Update May 16, 2020: When I first wrote and put up this piece, my plan was to only leave it up until my next poem gets posted (on May 17, 2020). My reasoning was that I didn’t want to have this piece cluttering the flow of my other posts, since I mainly try to stick to writing poems and articles. I also thought that only a few people would see this post and I would only get one or two helpful comments. I was so wrong. I have received such a great outpouring of support and advice from so many different people. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have decided that the best thing to do with this post is to leave it up indefinitely, not because I need more help, but because I want this to be a resource for anyone who runs into a similar issue. I want other bloggers who also have had their writing stolen to know that they are not alone and that the WordPress community will support them in their efforts to reclaim their work.
I will continue to update this post as I take actions to try to get this stolen article taken down. You will be able to find those updates at the end of this piece. If you stumbled across this article because something similar happened to your blog, please note that I am not an expert at sending take-down requests, nor am I a lawyer. I will simply report what I have tried to give you some idea of what works and what doesn’t when contacting these shady websites. If you need any further clarification from me, feel free to leave me a comment here or utilize my contact page.
Um…So, this isn’t anything like my normal posts of articles, poems, and awards, but I had an issue and I was wondering if any of you had advice for me. Given the fact that this is the platform where I have the largest following, I thought that posting it here might help me the most.
My article that I posted on my blog today, A Self-Planned Education: What Would You Learn in a Decade?, was also posted to another (non-WordPress) website without my permission. I don’t want to say the name of the website that reposted it because it seems like they do this a lot, and I don’t want to provide them with any free publicity. The only reason why I even know that the article was posted on there is because they linked back to my blog (thanks, I guess) and so WordPress sent me a notification about whether to allow the link. I am glad that they attempted to credit me, but even just a comment asking if they could use it for their site would have been nice.
Here are my thoughts about it:
Firstly, I am flattered that they would want to use my writing. They definitely went about it the wrong way, but I’ve only been blogging for just under 3-1/2 months, and I didn’t expect anyone to even want to repost my work yet.
Secondly, I am frustrated because they changed some of my wording. I noticed this because I skimmed these lines,
and went “Whoops! I wrote ‘cowl’ instead of ‘cover’. I should go back and fix that in the original post.”
But it was correct in the original post. In fact, in my original post, those lines look like this
There are several other changes in wording. My best guess as to what happened is that they plugged my article into Google Translate or something similar, translated it into another language, and then translated it back to English.
My first thought was that they did this because the website is originally in another language and the version I see is retranslated back into English. I also have thought that maybe they did the retranslation so it would be harder to accuse them of stealing my work or so that it wouldn’t pop up if I tried to use a search engine to look up phrases from my own article. Either way, it’s irritating because I took the time to edit my post, but in their version, some of the wording is bizarre or nonsensical. Here’s some other examples because, honestly, they’re kind of funny. My originals are on the left and their changed ones are on the right.
Also, some but not all of my images got copied over, and some but not all of my links got copied as well.
So what should I do?
I allowed the link because disallowing it wouldn’t take the content off their site, and I might as well get some amount of credit for my writing. Should I disallow the link again? Does that even work? (I already tried rescinding my permission via the WordPress notification and yet their website still redirected to my blog through the link.)
Should I take down my article from my blog? I was hoping that posting it would generate some thoughtful dialogue, and so far it has, but if you guys think that having it up on my blog is doing more harm than good, I will gladly remove it.
There doesn’t seem to be any way to flag the post on their website and it isn’t run through WordPress, so I cannot simply report the post, but they do have a contact page. Should I send them a request to remove my article from their site?
Should I just do nothing and be grateful that I might have gotten some free publicity?
I can imagine that someone reading this post might roll their eyes and think, “Welcome to the wonders of posting your content on the internet, Joy…” I get it, but that’s exactly why I created this post. I figure that lots of other bloggers have been through this before and might have some words of wisdom for me.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for your help!
Update May 16, 2020: After the advice that I received through my comments and sleeping on my decision, I went ahead and contacted the website to which my stolen material was posted. Like I mentioned in the body of this post, the only obvious place to reach the creators of this website is through their contact page, so I did that. I mentioned the name of my original article and provided a link to that, and I also provided a link to where the stolen article was posted on their site. I stated that they were infringing on my rights as a content creator and quoted a section of their own terms of services stating that their users may not upload content that belongs to someone else. I also noted my frustration about the changes in wording from my original piece. I ended the message with an explicit request for them to take down the article. As of yet, I have not heard back. Sadly, looking at the contents of the rest of their website, this is how they get their material. They just reupload articles that other people have written. Generally, they steal content from news sites and large blogs, places that quite possibly have no idea that their content is being stolen. I feel lucky that WordPress has a great notification system that alerts me whenever someone links to my content. What I’ve learned thus far is that WordPress (the platform and the community) is wonderful, this other website is really shady, and I’ll just have to sit and wait for a while to see what happens.
