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Ethics

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but is content theft?

That doesn’t make it legal, though!

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve found a constant problem with websites commandeering original content I’ve written for their own use.  When it first happened, I was flattered that someone else thought enough of my writing to re-post it!  I quickly found that there was also a pretty hideous downside to such a backhanded compliment:  I was losing Google Juice because people were cloning my content and passing it off as theirs!

The first few times it happened the sites that were copying my info were older and better established in the search engines, so I found that traffic I should be getting to my own blog was actually going elsewhere simply because Google and I weren’t on a first name basis yet.  Here I was working my butt off to create unique, original content, and some goofball who figured out how to copy and paste was stealing my thunder.

Can Someone Really Do That?

In a word: YUP!  Legally, however, this would be considered a big “No-No”!  I’ve since made it a habit of posting two snippets of code on my website in order to try and prevent this sort of thing from happening.

  1. A Creative Commons License from creativecommons.org
  2. A Copyscape Banner from copyscape.com

Creative Commons

A Creative Commons License is essentially a public notice on your site stating whether or not you allow republishing of your content for commercial use (I don’t allow this, but to each their own).  They don’t monitor or enforce, but it serves as notice should anyone claim that they didn’t know the information was copyrighted.  (This does not replace a copyright, however!)

Copyscape

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Copyscape is a service I use to monitor my published content and notify me if it looks like someone may be plagiarizing my work.  They don’t enforce on violations, however, so bear that in mind when using their service.

Does It Really Matter?

How much control do you want over your content?  When I write a keyword rich blog post about my local area, The last thing I want to see is search returns leading visitors to some other site that copied my work.  Why do any of us write articles and blog posts?  To attract visitors, period.  If those visitors are led to another site that has stolen your content, why bother to write at all?

How Do I Stop It?

If you’re concerned about people stealing your original content,  here’s what you do:  Pick up the phone and call a lawyer.  When I find my content used by others without permission, I usually call the offending agent directly and request that it be removed before I take legal action.  I usually get a plethora of excuses including “I didn’t know”, “my assistant did it”, “are you sure it’s copyrighted?”, blah, blah, blah.  Doesn’t matter.  If the agent cannot or will not remove the content, I call the lawyer and let them send Cease and Desist letters, file for damages, whatever.  I always try to give the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s all just a big misunderstanding.  At the same token, keep in mind that ignorance does not absolve one from responsibility, so it’s reall up to the individual to determine how to proceed.

Keeping a firm grip on your original content is key to creating a successful business.  If everybody else has your content on their site, what makes it (and you as an agent) so unique?

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Written By

I'm a Realtor in Southern Maryland. I grew up surrounded by the RE business, spent time as an actor, worked as a theatrical designer and technician, and took the road less traveled before settling down in real estate. I run my own local market website at https://www.somdexpert.com and when I'm not at the office or meeting clients, I can usually be found doing volunteer work, playing with my 3 rescued shelter dogs (Help your local Humane Society!), or in the garage restoring antique cars.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Benn Rosales

    April 26, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    We deal with this on a daily basis, and it’s incredibly expensive to not only track down domain owners directly, going after them via Google, and working with their web hosts when they absolutely refuse to acknowledge you, legal action is certainly necessary, but a word of warning, if you’re going to threaten to pull that trigger, you had better be willing to back it up all the way. We’ll be writing in depth about a situation we’re in right now, but we’re currently in process of serving. Should be interesting…

  2. Harriman Real Estate

    April 27, 2010 at 12:15 am

    I’ve been using a service called Tynt (tynt.com) that sort of complements my attempts to stop plagiarism (not that I’ve had many!). It provides a piece of code that you add to your blog which places an attribution link at the end of whatever content someone takes from your site. That way, should someone click the link, the viewer is taken back to the site the content originally came from. I say it “sort of” complements my other efforts because a big drawback to this service is that the attribution link can be deleted by the content thief, which kind of negates the whole purpose of the service, unless you have a thief with a conscience. However, one nice feature is, as soon as someone copies your content via Control-C or right click, it is reported to Tynt and shows up in your dashboard, so you know what has been copied and where it has been pasted. The service will even email your a report every week. I haven’t been using it long enough to see any benefit, but I invite you to go to their site and see if it might be of use to you.

  3. Nick Sweeney, DotLoop Social Media

    April 27, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I don’t know, Jonathan. This post sounds an awful lot like Lars Ulrich wrote it. “Why do any of us write articles and blog posts?” You ask. “To attract visitors, period. If those visitors are led to another site that has stolen your content, why bother to write at all?”

    Some of us write because we actually ENJOY writing. If you’re doing it for business purposes, you should still enjoy it; otherwise, you won’t last long at being a blogger. Is it right that someone else takes your content? Nope. Does it happen? Yup. Should you stop writing just because someone is taking your content?

    Let me answer that last one with this question: if you never made any money writing (which, by the way, the VAST majority of bloggers never make a cent from their writing), would you still write? I write for myself first and foremost. If anyone else likes it, all the better. If I get paid for my writing, there’s not much more you can ask for.

    But I’d be a fool to write for any reason other than the fact that I HAVE TO. As Allegra Sloman once said about writing, “It’s in my skull and it has to come out!” Not once did he mention the number of visitors to his site.

    My $.02

    • Jonathan Benya

      April 27, 2010 at 7:41 pm

      Would I still write? Absolutely, but would I write about the real estate market and how foreclosures and short sales work? Probably not.

      I do write on other blogs purely for my own enjoyment, which is essentially the same reason that I write here on AG, but I also use my writing as a business tool to generate new clients and transactions.

      I’m not suggesting that any RE blogger should stop writing because they’re being plagiarized, but content theft can be and is damaging to a person’s business. With that in mind, any RE blogger should take steps to prevent that from happening, IMHO.

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