So someone has stolen your blog content. Learn what a DMCA takedown notice is, how to do it, and get the stolen content legally removed.
So you have been blogging for a few months. Or even a few years. You've been working hard, networking, really digging in, and you finally have caught a unicorn post.
You know, a post that really hit it off in the SEO department. Or went viral on Pinterest and for some reason has great staying power. And boy, is it your bread and butter when it comes to ad revenue.
Maybe you're lucky and you have quite a few unicorn posts. They're super popular, or incredibly unique. And the traffic and readers they bring in are great.
Then, as you're on Pinterest, you see a familiar photo in a pin. Only, it's not your pin. but it is your photo! And it's going right to a website page that blatantly stole your images, your writing, and your entire recipe.
In fact, you dive a little more into Pinterest, looking up your specific, precious, unique unicorn you find dozens and dozens of phony pins going to websites that have stolen your images, your recipes, and your readers.
And that means that your special unicorn has been stolen. That thief is taking your traffic, your readers, your property, and your rightful paycheck.
If you're anything like me, you really get mad that someone has taken your hard work, your dedication and they're making money off it.
But it's the internet, what can you do?
Well, actually, a lot.
On my Instagram I sometimes blast some of the most audacious thieves on my IG Stories. It's all in good fun, but it's also to get this conversation started. Because whenever I do this and show me dropping DMCA takedowns on these websites, I get a ton of DMs asking the same things:
"Omg, people have been stealing my stuff, too! How do I get them to stop?"
"How horrible, people are so evil! Why should I even start if people will just take my content?"
"Um...so what's a DMCA?"
I figured I would give y'all a permanent resource to go to when you see me acting goofy dropping notices on IG to Cardi B's 'Money'.
Well first, let me cover my butt by saying I'm not a lawyer, and I can't give legal advice. But I can tell you what I know and hope that it helps you.
So let's do a little diving into the behind the scenes of blogging: finding and destroying thieves with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or the DMCA.
What is the DMCA?
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects the digital copyrights of people online, including intellectual property of bloggers. This actually started to protect musicians who's music was being illegally pirated on this new fancy thing called the world wide web in the late nineties.
How to Cover Your Own Behind
When you take a photo, post it online, or write a recipe on your blog, it's considered copyrighted the moment you hit publish. You own it, pure and simple. But let's make sure that people know what you expect from them as they gaze on your delicious lemon bars and want to share it on their site, whether nefarious.
In this section, I blatantly spell out what you can and what you cannot do with content from Sweet Tea and Thyme.
You can use my content if I give you express written permission (I count emails only as written permission, unless I have a direct DM to my IG because I personally run it), if you link to my site, you must give clear instruction on coming back to my site. And you can not try to pull a loophole by 'excerpting' almost all of my post and full recipe. That's not cute. You can only excerpt up to 240 characters, like Twitter, and clearly link back to my site.
Wait, how do I even find that someone stole my property?
Plenty of times, people will link back to you. Often times people just think the internet is fair game.
But, like that officer that pulled you over when you were 17 said, ignorance of the law isn't an excuse for breaking it. And more than likely, they're making money for copy and pasting your property onto their site.
Like I said earlier, you'll find your images, but they won't be linking back to your site. Luckily, Pinterest makes it super easy to takedown and strike the offender's account.
Google Reverse Image Search
This one is my favorite. Put your image in the search engine and google will give you all the sites using the image. So easy.
Word of Mouth
In blogging groups and food groups on Facebook, we let each other know if we find scraper sites all the time. Some sites are just 100% pure stolen content and we tag each other in posts to get the word out.
The DMCA Takedown Notice
So now you find that someone stole your stuff. What does a takedown notice even do?
Well, it doesn't take the thief's nose and smush it in their wrongdoing. It actually is sent to their host or platform, think WordPress or GoDaddy, and tells them that they are legally liable to take that infringed property of yours down or possibly face consequences. Yikes.
I'm sure no thieving website is important enough to WordPress to take that bullet for them.
What about legal copyrights?
You can legally copyright (as in taking the extra copyright steps in the US legal system) your blog. It will only cover what you have published up til you have that copyright, not what you will write later on. You can update that copyright as much as you want, and it gives you more legal protection against infringement in the US. Which, honestly, if you're a bigger blogger or a blogger who can afford it, I would say definitely do.
I remember a few years ago a blogger created a technique for a very unique recipe that was stolen by a big food and drink company as content (stole the recipe, had someone else make it as content). And while the food blogosphere was in uproar, there wasn't much she could do. If she had a US copyright on it, she could've taken them to court since they were a US company.
Knowledge is power, peoples.
Is it worth it?
Some bloggers don't bother writing out DMCA takedowns. Some say it takes to long, some say there's no point, some say it's not worth it. But when you're a small blogger, that precious money making unicorn of yours means a lot. Especially if it's your only one or one of a few.
Nowadays, websites and platforms have made it incredibly easy to drop a DMCA notice in just a couple minutes. And it doesn't cost one red cent. Some sites, like Pinterest, actually place strikes against the account of the (found guilty) offender, and with enough strikes their account is banned. Boom.
Let's take 'em down!
Here are the links to the DMCA notice forms on popular social media sites and blogging platforms:
Instagram | https://help.instagram.com/contact/391888707564685 Tip: You need to provide the URL where the stolen content appears, as well as a link back to your original recipe, so do this on your computer.
Twitter | https://support.twitter.com/forms/dmca
WordPress | http://automattic.com/dmca-notice/
Tumblr | https://www.tumblr.com/dmca
If the website isn't on any of those...
This is the part that takes more time. Is it worth it? That's up to you. Honestly, I live by the motto drop no coins so I'm making sure every single cent I deserve is dropped in my pocket. Just saying.
Step 1: Hosting company – use Who Is to find out the hosting company of the website since this is who the takedown notice will go to.
Step 2: Create a DMCA takedown notice using a DMCA generator.
Step 3: Send the takedown notice to the hosting company and wait for that glorious email of "It's taken care of."
Get those coins, sis. And check out the other posts I've written for blogging resources here.
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Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.