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Vivian Li/李雯雯

PR Manager/公关经理

Tel:0086 010 83907451


How to protect your work from content thieves

With the advent of blogs and other social media platforms, PR and marketing pros have even greater opportunities to promote their clients’ content online.

However, increased views can come at a price.

Photographers often find their images have been stolen. For many photographers, it’s not a question of “if” they’ll have an image stolen, but “when.”

Often the offense is committed by an otherwise well-meaning webmaster who doesn't mean harm. Other times the thief feels that if an image is online it’s free to use—even though its being remounted on a for-profit site.

Regardless of the reason, when confronted, most offenders’ excuses fall under one of four themes:

1. I haven't used it for personal profit.

2. I've never claimed it as my own.

3. I never saw a copyright claim on the photo.

4. I thought it was in the public domain.

All four excuses are, well, just that: excuses.

The bottom line is that if an image is used by anyone other than the creator without explicit permission, the image is being used without authorization and has been stolen.

Fair use vs. copyright

The moment original content is published online, whether visual or text, it is protected under copyright law. A copyright symbol is not needed. This means that people can’t republish your content without your clear permission, unless they follow the rules under the “fair use” clause of copyright law.

Fair use says people have limited rights to use original content as long as the use of the content is deemed “fair.” Fair is a nebulous term defined by courts to cover:

1. Quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, or

2. Use of a work for commentary or critical review of the work, or

3. Used in a parody, summary of an article, or

4. Used as a reproduction by a student or teacher for purposes of teaching.

Who is responsible?

As a marketer, writer or webmaster, you must make sure the content is legally available for your use.

If you’re using content from other sites without their permission—even if you attribute the content to them—you’ve got a problem, as they have a good case against you under copyright law.

The person using the content is ultimately responsible, and it is up to the user to determine whether something might be a copyright infringement.

Steps and tools for getting stolen content removed

The steps involved in getting stolen images removed can be time-consuming, but certain tools, such as Who is Hosting This, can ease the process.

If the request isn’t honored, contact the service that hosts the offending site.

The required information can be found by going to Who Is Hosting This and typing in the URL of the site containing your content. Website hosting services typically are more efficient in removing purloined content than webmaster tools.

A Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) can be filed against a site that has stolen your content. Filing a DMCA is a little complex and should be done when:

1. Someone is getting high rankings for your content, or

2. Your image is being used on a for-profit site, or

3. Your image is used by a nonprofit site, and the site is established for the purpose of fundraising.

Protecting your content

Sadly, there is no foolproof way to prevent your content from being stolen. There are three actions, other than putting a watermark on the image, that can help protect your content and reduce the likelihood of its being stolen.

[RELATED: Join us at LinkedIn's headquarters on July 30-31 for our Content Marketing and Brand Journalism Summit.]

1. Enroll in Google Authorship. If you post material online regularly, consider setting up a Google Search Authorship account.

This will help you prove you are the original creator, and if thieves steal content you’ve listed under Google Authorship, Google will rank your items higher than the offending site, as well as notifying you of the lifted property.

2. Use KISSmetrics to share content. This service details how to add a customized RSS script that will ensure that the link to your article is reposted automatically when someone steals your content.

A customized RSS will not prevent theft, but it will make sure you get proper attribution for your work.

3. Regularly check Google Image Search.

Google’s Image Search is the go-to tool for finding visual content quickly. Of all the options, Google Image Search is the most time-consuming option, but it’s the most efficient way to defend your visual content.

If you find that your content has been stolen, follow these three steps:

1. Take a screenshot.

Grab a screenshot of the offending content immediately. The screenshot will be your proof. Get a full-page screenshot and the URL so others can find the site.

2. Email the offender.

Once you’ve captured the screenshot of the offending Web page, get in touch with the person directly before reporting the issue to Google.

If the offender’s email address isn’t found on their website, do a Who Is Domain search. Send the offender an email with a link to the specific content that the person has stolen. Mention the steps you are prepared to take if they don’t remove the content.

3. Report the stolen content.

If the offender doesn’t comply, submit a request to remove the content from search engines and/or contact the hosting provider.


Vivian Li

PR Manager

Tel: +86 010 8390 7451

Mobile: +86 13041030670