Do You know When Someone Is Stealing From Your Site?

Yesterday morning I was very disturbed when I awoke.  As usual one of my first stops for the day is checking my Blackberry to see if there is any new email emergencies from my clients that I need to address.  Luckily nobody broke anything over New Years.  But, I did notice 3 new emails in my inbox that were showing “New Comments” on old blog posts.  Now, this isn’t uncommon to get comments on old posts, but when I opened them up I noticed they were all pingbacks.

Getting pingbacks is not that uncommon either as people from time to time refer back to our blog posts and when they link to them on our WordPress site, we get a notification.  But, when there were three that all were used in my recent post predicting Trends for 2011, I knew something was up.  So, I followed the pingback which directed me to a scraper site that is just feeding in featured posts on ActiveRain.  The person feeding these posts only let like 10 show at a time and have it set that the others cannot be viewed.  Unless you go in & look at their feed, then you can find plenty more.

There are zero posts of original content on the site.  Also, there is no attribution as to where the stuff comes from.  This person is blatantly stealing content from hundreds of people.  What is even worse, (if it could get any) they are using a trademarked word their domain.  The term REALTOR® is trademarked by the National Association of REALTORS®.  I know that many people have tried contacting this person to remove the content which no avail.  Hopefully NAR will soon step in as well for the violation and between them & all the idividual complaints the site will be shut down soon.

I thought about adding a link over to the scraper site, but I don’t want to help their business by linking to them or driving traffic their way.  The irony of the site is that it is built to sell WordPress Sites to Real Estate Agents.  I think if you are going to try & sell a product to a consumer you should start by generating your own unique content and not stealing from others.  No matter how sneakily you try to do it, you will be found.  Also, using others content will not help you a bit with SEO rankings.  As I have done more investigating I have found they actually have several different sites set up all on a .io type of domain.

Each of his sites seem to be some sort of scam.  The one I clicked on took me to an app they designed that will automatically email your boss an excuse when you are late for work and miss a call from your boss because you are still sleeping.  Sounds like the type of person I would want to hire to work with… This is just another reason why it is imperative to be monitoring your online presence so that you are not a Loser. Also, pay closer attention to your trackbacks & pingbacks to your site, you never know who may be stealing your content.

Jeremy Blanton

Jeremy Blanton is the Co-Founder of 210 Consulting- Social Media Advisors. He is a social media speaker who shares with thousands of people each year on things like how to use Facebook for Business, Blogging, and How to use Twitter.

When he is not coaching or speaking, he spends most of his time working on Custom WordPress Sites for his clients.

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  • Totally thanks for the post. If you saw http://www.ephman.com you’d know why NOBODY would want to steal from Ephman. And have no fear Ephman will not steal from you!

    shamless plug time: Visit http://www.ephman.com all ad $$ is donated to help find a cure for melanoma cancer. Just visit this crazy blog and you’ve donated! easy right?
    Reply

  • Anonymous

    Your ‘loser’ link has an extra http prefix. FYI. Correct Link: http://210consulting.com/2010/08/26/are-you-a-social-media-loser/

  • Thanks! Just corrected that! Have an awesome New Year!

  • Anonymous

    One of the most troubling stories I’ve heard is of a friend’s blog which was stolen and then posted on an article site for sale. The author had posted articles on the site for sale regularly, but the thief beat him to punch this time. Then the site refused to pull the article and froze his account because he had tried to post a duplicate after the thief had posted his stolen article. The article included his name as the author but the site asserted the thief posted it first. Now he has to demonstrate that he is the author. With nothing but WordPress timestamps which can be changed he’s at a loss.
    This could lead one to think about pulling the RSS feed or changing it summary only.
    Chris

  • Maybe I am not following. These guys are taking excerpts of your content and linking back to you. Isn;t this one of the beauties of blogging? Isn;t the pingback considered attribution?

  • It’s pretty bad when others have to use your stuff as their own. I mean
    there are plenty of ways to create your own content. Why spend time
    stealing others ideas. You know it will catch up to you at some point!

  • No, they are taking my entire article, placing it on their site as their own
    original content. They didn’t change the links in it, but they are calling
    my content as their own original work.

  • What’s even worse news is that these sites are winning. Jeff Atwood has a very good, albeit disturbing, article today titled “Trouble in the House of Google.” He talks about how these content scrapers are outranking StackOverflow for their own content.

  • Because they are able to scrape so much content they are starting to produce
    more pages to be indexed and in turn starting to outrank sites which is
    terrible!

  • Bob Eastman

    Jeremy, Thanks for writing this timely article. This unfortunately is a continual problem. The pingback method is one good way of detecting thefts of intellectual property (IP). I have also set up Google Alerts of a key phrase in an article. I wrote of this issue some time ago at my personal website, Netting it Out: “Steal This Blog Content”, http://nettingitout.com/2010/04/27/steal-this-blog-content/.

