Protecting Your Web Content (PART I)

What should be done if you find some of your original web content on another site? And, how can you protect your online text?

Protecting Your Web Content (PART I)

The more time and money you put into developing original content for your website, the more protective you will feel toward it. As a writer, I’m quite protective of my own content and equally protective of the web content I create for clients.

On a regular basis, I do research to see if any of my own or my client’s content “pops up” on any other websites. What should be done if you find some of your original web content on another site? And, how can you protect your online text?

There are several schools of thought on handling the problem of content theft. This month, we will discuss how to document, how to check for plagiarism, and how to protect your web text. Next month, we will discuss what to do if your text has been “borrowed” without your permission.

How Can I Document My Web Content?

  • If your site has been up for several years, you can get a copy of it from the Internet Archive, the “Way Back Machine” (http://www.archive.org/web/web.php), to prove when it first appeared on the web. If your site is recent or has changed dramatically since the end of 2004, this may not be useful since the Way Back Machine seems to be incredibly slow at archiving these days.
  • Pull dated backups of your website on a regular basis and archive these for any potential future need. (You should be doing regular backups of your site anyway, and they need to be stored offsite, just as a precaution against server crashes and such.)
  • You can print off copies of your site, showing the date the copy was printed and drop these in your “legal” folder. This “PC-to-paper” method may be long and arduous, especially for larger sites.

Can I Really Protect My Content?

  • Although there are several tools and tricks to make it more difficult to copy your entire site, or evento “cut and paste” portions, the fact is that any content visible to the general public can be copied – whether it’s viawhole site or multiple page downloads, “cut and paste,” or manually typing from the website into a word processor.
  • You can lock down your view source to protect your HTML code, you can take other steps (many of which may actually hurt you in the search engines) to make it more difficult to “lift” the content, but the fact remains — If you can see it, it CAN be copied.
  • Aside from written content, you may also want to investigate ways to prevent your images from being used by other websites, particularly if they link to your site to pull up the images. Many times a particularly lazy webmaster will link directly to your site to “pull” your images. Lazy people will go to great lengths and effort to avoid work. This type of direct linking means you have added drag (and often hosting expenses) of increased bandwidth to support the visitors of the other site.

Note: I had this problem with my original cauldron artwork on my website and fixed the problem by creating a text copyright listing my website across my logo and changing the “alt tag” to mention my business name. To get my image now, they now also get my URL and business name. It dramatically curtailed the use! And, during the few days and (in one case weeks) it took for the website owners to notice, I got free advertising from those sneaky sites.

Ways to Check for Plagiarism

  • You can take some of your website copy – specific sentences that are uniquely “you” and plug them into the advanced search options on Google (or your search engine of choice) and use quotes to ensure the results only have those searched words in that particular order.
  • Plug your website URL into a freebie service like Copyscape (www.CopyScape.com)
    and let it do an automatic comparison for you.
  • Regularly review the statistical information on your site if you have access to your server. (This is how I originally discovered the use of my images. I had multiple referral hits from the same few websites, and when I visited the sites to determine why they had linked to me, there was my image on their front page!)

Can I copyright my site?

Yes. Several services offer to copyright your site for you — for a fee. However, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, you already own the copyright! From the
www.Copyright.gov
site:

Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.

In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author.

Although not required, you should add a copyright statement to the bottom of each page of your website. Be sure the beginning date reflects the oldest information on the site. Personally, I use the following statement:

Copyright © 2000-2004 Angela Allen Parker.The elements, design and content of this
site may not be copied, in whole or in part, without the written permission of owner.

You are more than welcome to “lift” that copyright statement language for use on your own site, if you don’t already have a copyright notice in place. You have my permission!

Next month we will consider two notably different approaches to the content theft problem, if you identify that you have one. You can choose to be reactive or proactive.
Until next time, push yourself away from the computer occasionally, get out, feel the sun on your face and enjoy the summer!

NOTE: I am not a licensed attorney and the intent of this article is not to provide you with legal advice. For matters of copyright law I advise you to seek the counsel of a reputable copyright and/or intellectual property rights attorney.

© Copyright 2005 by Angela Allen Parker of Wicked Wordcraft

 

This article first appeared in the “Word Magic” column at www.epowernews.com in July 2005.

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