RSS feed to add to your blog reader or to get alerts via email on how your content is being used.

Copyright Your Posts

As a rule, you should always have some form of copyright statement either on your blog or on each and every post.  Face it, the post is your content, you worked hard to create it, you followed the rules of the Fair Use laws by quoting others, you’ve linked back to other blogs, etc. – so why should someone else try to benefit from all that work?

Use a Terms of Service policy. You should have a Terms of Service (TOS) in the sidebar or somewhere on your blog.  Visit your favorite genealogy blogs and if you find a TOS that suits you, contact the blog owner and ask if you can use their TOS as a basis for your own (this is called good blogger karma).  It also helps if the blog is displaying a Creative Commons License and you too subscribe to the Creative Commons License.  You should be using the license which allows others to share and remix your work, requires attribution back to your work, does not allow commercial uses and requires that others also use a similar license for the new derivative work.  (Note – Creative Commons licenses can also now be used on Facebook).

Not only will a well-written TOS communicate to your blog visitors the do’s and don’ts of your blog and its contents, it also can be written to make sure you are not liable if your blog visitors happen to locate your content on splogs littered with phishing links or porn ads.

Post a copyright statement on each post. On a blog like GeneaBloggers where there can be many post authors, it helps identify who actually wrote the post.  But it also serves as notice to others that this is your content and that you own the rights to it.  Plain and simple.

As you can see at the end of this post, I include a simple statement: copyright 2009, Thomas MacEntee.  If you forget to add the statement, see if there is a default post template on your blogging platform – you can add it at the end and every time you create a new post it will automatically be there – sort of like an e-mail signature.

Further Reading

Here are some links that provide information on blog content theft:

© Thomas MacEntee – 2009

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About Thomas MacEntee

What happens when a “tech guy” with a love for history gets laid off during The Great Recession of 2008? You get Thomas MacEntee, a genealogy professional who’s also a blogger, educator, author, social media connector, online community builder and more. Thomas was laid off after a 25-year career in the information technology field, so he started his own genealogy-related business called High Definition Genealogy. He also created an online community of over 3,000 family history bloggers known as GeneaBloggers. His most recent endeavor, Hack Genealogy, is an attempt to “re-purpose today’s technology for tomorrow’s genealogy.” Thomas describes himself as a lifelong learner with a background in a multitude of topics who has finally figured out what he does best: teach, inspire, instigate, and serve as a curator and go-to-guy for concept nurturing and inspiration. Thomas is a big believer in success, and that we all succeed when we help each other find success.

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