The November 2010 meltdown and subsequent demise of Cooks Source over accusations of plagiarism is just one example of what happens when Internet copyright infringement is brought to light. Even China, notorious for lax enforcement of intellectual property laws, currently has a major infringement case before its supreme court.
Why is this important to you? According to Wordtracker, with Google’s most recent Panda update, some sites’ web rankings have fallen because those sites contain duplicate content. Moreover, these updates are part of Google’s effort to promote high-quality content on the Internet. Plagiarism is a serious threat to this goal, and reposting original content without consent is essentially the definition of plagiarism.
Here’s what you can do to protect the content on your website:
- Stay current. Copying without permission violates the Berne convention and Title 17 of the United States Code and, since April 1, 1989, an explicit and visual copyright protection notice on each webpage has been unnecessary. Visit the US Copyright Office’s website to get the basics.
- Be vigilant. Designate someone in your company to do what teachers routinely do: use a plagiarism checking service or take the do-it-yourself approach by using the search engines to check for duplicate phrases. Simply choose a unique sentence, put it in quotes for exact match results, and see what shows up.
- Do your homework. When you do find exact matches, check out the websites listed on the SERP. You should see your own pages, but you need to check the other sites to see if they are using your content within fair-use parameters. If you discover your content has been cut-and-pasted …
- Take action. Contact the offending site and politely ask them to remove the plagiarized content. If they fail to act within a reasonable period of time, have your company’s lawyer draft a letter and send it to the website’s owner and its ISP.
- Guard thy repose. Don’t rely on cheaters to know the law. While you don’t legally need that little symbol – © – adding it with a strong statement improves your position if you do end up in court.
The free exchange of ideas and information is the best part of digital age. Search Engines like Google are doing what they can to put the most relevant information in front of users, but making sure the web contains great content while protecting intellectual property is really up to each of us.
If your site is in need of high-quality, original content, EVG can help with that. Ask us!
Kathleen Gossman – EVG Editor