If Someone Copied You Article: What Can You Do?

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Okay, so you ran a program like CopyGator (as suggested in Maria Blazz’s recent article) or found it through Google and found that someone is publishing your articles. You want them to stop, but what can you do? You call the police and Interpol, but they don’t want to look into one case of plagiarism You call your lawyer, but after hearing their hourly rates, you change your mind. You still want this person to stop stealing your work, but what can you really do?

Unfortunately, this is a pretty common occurrence and it happens far to often. Fortunately, here are a few ideas that I have come across while trying to protect articles for my wife and I.

First of all, try the simple approach. Treat is as a misunderstanding and send them a nice email giving the URLs of both articles and asking them to remove it. Give them a few days and check again. I have found that this is amazingly effective and usually works. People generally don’t want any trouble.  At this point, unless it is an American site, don’t bother listing off the US laws that they have broken.  In many cases, they are out of the reach of US law anyways, so don’t bother.  I have also seen authors demand all profits from the article.  Don’t bother with that either.  If you can get them to stop publishing the article, I suggest that you take it as a win.

If after a couple of days, you still can not get the article removed, what then? At this point, you have to start getting inventive. Some options are going to their IP providers and going after their advertisers.

One possible next simplest next step is to look up their IP. To do this you can enter the site name into a site like who.is to find out their IP address. You can then use an IP look-up to look up who is their IP provider. Go to the provider website and look at their policies. They likely have a policy against plagiarism and other questionable practices. Try sending your request email again and CC the abuse email address for the IP provider. They may be able to convince the site to remove your article.

Another idea is to find ways to enlist help. If the site stole your article, see if they have stolen others. If you find other articles, notify those authors too and provide them any information that you have. While you may be a nuance, having many authors complaining can be a real pain. This is especially true if you are all complaining to the IP provider.

If you are still not getting results, another idea is to cut off their cash flow by going to their advertisers. Most advertisers have definite policies that require that you are not doing anything questionable or illegal. For example, Google AdSense is quite clear that you can not publish stolen work and in one severe case (they stole a lot of my work) I have complained to them and the account was promptly closed.  AdBright also seems to have a similar policy, but I have not tested it.

In some recent discussions, some authors with stolen content suggested using click fraud to get the advertisers to shut down their account.  This involves repeatedly and fairly quickly clicking an ad on the page over and over (for example 75 times in a short period).  More attentive advertisers like Google AdSense will likely recognize this as fraud and shut down the account.  The reasons that I don’t suggest this are that it is basically a lot like committing fraud in the hopes that someone else gets caught.  Ethically, it is a slippery slope and also there is a good chance that eventually Google will figure it out and find ways to just filter this out.  In that case, you may get ignored, or the site could even make even more money from your work!  That is the last thing that you want.

In the end, simply asking will stop most sites, but if needed, going to their service providers and advertisers should at least make sure that they are not making money from your articles.

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