biz ladiesLife & Business

Biz Ladies: Tools to Deal with Copied Content

by Stephanie


It’s always a bit shocking when you notice someone has used your work without permission or proper credit, but the reality of this online age means that it will likely happen to you or someone you know. While I’m sure you don’t want to constantly play “bad cop” patrolling the internet for copy cats, today lawyer/photographer Kiffanie Stahle offers some tangible ways for addressing these issues. –Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump…

One morning you are going to wake up and find out that someone has stolen content from your website. (Um-hum, if you haven’t discovered this already.) While for both legal and ethical reasons this shouldn’t be happening, we Biz Ladies need to live in the real world and accept that this is the reality.

I also bet that your to-do list looks like mine and is a never-ending list sprawled across Evernote, Moleskine notebook, email inbox, and several 3×5 index cards. I don’t want to make that list longer, so today I’m going to share with you the four tools I use to track down where else my website content appears online and the process I use when those tools find a match.

Track Down Text Stealers

Even with the biggest network of fans, it would be impossible to find each instance of stolen website content. Luckily, there are two amazing tools that will let you quickly determine where else your text is appearing online.

Copyscape Plagiarism Checker. This free tool searches the Internet for similar content. All you have to do is provide the URL. I like this tool because it finds both similar and exact matches. So even if your text stealer changes a couple things here or there, the tool will find it.

The downside of this tool is that unless you pay for their premium service you cannot search several URLs at the same time or save your searches to repeat at a later date. Thus, if you want to search for hundreds of blog posts, you have to copy and paste them into the search bar one by one.

My Copyscape workflow: Since I don’t have the time to search every single post every month, I’ve made the (random) decision to search my top five posts each month. Using that month’s Google Analytics statistics, I find the most popular posts and then run each of those URLs through Copyscape. I’ve found that this process takes about 15-20 minutes a month.

Google Alerts. Part of the reason that I only utilize Copyscape for my top five posts is because of Google Alerts. What many people don’t know is that when you set up a Google Alert you are telling Google to perform an automatic search on the schedule you determine and send you an email if any new results appear.

This means you can pick key sentences out of each blog post (and each static webpage), create a Google Alert by putting that sentence in quotation marks and Google will automatically search and notify you when that sentence appears anywhere on the Internet. Pretty freakin’ amazing, right?! (And yes, I might have a slight love affair with Google Alerts and all of the ways it saves me time running my business.)

My Google Alerts workflow: Each time I publish a new page/post on my website I determine the one or two “core” phrases within that post. For example, in this one I might pick “a never-ending list sprawled across Evernote, a Moleskine notebook, and several 3×5 index cards” or “I might have a slight love affair with Google Alerts.” Usually what I’m looking for is a unique phrase. I then pop over to Google Alerts and create an alert to send me an email of all of the results at least once a day (found in the advanced options). At that point I can totally forget about it and Google takes the reigns. Google searches for me and shoots me an email when those phrases appear somewhere else. I only have to spend a few minutes each week reviewing the results (I filter them out into their own folder to prevent inbox clog). It’s an amazing, super simple, and automatic tool to tracking your written content all over the Internet.

Track Down Image Stealers

Just between the social media sites, you could make it your full-time job to try to track down each place that your images appear. I wish I had a tool as amazing as Google Alerts for images, but the best free tools available require elbow grease.

Google Image Search. Google’s tool can be used in one of four ways:
—drag and drop the image onto their search page
—enter the URL of the image onto their search page
—upload an image to their search page
—install an extension in your browser allowing you to right-click the image you would like to search from any webpage

Like Copyscape, there isn’t a way to save your searches or run multiple searches at once, you have to search image by image. However, there is one trick that you should know about: you can limit your search-by date.

My Google Images workflow: Like Copyscape, I have a list of the five most important images to my brand that I search each month. The first time I performed the search, I searched since the beginning of time. Now, I limit my results to the timeframe since my last search. The first time this process took me an hour and a half, now it usually runs 20-30 minutes.

Tineye. Tineye utilizes the same four search methods as Google Image Search. Tineye also allows you the ability to not only limit your searches by date, but save your searches. The one clear disadvantage, however, is the size of its database: only about 6 billion images, a small fraction of the images on the Internet.

My Tineye workflow: I’ve got the same five important images saved as searches in my free Tineye account and run the search for new results since my last search. Since Tineye’s database is small this takes me about 5-10 minutes each month.

Taking Action

What do you do when you find a website using your content without your permission? I first look at the site, do an initial gut check and ask myself a series of questions:

Why are they using this content?
Are they passing it off as their own?
Are they crediting me?
Are they making money off of my content?
Does the site look like a content scraper site?
Does the site look reputable?

The reason I’m asking these questions is to determine if this exact use helps or hurts my business.

If I decide they are helping my business, I just double check to make sure they are crediting me as I’d like. If they are not, I personalize the following canned response and send it to the website owner:

Dear [Website Owner Name],

[Something nice about their site.] Thank you so much for featuring my work on your site! As a content creator myself, I often struggle with determining how to credit someone else’s work. Would you mind changing the credit to [credit desired] and providing a link back to the following page on my website [desired link]?
[Final nice thought about their site.] Thanks again for featuring me, I’m so glad my content resonated with you and your audience!



I usually give them a couple weeks to make the change before pinging them a reminder.

If I decide that their use hurts my business, then I’ve got a couple options.

If a U.S. web host hosts the content, then sending a DMCA Takedown Notice to their web host is a simple, cost-effective solution to remove the content.

I send a cease and desist letter if a U.S. web host doesn’t host the content, the content is offline, or if they are profiting off of my content. I’m lucky enough to be able to send these on my own law firm letterhead, so I generally get a response. However, I know many creatives who effectively send these letters.

That’s it! I hope these tools and resources help you track down where else your content is appearing online.

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  • I recently saw a well known artist/illustrator have a social media freak out about someone copying her work. The woman who attempted to steal from her wasn’t doing a very good job, and I doubt was making a lot of profit from unskillfully copying her ideas. She linked to the thief’s etsy shop, probably sending said thief the gift of more traffic than she’d ever received. While I agree that what happened to the artist was infuriating, I found her response to be incredible immature and poorly handled. If you’re going to approach someone about copying you, I suggest you do it in private (unless it’s a big corporation like urban outfitters).

    • Agree with you, Sarah. It’s always looks not professional, when things like these are done in public. Before publishing any angry messages and blaming someone for plagiarism, make sure you can prove that there was a plagiarism. Writers can use online plagiarism checker, for example, Unplag https://unplag.com. If some visual content was stolen, make sure that it happened with tools, that are mentioned in the article, and then – take action!

      Artists consistently experience acts of imitating or “borrowing” their ideas. Be cool with it. If young artists try to imitate your style, it means that you’re the artistic genius, you start trends, you’re the boss.

  • Great timing as I’m just getting my business off the ground. I’ll certainly make use of your suggestions! Thanks!

  • Great post thanks!
    A great free copyleaks alternative is a website called Copyleaks – http://www.copyleaks.com you can sign up for free and then scan your content automatically (even your entire website) for plagiarism.


  • Thanks for sharing Gab! Just tested it out and that site is great! I hadn’t heard of it before but I am adding it to my resources list.