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Plagiarism hits my blog…again!

2009 February 25

Many thanks to Mark Manning for tweeting me this info about plagiarism of food blogs.  It seems that this problem is pretty widespread, but especially among food and wine blogs since their content seems to attract a lot of readership.

It happened a lot sooner than I would have imagined and even though I was a victim of plagiarism in the past, I didn’t take the proper precautions until after the fact. In 1997, I had a personal blog when there were less than a million web sites. Of course back then it wasn’t called that and there weren’t such conveniences as Copyscape or even Google. Someone who read my blog actually pointed out that there was a duplicate of my site and I found my entire site, word-for-word, on another server under someone else’s name. Boy, did I feel violated.

So it should not have come as a surprise to find my last post on J. Bookwalter releases scraped and posted on some Czech-hosted Russian web site that’s only about getting Google ad hits. Nonetheless, I felt violated and enraged, but after my initial thoughts of hacking or sending a DOS attack, I followed the same steps I took nearly 12 years ago to remove the offending site. I could give you all the steps I took, but Lorelle VanFossen covers the topic so well on her blog post about this subject that I think you should read it if you want to learn more.

In short, here’s what I’ve done so far after this incident:

  1. Attempted to contact the owner of the site using my content without authorization.  Doing a WHOIS lookup provided the contact information, but there has been no response.  Not surprising since ALL the content on that site is stolen.
  2. Wrote a formal notice using a template I found on WordPress to the hosting provider in the Czech Republic informing them of the infringing content.
  3. Changed the feed setting on my blog to provide summaries instead of the entire post.
  4. Added more prominent copyright notices to my site as well as notices on each and every blog entry.
  5. Added watermarks to all the photos I have posted, and especially on the ones that could be reused, I put the watermark directly in the center of the photo.  I know it detracts from the image but that’s the price I pay to protect my images.

There’s plenty I can do if someone chooses to steal my content. But I want to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to even try and use my content and images without my permission. As a photographer, I know the problem all too well. In fact, until recently, I haven’t posted any of my stock images online for fear of having it stolen and widely distributed. Luckily, I found that PhotoShelter provides a great way of posting, selling and protecting my images by automatically including a big watermark across the center of any of the images displayed on their site. Although this doesn’t guarantee that someone can’t just use a portion of my image, it does make it more difficult to reuse the original image. A copyright notice doesn’t prevent anyone from stealing my words and images, but at least it lets them know that this content isn’t public domain.

I feel a little better now. The initial outrage was redirected to action and hopefully I’m a little better protected. In a way, I’m glad it happened sooner than later. At least now, I don’t have that much content that needs changing and I’m more aware of the problem. I guess in the last 12 years since I published recipes and reviews on my old blog, things haven’t changed much except that I became a little lax in protecting my written work.

Copyright © 2009, Eric Hwang and BricksOfWine. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eric Hwang and BricksOfWine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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  1. February 25, 2009

    Glad to help and thanks for spreading the word. WordPress.com blogs get more help with these issues than many do. You are taking the right steps by educating your readers and not publicizing the scraper, which they love.

    I’ve declared this the The Year of Original Content and declared war on scrapers and content thieves. We must work together to educate everyone that our content is ours and it’s up to us to control where it goes. If we want to give it away, that’s cool. All people have to do is ask. We might say yes. 😀

    Thanks for joining the crusade!

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