Update May 18, 2020: Brother’s Campfire was so kind and looked a little deeper into the situation for me. He reached out to Herb Thiel who wrote this post with suggestions of how to proceed when your work is taken and reuploaded to another site. Herb also clearly and concisely explains the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement. My work was not plagiarized because the website did not claim to have written the article and even credited my blog as the article’s origin. However, by copying and pasting my work to their website, they did infringe upon my copyright. Because this ordeal occurred just as a weekend was beginning, I am going to wait a few weekdays before taking any more action. My next step is to reach out again via their contact page and simultaneously send an email take down request to an address that they have buried in one of the other pages of their website. If that doesn’t work, I’ll start reaching out to the larger corporation that owns the website as well as making more frequent and more strongly worded requests, trying to make it so that I’m hard to ignore.
Update June 29, 2020: The stolen article was removed from the website! It took 2 attempts to reach out to them through their contact page, which was the most apparent contacting method, and 2 emails sent to their address which could be found at the very bottom of their Terms of Service page. It also took about a month-and-a-half of time in total, but they finally responded and took down the article. Here’s what I learned:
- Titling the email “Article Takedown Request” did not elicit any response from them.
- Titling the email “Terms of Service Violation” caused them to respond and take down the article the next working day. It probably also helped that I read through their Terms of Service and stated specifically why the existence of my article on their site violated their terms, though I cited the exact same terms of service violation information in all of my other attempts to contact them, but received no results.
- Changing up my tactics and wording worked better than contacting them more frequently. You never know when you are going to hit on some magic keywords that flag your email for review within their system. It is possible that shortening the amount of time between my contact attempts did assist me, but I truly believe that the phrase “Terms of Service Violation” was really my ticket to get the article removed.
- I’m pretty sure I misunderstood what “allowing a link” meant in my WordPress notifications when I first wrote this blog post. Now, with more WordPress experience under my belt, I am fairly certain that your response to that notification only dictates whether or not a pingback is created on your post that was linked to on another site. If you allow the link, a pingback will appear in the comment section of your original blog post, linking to the page that linked to you. If you do not allow the link, the pingback will not appear.
The other thing that I really want to showcase here is their response to me because I think they did a very bad job, but I also don’t think that replying to them will help me or cause them to change their site.
First of all, even if that is their intention (and I do think that the intention to highlight good articles from throughout the web because search engines cannot select for quality and are not always the best at selecting for certain types of relevancy is a good intention), that is not the outcome. I can see in my analytics that only one person was redirected to my blog through their site, and I’m certain that was either me testing whether the link redirected to my site, or Ben from Brother’s Campfire or Herb Thiel, the guys I talked about on my May 18 update. (Now, I’m not convinced that anyone actually even read my article on their site. They did have some stats listed on the page that said that over a thousand people had read my stolen article and that it was shared tens of times, but those numbers remained nearly if not completely stagnant between the first time that I saw them just hours after the article was posted and the last time I saw them a few days ago. Unfortunately, I did not think to take a screenshot of those numbers at any point to show to you or to see for myself whether they were changing, but believe me, the views number stayed at around 1,000 and the shares number stayed at around 50 the whole time. I’m certain those analytics were fake.) If they really wanted to be a homebase where their readers could find relevant content, they would only need to post the title, a little blurb, and a link to the articles, and allow their readers to be redirected to read those articles on their original sites. They did not need to copy and paste entire articles to their own site, which leads me to my second problem with their statement…
Copying and pasting someone’s entire article to your website, regardless of your intentions, violates that person’s rights as the creator of that content. I’ve noticed that many of my fellow WordPress poets have little tags at the end of each of their poems or at the bottom of their website to state that they are the copyright holders of the content. As a blog owner, you shouldn’t have to do that. When anyone posts content to their own blog, they are immediately the holder of the rights of that content. That doesn’t inherently mean that no one can take pieces of your content and use them. In this very blog post, I took and used screenshots from the site that stole my content, but what I did falls under Fair Use; I took content from another website to illustrate a point that I was making, I only used enough content to illustrate that point, I never claimed to be the creator of that *cough* stolen *cough* content, and I did not draw traffic away from their website by using it. Copying and pasting whole articles, even if you modify some of the wording, does not fall under Fair Use. It is illegal.
Lastly, I hate how unprofessional their reply was. They are a large website. I contacted them about a violation of my copyright. We are not on friendly terms. Their reply contains no greeting, informal language, and no apology. Their treatment of me was not okay at any point of this process. Their treatment of other content creators whose stolen content they have on their website is not okay. I am done with them, hopefully for forever.
Just to reiterate, if something similar has happened to you and you want my support or advice, feel free to reach out to me. You can reply here, email me via my contact page, or DM me on Instagram. I am more than happy to help you.