Anyone in the world can copy your online content and insert it onto their website. After making some changes, one can claim your content as his/her own. The web is built on work of people who spent their time and energy to create original content. Global epidemic of content theft violates people's rights and discourages the creation of new web content.
If you’ve posted online and it’s truly yours, then it’s officially yours. All genuine content published online is immediately protected under copyright thanks to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
What it means is that anyone who takes your content and pastes it on their own site without permission violates copyright law. If someone takes an image from your blog and posts it on their own blog, that’s copyright violation.
Feel free to review DMCA’s FAQ on website protection from content theft.
Copyright and Fair Use
It’s important to know before submitting a DMCA notice whether the manner in which the content is used falls under fair use. In Section 512(f) of the DMCA, any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity is infringing is liable for:
…any damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees, incurred by the alleged infringer, by any copyright owner or copyright owner’s authorized licensee, or by a service provider, who is injured by such misrepresentation, as the result of the service provider relying upon such misrepresentation in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing, or in replacing the removed material or ceasing to disable access to it.
What is fair use?
The Copyright Act gives out four factors to courts for consideration:
1. The purpose and character of the use: why and how is the material used? Using content for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research is usually fair. Additionally, using material in a transformative manner, that is to say, in a manner that adds new expression, meaning, or insight, is also more likely to be considered fair use over an exact reproduction of a work. What’s more, non-profit use is favored over commercial use.
2. The nature of the copyrighted work: is the original factual or fiction, published or unpublished? Factual and published works are less protected, so its use is more likely to be considered fair.
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole: how much of the material is used? If the 'heart' (the most memorable or significant portion) or the majority of a work wasn’t used, it’s more likely to be considered fair.
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work: does the use target a different market/audience? If so, it’s more likely to be fair use. It’s important to note that although criticism or parody may reduce a market, it still may be fair because of its transformative nature. In other words, if the criticism of a product influences people to stop buying the product, that doesn’t count as having an 'effect on the market for the work' under copyright law.
So fair use clause states that people have limited rights to use your content as long as the use of your content is deemed ‘fair’ – a nebulous term that was defined by courts in time during real world scenarios, such as quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, use of a work for commentary or criticism of the work, use in a parody, summary of an article with brief quotations in a news report, and reproduction by a student or teacher for purposes of teaching.
Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut definition of what exactly fair use is. The government says, ‘The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.’
One thing that is not protected under fair use is a mirror copy of large portions of your content used for commercial purpose. If you find full-text copy of your content published on other web sources without your permission, you have a good basis under copyright law to contact and claim your rights of exclusive use. It might get hard if you find that websites are using a portion of your content with a link back to the original source (this can fall under ‘fair use’), so it would good to consult with your company’s lawyer before reaching out to them.
Usually there is often a gray border between fair use and copyright, but the takeaway here is to examine if something can be considered fair use before an actual charge ahead with copyright complaints.
Maximize plagiarism protection at your website
1. Include a clear copyright notice on your site
Specify the kind of use you will and will not allow on your site to avoid confusions. Here is an example of copyright notice that you can use:
© [Full Name] and [Site Name], [Current Year or Year Range]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Your Name] and [Your Site Name] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Place the copyright notice in your sidebar so that it may be visible at all times; this can be accomplished using a text widget from the widgets pane in the Customizer. Your wording of the copyright notice should differ, depending on the type of site you currently maintain. The aforementioned example notice is the most appropriate for your standard blog, so you may want to modify the language accordingly.
2. Configure your RSS feed so it displays post summaries
This will add an extra barrier against those scrapers using RSS feeds to illegally obtain their content.
Be aware that this may reduce the readability of website for some users.
3. Search for your content using Google
Your content can be used without permission on sites that you are not aware of. To help fight this, take lines of your content and search for it on Google. For a more precise search, you can enclose text in quotation marks. If you discover that your content is stolen, you may fill a formal DMCA notice.
4. Set up a Google Alert to scan for your name or site name/title.
You may set up a custom Google Alert. Note, that you need a Google account to use this service. Once you set it up, you can choose to be notified of any new search result via email.
5. Use Copyscape
You can use the service’s search feature to check for unauthorized copies of your pages and/or include a free banner on your site. There are also paid services, including automatic web monitoring.
6. Protect your images
Consider adding a watermark to the images on your site. Of course, it won’t completely prevent them from being stolen, but it may help to make clear that you are the genuine author.