If you’re a website owner, you probably know scrapers may try to copy and publish your content illegally for their own benefit. But if you bought content for your site instead of writing it yourself, have you asked where that material came from? Would you know if a vendor gave you or sold you scraped information? Hiring a trustworthy writer, designer, developer or creative team can help you protect your online reputation and your website’s ranking in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
The types of people and businesses who sell scraped content might surprise you, such as a website design business pasting chunks of material found on the Internet into new sites with minimal changes to reduce package prices. Google and other search engines may penalize duplicate content, and search engine algorithms are smart and ever-changing, watching for markers to indicate ownership and uniqueness. Even if someone’s conscience doesn’t recognize a copyright, changing a title or moving a few words around won’t satisfy those algorithms.
I work with designers, developers, writers and other creatives who value originality in all its forms, words and images, but many of my colleagues have experienced people and “bots” stealing their work. A website owner may believe that attribution – giving the original author a byline or other credit – makes it okay to repurpose large amounts of someone else’s material without permission and for a profit. After auditing one site at a client’s request, I suggested the owner speak with an attorney about copyright law and the boundaries of Fair Use.
If you’re wondering whether someone has lifted your words for an unauthorized use (or sold you potentially stolen content), use Google to search for unusual phrases or sentences from your document, website, etc. A plagiarism detection tool such as Copyscape can check entire web pages.
Artists inspire each other, but true inspiration fuels new creative expression, not imitation. You’ll find differences in the way three reporters or bloggers write about the same news story because the authors are unique; so is your business. As a website owner, using original content written by you or just for you is always the best method for filling your pages.
Nothing in this post or on my website constitutes legal advice. I’m not an attorney. If you have questions about copyright enforceability, Fair Use or other legal topics, please consult one.