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Internet content theft is rampant. Prevention is nearly impossible, but there are steps to control it, and perhaps even turn it to your advantage.

I have a blog on blogger.com and every time i make a post the Post ends up on a couple different web sites,like a carbon copy. How do i prevent/stop this from happening. I've tried everything to stop the indexing/leeching but nothing works,do you have any ideas? Thank You for your time.

I'm not defending them, but now you'll understand how the record companies feel. What you're experiencing is a copyright violation and theft, pure and simple.

And for what it's worth, I feel your pain.

The short answer is that you can't stop it. Not entirely. However we can reduce it somewhat, and depending on the method being used to steal the content, we can even put it to use - sort of.

Theft occurs primary two ways: RSS feeds, and content scraping.

Content scraping is pretty much what it sounds like: software (or humans) do the equivalent of a copy/paste of your content into their blog. There's actually little that can be done technically to prevent it.

You can detect it, though, using services like CopyScape, Google Alerts, or even a periodic search of phrases you know appear on your own posts. Once you do find instances of your copied material, you can do things like posting a comment indicating that it's been stolen and where from, or even submitting an official DMCA take-down notice to the hosting site or ISP. If the site runs AdSense, reporting the site to Google is also often an appropriate step.

But that's really about all you can do. If your text is available on the internet, it's been copied.

(One side note: you can instruct "good players" not to archive your content using instructions placed in a "robots.txt" file. Unfortunately those already breaking the law by copying your content aren't likely to follow the rules here either.)

"... if you want to retain some semblance of control over what you publish on the internet you simply cannot publish the full content in an RSS feed."

What a lot of people forget about are RSS feeds. RSS feeds make all or a portion of each entry you post available for people to subscribe to using an RSS reader. Chances are your blogging software is already producing an RSS feed, even if you didn't tell it to.

The nice thing about RSS feeds is that they're very easy for software tools to read, parse, and act on. That means they're an easy, structured way to have your content appear in other places you want, like people's RSS readers. The problem with RSS feeds it that they're an easy way to have your content appear in places you don't want, like the blogs and web sites of content thieves.

Naturally one solution is to turn off the RSS feed in your blogging software. I don't recommend this.

There is an ongoing debate in the blogging and tech community as to whether RSS feeds should contain the full content of each post you make on your blog, or only a part requiring that the reader click-through to your web site to read the rest. In my opinion the answer is obvious: if you want to retain some semblance of control over what you publish on the internet you simply cannot publish the full content in an RSS feed.

And that is my solution of choice: I've altered the RSS feed template in my blogging software to only include the first few paragraphs of each article, with a link back to the full article on my site. As a result the only place you should be able to read this paragraph is on my site.

I've gone so far as to actually tailor the template a little with the expectation that it will be republished. I've also adjusted my Terms and Conditions to explicitly allow the RSS feed to be republished as long as all the links back to my site are preserved.

Modifying your RSS feed may be easy or hard, depending on the blogging software or content management system you're using. If you care about content theft at all, I recommend you review your options.

Article C3159 - September 25, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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5 Comments
Chris
September 25, 2007 12:31 PM

The internet should be a free source of information... If you post it on the net, expect it to be copied over and over again no matter what extent you go through to protect the information.. You should probably just stop trying...

Sam
October 6, 2007 12:08 AM

I'm probably not too far from agreeing with the above post. But I've noticed on Snopes.com, they have text that won't allow me to highlight (i.e. it can't be copied as text)(I like to highlight when I'm reading so that when I scroll, I can maintain my place).
I don't know how they do it, but I thought I'd mention it.

Mark
April 2, 2009 1:24 AM

I have a blog about Malta and firstly it's not an easy task to generate quality content. Once it's online its very important to protect it somehow too. I mainly use Google Alerts, since CopyScape is not free.

John Daly
September 15, 2010 9:11 PM

Where can one find the feature to turn this on in my wordpress blog?

Jou Baur
September 28, 2010 12:19 PM

Yeah, I've noticed that too on Snopes.com.
How do they do that?
Someone told me they post a clear layer over it.
Does that make sense?

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