How the Grinch Stole My Online Articles

Posted on August 1, 2017 in IP & Social Media

Like the Grinch stealing Christmas, there’s theft afoot–of online articles.

For anyone submitting articles to online directories like EZine Articles, this could have a definite bearing on your intellectual property.  According to my colleague, Dee Middlebrooks-Bernal, Editor-in-Chief of VA Today Magazine, she learned that several websites had reprinted her articles without giving her author credit. (Apparently, these IP pirates were clever enough to remove her name, but not clever enough to change the title–which is how she discovered the problem.)

To add insult to injury, at least one of the sites was a revenue sharing site similar to EHow or Demand Studios … so the site owners are benefiting financially from the theft as well.

It’s not exactly a walk in the park for an author to get her misappropriated work removed from these sites.  Many of these sites are hosted in other countries or hiding behind private domain registrations.
What can you do to protect yourself?

  1. Run Google searches for your article titles.
  2. Check out  Copyscape provides a free plagiarism checker for finding copies of your web pages online, as well as two more powerful professional solutions for preventing content theft and content fraud.
  3. Reach out to article directories.  There, however, you need to look very carefully at their terms of service.  As Dee found, EZine Articles asks publishers to follow the reprint rules (which require attribution), but if they don’t, enforcement is at your cost and expense.  In other words, if someone violates your copyright, it’s 100% up to you to take legal action.  And if you don’t like it, don’t submit your articles.
  4. Avail yourself of the notice and takedown procedures under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.  As attorney Ivan Hoffman points out, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) gives copyright owners a procedure for notifying a service provider if you believe that you are copyrighted material has been infringed it appears on another website. However, the law is very specific about what the notice requires.  It says:To be effective under this subsection, a notification of claimed infringement must be a written communication provided to the designated agent of a service provider that includes substantially the following:
    (i) A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
    (ii) Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.
    (iii) Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material.
    (iv) Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.
    (v) A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
    (vi) A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

To make sure your notice isn’t invalidated for having an improper form or incomplete information, you may want to consult an attorney to help you take these next steps.

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