Photo credit elhombredenegro. License by Creative Commons.
Has this ever happened to you? You’ve spent hours creating the perfect blog post. You have the perfect picture, perfectly cropped, with the perfect lighting. Everything is perfect! You post it to your blog and *sigh* as you bask in the glow of the wonderfully glorious perfection that is your latest blog post.
Then, a few days later, while surfing Pinterest, you see your picture. “Cool!” you think, “Someone pinned my post!” However, when you check it out, you see that the pin is actually linked to a different blog, where your picture and your content have been posted without your permission and without even a link back or any acknowledgement whatsoever!
&!#$#% @#!&*@!# $#%@#!
Ok. Now that you got THAT our of your system, what’s next? What, exactly, can you do about this situation? What should you do? Well, there are a lot of things you can do, some are probably better than others, depending on the circumstances. The real answer depends a lot on what you want to accomplish and how much time and money you’re willing to invest. Here are a few suggestions, in ascending order as to escalating time and money.
- Rant and Rail. You may decide to take to the Internet and start venting your frustration to your favorite groups and friends. While this may help you blow off some steam, don’t let your anger get you into trouble. Don’t say something in a very public (or even not so public forum) that you’ll regret later. Sure, you’ll feel better if you scream and shout but remember, the Internet never forgets. The words you post in anger today may come back to haunt you tomorrow. Certainly, you can let others know about the situation and solicit their input because they may have good ideas. Just don’t let your temper overpower your brain. Keep cool, keep collected, and take positive steps to resolve the situation.
- Just Let it Go. Ok. So let’s be real. It is highly unlikely that you’re willing to pour your heart and soul into a blog post and then just shrug it off when someone steals it from you and uses it as their own. Not likely, but it is an option. If you don’t want to get bogged down in the time drain that comes with policing your content, you can always walk away. However, if you’re blogging for dollars, you know that walking away is probably not an option.
- Contact the “Bad Guy.” Sometimes, the person that stole your content just doesn’t understand the law. They may not know that just because something is on the Internet, is isn’t free to use. While increasingly rare, it may be possible to get your stolen content removed if you just let the other person know that taking your stuff is wrong. Be polite, but be firm. You can explain the basics of copyright law and help them understand that taking your content is not only a bad thing, it’s illegal. You can learn more about basic copyright issues in this post.
- Contact the ISP or File a DMCA Takedown Notice. In many cases, the Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) that hosts the stolen content will cooperate with you and remove any content that was wrongfully posted. This can be a quick and relatively easy solution. All major ISPs will have a process that you can follow. Sometimes it’s a simple, online, fill-in-the-blanks kind of thing. In some cases, you may need to prepare and file a formal takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). The cool thing about the DMCA process is that you will usually get results in a few days and it won’t cost you any money, if you do it properly. Sweet, amiright? For more about the DMCA, check out this post.
- Contact a Lawyer. This is always an option, at any time. However, you should be prepared to shell out some bucks if you want professional help. Most experienced lawyers who understand the nuances of copyright law are not cheap. You can expect to pay $250 – $500 per hour to get quality representation. That being said, don’t be afraid to shop around to find the right attorney. You don’t want the cheapest lawyer out there, but you can find some who regularly work with bloggers and won’t charge you an arm and a leg. Some lawyers (like me) will even offer a free initial consultation to help you understand your options and your costs. A letter from an attorney is usually much more persuasive than something you would write yourself. However, if the bad guy is simply non-responsive and nothing else seems to work, a lawyer may be your best bet.
Ultimately, if you post content on the Internet, someone will steal something from you. Count on it. Plan ahead, learn your options, and be prepared to take action not if, but when, it happens to you.
Remember – Be Smart. Be Legal.
Disclaimer – Yes, I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer. All information in this post is provided for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice for any person or specific situation.