Imagine you own a small-town weekly newspaper called The Gazette. Every Tuesday night you go to print, and every Wednesday morning your newspaper is available in stores… then at noon another newspaper hits the shelves called The Gazetteer and it’s a word-for-word reprint of the newspaper you published earlier that morning.
Not only has The Gazetteer stolen all of your work verbatim but your stories are now surrounded by ads, and the revenue from them goes to the dude who photocopied your stuff.
Now imagine you write poetry or short stories or essays online. And every time you published your work on your blog it showed up eight seconds later on another blog. And when you’re ready to approach a publisher they tell you there’s a problem with the Copyright because when they Googled your work it came back attached to another name… or maybe there’s a problem because, in their eyes, your poem has already been published.
In the first example the publisher of The Gazetteer is sent a cease and desist letter and if he doesn’t comply there’s a clearly defined legal process to fuck him up.
If there was something in the Terms of Agreement when you signed up with WordPress which said half of everything you write is going to end up on another blog run by someone you’ll never meet using your content to sell porn, guns or baby formula, do you think you’d still have pushed the “Accept” button?
But that’s exactly what happens almost every time you click the “Publish” button.
I think I’ve come up with a way to harass the sploggers, their site hosts and maybe even Google into taking the problem seriously… but it will take some time until the site is ready and there are enough people interested in doing something about the problem. I have received some very encouraging feedback already.
However… there are easy things we can do to protect our work from copyright infringement, plagiarism, sploggers and blog scrapers. These are four of the easiest I’ve found so far:
1. Leave a link in your post to your About Page, possibly in a photograph. If your post is scraped your photo will appear on the sploggers’ site with a link to your page. It won’t prevent your post from being stolen, but it will give you some control over their site. In WordPress you can add a link in your photo the same way you do with text. When your post is published on another blog the link will also sometimes pingback to your About Page, giving you a link to the thief.
2. Leave a watermark on your photos… they’re not hard to make, just go into any photo editor and paste some text or symbol on top of your photo and click Save As. The name and address of your blog, with the “circle-c” copyright symbol and the year are good. Make sure you save as a medium “dpi” to preserve the quality of your image, but not high enough someone could create something with it. If you can’t make a watermark just save your photo at a low dpi, 20-30dpi is more than enough for a website. This is a Really Good Idea if you use a Photo Sharing site like Flickr or PhotoXBucket… people steal your photos every day as well as your blog material.
3. Just copy and paste the following statement at the beginning of each of your posts with a link back to your About Page in the text:
— Copyright © 2008 Salted Lithium. This Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator or on SaltedLithium.Wordpress.Com, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact SaltedLithium@Yahoo.Com so we can take legal action immediately.
This Copyright statement will automatically appear on any splogger or blog scraper page which steals your content. Be aware if your RSS Feed is set to “Summary” people will only be able to read the Copyright notice, considering the alternative it isn’t such a big deal.
To get around the RSS problem I’ve created a small banner (top) which acts as a link. It’s easy to create in any PhotoShop program and I’d totally be willing to custom design one for anyone who’d like their own version.
4. You can also use CopyScape and post a Creative Commons notice into your sidebar. You can find a copyright symbol at the bottom of this page. With a membership CopyScape will give you unlimited search capabilities when looking for plagiarized content, but it will give you ten shots for free. A Creative Commons notice won’t stop people from stealing your work, but it does offer some legal protections.
These solutions are basically for your peace-of-mind… they will give you some control over your post as it sits on their site, but nothing is going to scare off any hardcore sploggers because most of them can barely read. That’s why I’m creating the Exposing Sploggers blog, the idea is to harass the splogger, their web host and Google until they stop.
Steal This Symbol… this is the universal symbol for Copyright, copy and paste it and put it in your post or in your sidebar or on your photos. It’s natural size is 197px by 197px, but as long as you reduce it evenly it’ll look great at any size. The first version is a transparency, the second includes the white centre.