Copyright and plagiarism – know the fact
I get at least three or four questions on this per week so hold tight, it’s copyright and plagiarism time.
We’ll take a brief look at:
- Being a victim of copyright
- Being accused of copyright (falsely)
If you are concerned about other people taking your content and simply copying and pasting it on their own websites then there is a handy tool that can detect copies of your text and what websites are using it. I often recommend this tool below as a first port of call when people contact me with copyright issues.
The site is Copyscape and they have a great free checking tool and also a paid version with enhanced real-time features. Take a look at https://www.copyscape.com. Investigate the various links on the site as they give some great advice on what course of action to take, such as:
- Preventing plagiarism
- Detecting plagiarism
- Responding to plagiarism
- Understanding your rights
Back to the site. All you do is enter the exact page you are concerned about on your website in the box provided. Next click go.
Ideally you are looking for a message saying: “No results were found for this page. Click below to try some other pages on your site”. If, on the other hand you see a list of URL’s then those are the likely suspects and have content similar to yours.
For fun, you can look up a website that has the Declaration of Independence on it. Copy and paste the URL (domain name in the address bar) and put it into Copyscape. It will come back with all the pages that have ‘copied’ that text. Of course, the Declaration of Independence will legitimately be on a lot of websites, but it proves the point.
The free version will show you 10 results and that may be enough as a small business owner to check if someone is copying your content. Then you can do your investigation.
I have advised clients in the past to check historical page versions of websites if a person or company claim they have had the material on their site before you. Use this site to prove your material was there first, http://web.archive.org/. This great little site shows your websites and pages in the past. Pages that no longer exist in many cases.
The Darker Side of Copyright Infringement
There is a dark flip side to copyright and that is scammers who contact you saying that they have found copyright material on your website that belongs to them. It is normally images and graphics they are referring to. The email goes on to say that if you settle out of court for £1,000 they will kindly drop the case. Very kind of them!
If you are a scammer and sending out 10,000 emails like this how many victims do you need to have a ‘good days work’. If you are genuinely in infringement you should receive a letter outlining the issue and proof which site the original works are shown. The letter will then ask you to remove the content.
Be careful and vigilant and always take legal advice in such matters. I am not qualified to give legal advice so I am simply warning you of the dangers out there and happy to provide some tools and websites so that you can make an informed decision. If in doubt, take legal advice.