More small steps to combat content theft

stopcontenttheftIt’s growing at an alarming rate and there doesn’t seem to be any way to effectively stop it.

I’m talking about content theft, the practice of some people who scrape your content from your blog or website and then republish it or otherwise use it as if it is their own content. No attributions, no recognition of copyright, no linking back to the originator, ie, you.

The biggest offenders are splogs – websites and blogs set up specifically to game search engine rankings and earn money at your expense from visitor click-throughs on the Google AdSense ads that typically surround stolen content.

The easiest way for sploggers and other crooks to steal your content is from your RSS feed. If you publish a full feed (meaning, the complete content of your posts) as I do, then you’re wide open to theft no matter what copyright notice or Creative Commons text you may display on your site.

The alternative is not to publish full feeds. I don’t want to do that as I would like to make it as easy as possible for subscribers to my feed to get everything they want by subscribing without having to leave the comfort of their RSS reader.

So I’ve accepted the fact that there is a very high risk that my content will be stolen. Indeed, I see RSS content theft every day via the weird and wonderful links that show up in my server stats. If a particular post of mine has a link to another post on my blog that I’ve written, and the splog is running on WordPress, I even get automatic trackbacks from my stolen stuff to those original posts! Cheeky!

If you run a WordPress blog, there is something you can do that will mark a post in your RSS feed as yours and with a link back to your blog.

It’s a nifty plug-in called Sig2Feed that automatically adds an attribution text at the end of each RSS feed entry. So if you subscribe to my feed, you might have noticed this line at the end of each post:

© 2006 – visit the author for more great content.

While this won’t actually stop content theft, at least your content is marked so auto-scrapers will have that marker on their sites.

And for the record, there are currently only two organizations who have my permission to re-publish any and/or all content from my blog on their own sites – Web Pro News and the Corante Marketing Hub. These two will soon be joined by BlogBurst as I’ve recently accepted an invitation to join that network.

If you see full content from here anywhere else, it’s stolen and used without my permission.

Finally, take a look at a terrific article by Lorelle van Fossen on more steps you can take to protect your own content as well as including a badge or button on your site, just like the one above.

Lorelle’s great advice is valid whether you have a blog on WordPress or on any other platform.