How do you know if someone is copying your content?
We’re not quite at the stage where every piece of content produced has a unique digital identity that allows its usage to be tracked around the globe. If people are copying your content for internal (usually business) purposes it’s particularly hard to track. But here are some signs to consider:
- Sources of web traffic: if your content’s online, you may find your website getting direct visits from unexpected sources (such as company intranets) to specific articles, suggesting that they may have been copied and reposted for corporate use. Keep an eye on your web analytics, and delve into unexpected spikes of traffic.
- Search for unique sentences: copy an original sentence from one of your stories, put it into a search engine in inverted commas, and see if it’s repeated anywhere else. This is a simple technique that can reveal if your articles are being copied – either manually or in automatic news feeds – or quoted and commented on (which may well be a good thing…). Use Google image search to check duplication of images.
- Use web tools: this article on internet content theft from internet marketing company HubSpot lists a number of tools such as Copyscape and Topsy that can help you track your content, as well as more general advice for online authors. It refers to US law, but the principles are very similar in the UK.
NLA have run copyright infringement monitoring services for some newspapers which show just how widespread infringement can be. Read more on the NLA blog here.
How to stop your content being copied?
Do bear in mind the pros of copying as well as the cons. If your content is attributed to you, you may benefit from it reaching a wider audience. If it contains links to other articles on your site, you may be getting increased web traffic. The internet, after all, is based on the principles of information sharing and linking.
But if you really want to control the distribution of your material, here are some techniques to make copying harder – not impossible – but a bit more inconvenient.
- Display a copyright notice. As we discussed in our post on copyright and copying, it’s not necessary to include a (c) mark against your work for it to be covered by copyright, but displaying one (correctly dated) helps suggest that you are a publisher who understands the value of your content.
- Prevent easy copying online. Disable ‘right-click’ functionality on your website (search for this online and you’ll find snippets of code you can embed into your website), or publish into a PDF or a magazine application (Issuu and Yudu are the most popular among our magazine publishers).
- Ensure that you’ve set up Google authorship and publisher tools – although these won’t prevent your content from being copied, they establish your contributors and titles as the original source of the work. You can read more online, for example at vervesearch.com.
What to do if someone is copying your content without permission?
If your content is being copied and passed off as someone else’s work, then you have a clear case of plagiarism, and can ask for the content to be removed (if online) or apologies to be issued. You could even seek damages via the courts, though this is expensive and time consuming.
If your content is being shared or copied for commercial use, then you can:
- Negotiate an agreement directly for syndication or licensing of your content, or
- Direct the copier to a media licensing agency such as us at NLA media access or the CLA. As part of a typical licensing agreement, a copier can pay a backdated fee to cover any copies they may have made over a term of up to 6 years. Do ensure you have a relationship yourself with the licensing agency to allow your titles to be offered as part of their content portfolio.
Finally, remember that where you publish online (or indeed offline), and encourage sharing by messages to ‘pass on this copy’ or displaying social media sharing tools, then you ARE giving your permission for your content to be shared and redistributed.
If you have any questions about managing copyright and copying of your work, then do let us know. And if you’re not yet signed up to collect royalties for licensing of your magazine content, please fill in the form on the right.