When Someone Steals Your Work

The first time I had someone steal my work was when I was eight years old. I had written a poem, and my teacher read it for my class and then posted it on the bulletin board. One of my friends, Angela B., made fun of me for writing a “sissy poem.”

A few weeks later, I went to her house to play and was shocked to see my poem hanging on her bedroom wall, in a frame, with her name on it. I said, “That’s my poem! What are you doing?” She shrugged like it was no big deal, and then told me not to tell because her mom was so proud of her for writing it.
But she didn’t write it.

As an eight year old, I shrugged it off. But it’s happened again and again. And while anyone can plagiarize, unfortunately stealing someone’s writing happens all too often on the Web. When you write for the Internet in any fashion (blog, online column, how-to articles), there will be a point when someone will steal your work. After you get over the initial shock, you will likely get angry. And you should. There is no reason in today’s world why someone should steal an article from the Internet, put their name on it, and put it on their website. Why on earth do people think that because something is on the Web, it’s there’s for the taking.

There are even fools that put your feed in full on their site, and claim that it’s okay because it’s your feed.

It isn’t okay. Not at all.

If someone is putting your article on their site in full, it’s stealing plain and simple.

So what do you do when someone steals your work? Here are the steps you can take:

  1. Contact the author and send a cease and desist letter. I have a sample you can use. Put your links and information in the letter, and send it via email to the author or website owner. I always try to start with the author, and if I can’t get an answer or can’t contact them, I move on to the website owner.
  2. After a day (and it should only take a day) check back with the website to make sure the stolen content is removed. If it isn’t, contact them again.
  3. If the website owner contacts you back and asks you prove that the article is yours, find the website host, and send the cease and desist to them. (Look up the website owner on WhoIs.) You don’t need to prove you’re the owner of the article again. (You already proved it with the cease and desist letter.)
  4. If the website owner still refuses to take the content down, start contacting search engines. Here are some links that may help:
    Yahoo Copyright and Intellectual Property Statement

    Google’s Copyright Infringement Policy
  5. Be diligent. Don’t let someone take your work.

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