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If your copyrighted blog content shows up in whole on another site without proper attribution like InformationFlash.com is doing, here’s a few steps you can take. IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer), so YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

Send the Webmaster a Cease & Desist Letter

Get a sample cease & desist letter and tailor it to include your own content information. Identify the exact copyrighted blog post that’s showing up on their site.

The webmaster may not be aware of the plagiarism. Sometimes end users post copyrighted material on their own without the webmaster being aware. In other cases, the admin themselves may be doing the copying. Sending a Cease & Desist to the webmaster helps them understand that you didn’t give them permission to post it on their site.

The User Causing All The Problems

The User Causing All The Problems

Some sites like InformationFlash don’t make it easy – they don’t publish any personal information on their site, and they try to hide behind private domain registrations. They only accept emails through a contact form, thereby making it impossible to guarantee message delivery. No problem – keep reading.

Send Their ISP’s Abuse Department a DMCA Takedown Notice

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects the intellectual property rights of people who create content, like bloggers. Title II of the DMCA is an agreement between you (the copyright holder) and internet service providers (the web hosting company). As long as the copyright holders notify the ISP and the ISP reacts appropriately, then the ISP is not liable for the copyright infringement. Only the plagiarist is liable. That means web hosting companies and internet providers react swiftly and fairly to complaints of copyright infringement.

Get a sample DMCA notice to hosting companies and send it to the web host. In the case of InformationFlash, you can send it to abuse@dreamhost.com. I took the extra measure of sending one DMCA takedown notice per copyrighted article to show the extent of the problem.

Send Search Engines a DMCA Notice Too

If the site’s webmaster and their web host still don’t react, we have another weapon: the search engines. Before doing that, find out if the site even turns up in search results – the search engines may have already received DMCA takedowns for the site in question. Go to your favorite search engine and type the name of your blog post in quotes, like this:

“Top 10 Developer Interview Questions About SQL Server”

Look at the search results and find out if the offending site shows up. In the case of InformationFlash, it doesn’t show up – even if I add the word InformationFlash to the search. That’s awesome – Google’s already figured out that the site’s up to no good. In order to send a DMCA notice to a search engine, you have to show that their site will show up in a search for your work.

Each search engine has a different procedure for getting sites delisted:

There’s also a sample DMCA notice to search engines that you can use, but make sure to adapt it to each search engine.

Ask for Help From Fellow Bloggers

If you syndicate your blog with SQLServerPedia, email me about the offending site. If you blog at any other site, email the head honcho. All of us are writers, and all of us take plagiarism very, very seriously.

A cynic might ask, “But wait – how is this different than blog syndication at SQLServerPedia?” I’m glad you asked.

  • You ask us to syndicate your content. We don’t go poaching content.
  • We work with you to set up specialized feeds so that you choose what to syndicate.
  • We slather your name all over the place, making it abundantly clear that it’s yours.

If someone takes your syndicated content without your permission, and if you complain to me about it, I will make every effort to go after the offending party with all of the resources available to me. If you want them to syndicate your content straight off your site, that’s completely okay – but they need to take it from your site with your permission, not from SQLServerPedia. You, as a blogger, are completely welcome to syndicate with as many sites as you’d like.

In the case of InformationFlash.com, we’ve already sent them C&D letters, yet they’re still using (y)our content inappropriately. I hate to have to take it to the next step, and I hate to name names in public on my blog. I try to give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt and give them time to do the right thing. If they don’t do the right thing, then I want to make sure the public knows the names of the individuals involved and what they’re doing.

My next post will explain why companies should think twice before hiring individuals who plagiarize intellectual property, whether as full time employees or consultants.

InformationFlash-Content-Copied-From-Brent-OzarUpdate 6/27: as I expected, InformationFlash syndicated my content despite the post actually being about InformationFlash stealing content.  Rather awkward.  Here’s a screenshot of their plagiarized content, as well as a screenshot of a blog post they plagiarized from Gail Shaw.  Also note the name of the user who submitted the content – either their admin account has been hacked, or the site’s administrator is responsible for plagiarizing the content.  The top of the page notes that they aggregate information via RSS, but remember that we’ve already sent them a cease & desist once, and they agreed to do it – they’re just not doing it.