  • Bob, Like you I have those in place. That’s what the article about not
    being a loser is all about. I have them for my name, my brand, my twitter
    handle, & several other key phrases and I watch them closely.

  • Well that ain;t right. But I am curious how you got a pingback? In order to get a pingback, your URL needs to be mentioned.

  • Very disturbing, but sadly not surprising. You make a great point in that if they are trying to “sell” a product to agents, how do they intend to do that with stolen content?? I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do business with someone less than transparent in their intentions.

  • Sigh, I wish this wasn’t such a common problem. There is a site in Argentina that has been copying my blog posts for years, with no attribution. I left a comment on the site but they didn’t respond. The latest culprit is a Web design firm in Virginia that is copying the posts to their blog. They are linking to me at the bottom, so I suspect this is more a matter of ignorance regarding copyright and I’ve not yet called them to task about it. (Though of course in this business, they should know better. )

    As Bob mentioned, Google alerts on keywords or even your post titles are a good way to track these. You can also set up an RSS feeed by running similar searches on Google Blog search.

    To make it easier to find these, I’d also recommend including links to your site in various places in your posts. I have mine set up so that the headline links to the original post and I sometimes include links to other posts I’ve written in the text. Links to images also count. (Run a blog search on links to your domain as a way to find these.)

    Scrapers may often remove the headline link but they don’t always get rid of the links w/in the text, so this can help.

    As to how to stop them, who knows? Sometimes a politely worded e-mail that gently advises them on copyright law and blogging etiquette will get them to change their tactics. Others just don’t care. But if one has been blogging consistently, one should be able to prove originality not just on time-stamps but on the tone and style of writing. (If you share via social media, your Twitter, Facebook and other timestamps also count.) The layout can also help. Content scrapers don’t always use the same CSS styles when repurposing content. I’ve noticed that my stuff often looks wobbly when republished elsewhere because the pictures aren’t in the right places. If one were to take it to court I think such nuances would probably be persuasive. (Though I’m not an attorney so this can’t be taken as legal counsel.)

    http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/ also has a lot of good information on this topic. I usually include a link to their site in my e-mail requests for take-downs.

  • My URL’s were used in the post as they copied/pasted my entire post over.

  • It’s sad that they try to position themself as an expert by just sharing everyone else’s content.

  • If I wanted to take this to court it would be pretty easy since it has my links throughout and even my custom wordpress site widget at the bottom.

  • That’s good to know that you are in good shape in terms of proving ownership. The tricky bit is deciding whether or not it is worth the battle. I guess it depends on how much damage the plagiarism causes. I’ve never gone that route because I don’t see my copier’s taking away revenue or reputation, but one can imagine circumstances that would be different.

  • Nothing worse then finding your content in places it doesn’t belong. The culprit in this case has apparently been doing this for some time, and always from the AR Dash – I wonder what it would take for AR to block their RSS feed to this particular domain, but that could be the easiest way to deal with this one.
    Of course it won’t address so many others who for one reason or another end up with content they don’t own on their sites…

  • Miriam

    I am just curious, did you call this individual and discuss this with them just in case you are misinterpreting or assuming about what it is they are doing?

  • I believe NAR is actually going to handle this after the email I received from their trademark violation office today.

  • I would have but there was no contact number on the site. Others have emailed them with zero response or corrections on their actions.

  • Jeremy – This is disgusting. I think this person is an expert in something though….an expert in PLAGIARISM. Glad to hear NAR may be looking into this.

  • Miriam

    Looked up in WHOIS? there is always a way to find someone.

  • I found the persons name. However from other that contacted him and got nowhere I figured it wouldn’t matter. Besides, NAR has a handle on this issue.

  • Jeremy – I don’t see what the NAR would possibly go after them for, except for copyright infringement on their trademark of Realtor as used in the domain. Don’t see why NAR would be fighting for those whose content got stolen. On the other hand, if the NAR lobby is powerful enough to fight these battles for us little people, maybe I ought to join. Still cheaper than hiring an attorney.

  • Actually, my thought is this. Hopefully they will get them to shut down the
    domain. As for the content scraping, there really isn’t a whole bunch anyone
    can do to stop someone. Some don’t care what they do to make an extra buck.

  • Miriam

    Jeremy, NAR has a handle on this issue? What do you mean exactly…copyright infringement? Do you have specific information that NAR is looking into this particular site? Did you report them and believe they will do something about it? NAR has a handle??

  • The persons domain uses Realtor in it which is a trademark violation. They will require them to shut it off.

  • Miriam

    Jeremy, here is a dose of reality….NAR doesn’t have a handle on any copyright infringement issues, not at all. Four years ago I had a go around with them about a Broker in New York who is illegally using the word REALTOR® in their URL…..it is still there four years later. Again, what do you mean NAR has a handle on this?

  • I think trying to get NAR to go after thieves just because it’s possibly convenient is about the same as locking up a mob boss with blood of a dozen people on his hands for tax evasion. Similar logic here, at least in my opinion.

  • Thanks!