I remember the first time one of my readers wrote me to say that she had come across a picture and recipe of mine on another website. I was so angry! Like other bloggers, I work very hard to create the content on this blog.
When you've had your content stolen it feels like someone's ripped your purse off your shoulder and is running down the street with it in their hands. You want Crocodile Dundee to pick up a tin can from your dropped grocery bag and nail the thief in the head with it.
Without a rough and tumble Australian crocodile wrestler to save the day, you need to do the hard part yourself.
Here's my five-step approach to finding and dealing with stolen web content:
- Find your stolen content online by using Reverse Image Search
- Decide if it's worth pursuing
- Draft a copyright infringement notice
- Report your stolen content to Google to have it removed
- Report your stolen content to Facebook
Use Reverse Image Search to Find Stolen Content
Reverse image search is the best method for finding your stolen images. Here's how you do it:
- Control-click (or right-click on a PC) on the image from your website, then click on “Copy Image Address.”
- Enter the copied image address into your Google search bar. Click “Search”, then “Search by Image.”
- That's it!
Note: don't be alarmed if you see a lot of websites that are using your image. Reverse Image Search pulls up all the websites, including legitimate sites, that have your photo on them. If you've submitted your photo to Foodgawker, it will show up here. If another blogger has used your image and linked to your recipe, that will also show up here.
Go through the list and click on any sites that look suspicious or that you don't recognize. Most of the time your image will have been used in a roundup, and it links back to your site. This is good!
Decide if it's worth reporting your stolen content
Once you use reverse image search and find that your content has been stolen, you may want to report it. There's no hard and fast rule about if it is worth your time reporting stolen content. Here's what I do:
If the website has copied all the images, text, and recipe:
I will send the website owners an email (see below for details on how to draft a copyright infringement letter) and tell them that the content must be removed by a specific date. I usually set the date for two days from when I send the email. If the stolen content has not been removed by the specified date, then I will report the stolen content to Google.
If the website has copied an image and recipe AND is using the website for commercial purposes (ads, etc.):
I will send an email to the owners, and then report the stolen content to Google in the same manner as above.
If the website has copied an image and recipe but does NOT appear to use the site for commercial purposes.
Some examples of this scenario would be if you found your recipe on a Library's web page, or a reference website for a particular vegetable – I've seen both!
In these cases, it is very likely that the website owner didn't know they were doing something wrong. When I find my recipes on sites like this, I sometimes send an email but have never reported it to Google.
You have to pick your battles.
If a website has stolen your content and there is no contact information on the site.
In this case, I always report the stolen content to Google.
How to Draft a Copyright Infringement Notice
Disclaimer: This is not meant to be legal advice, this is how I draft my copyright infringement notices.
- Write your letter in a firm, but professional tone.
- Be clear that your content is protected by copyright laws.
- Provide the URL of the content on their site and on yours.
- Give clear directions that they are to remove the content.
- Provide a date that you expect the content removed by.
- Let them know what your course of action will be should they not remove the content.
I also like to include directions about how they can use my content in an appropriate way. I let them know that they can purchase non-exclusive rights to use the recipe and image or that they can remove the recipe, link to the original recipe and continue to use the image on their site.
How to Report Stolen Content to Google
Reporting your stolen content to Google is a very simple and easy process. To submit a legal request you have to fill out a short form detailing what content belongs to you and give the URL of the content on your site, and the content on the site that has stolen it.
If Google finds that the content is violating copyright law, they will remove it from the offending website.
How to Report Stolen Content to Facebook
Sometimes you'll find your content has been stolen by someone on Facebook, who is passing it off as their own. I've seen many of my full recipes and images posted to Facebook pages belonging to faux recipe bloggers, often with huge followings.
If I find stolen content on Facebook I will follow the same protocol as I would if I found the stolen content on Google, only I'll message through Facebook. If the stolen content is not removed, then I will report it.
Like Google, Facebook also takes copyright infringement seriously and will remove and will quickly remove any stolen content.