Update 6/28: Dreamhost contacted me and said they’re taking the site down due to our DMCA complaints.  It’s not clear whether the takedown is permanent.  I want to thank Dreamhost for acting quickly to protect the intellectual property rights of bloggers.

Update 6/29: I got emails with questions from the site’s webmaster and from a few bloggers, so I added the answers in a followup post with More Thoughts on Blog Plagiarism.

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  1. Looks like its down now.

    Great article, by the way. I think that techies in general need a greater awareness and unserstanding of issues like these and their larger implications.

  2. Rhys, if you want embarrassing, try this one: http://www.informationflash.com/content/copyright-policy

    Barry, the whole lot’s still there, I just went to the site now.

  3. It seems to be offline now. What a pain. Thanks for the suggestions Brad.

  4. If your site has full RSS feeds you allow someone like this to gather feeds on their site. So, if you don’t want your full articles reposted, why not post half your article to public and private feeds for your subscribers?

    It seems to me that if a website reposted your content via RSS aggregation feed and didn’t make it look like they created the content that you would benefit from the referral links and push your site higher in search engines. Their site will not go up in standings as it isn’t original content and no-one is likely to link to their site. Granted this site did a horrible job of feed aggregations as it looks like they did the content.

    Opensource website framework companies like drupal, joomla, and even wordpress make it all too easy to repost RSS links, so why not go after them and ask if they modify the tools so it works better for content authors and content distributors? I could see a content redistribution flag being set and any number of good ideas along this line.

  5. Chuck – if you go to the New York Times, their sites have the articles fully available too. Does that mean it’s okay to use a screen scraper, take the Times’ stories, republish them in full, on your site, without the words “New York Times” anywhere?

    It doesn’t matter whether or not you think the original author would benefit – the content is copyrighted, period. My personal business plan doesn’t include publishing my full stories at InformationFlash. If any site would like to syndicate my work, they’re welcome to contact me and discuss it. I’m completely open to it as long as the site uses very favorable terms for the authors just like we do at SQLServerPedia.com – complete attribution, author selection of which posts get syndicated, include images in blogs, etc.

  6. Another way that websites are stealing content without using RSS:

    They subscribe via e-mail to mailing lists and or RSS feeds, then republish the information to their sites with their own ad schemes to generate revenue.

    We’ve been playing whack-a-mole with several of these sites for a decade (for our mailing lists and online communities). They all claim to be using the posts as “fair use”, even though the publish every single e-mail and do not attribute the source.

    Look for accounts that are subscribed using LIST in the name, or long strings of numbers. I also use search engines to find content with posts that I make to our lists to seed the content with easily-found result items.

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  11. Great post, BrentO! Very actionable and useful information indeed.

    One point I’d like to mention (which I also made on Jorge’s blog) is that I havent’ seen anyone else make is that we now have an opportunity to decide how to react to similar occurrences in the future AS A GROUP. And believe me, they will definitely occur.

    Maybe you should lead the charge – via a new blog post – about your opinion of “what to expect from THIS community” when this happens again.

    Best regards,

    -Kev

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  17. Brent – This page is too lengthy to catch up with!
    Quick Question – Will it be plagiarism if i say…
    “You can download Eval Edition of SQL Server 2008R2 from here” or “you can see more and in depth information on this topic by clicking here from MCM Brent Ozar”. Is it OKAY to point to your blog posts.

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  20. Great information!!!!!!

  21. Great stuff! As a blogging newbie, I was searching for this type of answer, from Brent Ozar’s July 14, 2011 6:04 am comment:
    “You can link to someone’s content with your own words. Feel free to copy/paste the URL, but copying anything else is plagiarism.”
    But there’s plenty of other important concepts in here for folks that put a lot of time into demos, troubleshooting explanations, and good old creative writing!

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