How to protect your online content
In this digital age, intellectual property is becoming a very valuable currency. Especially when it relates to online content. Look at this scenario, you spend hours writing a funny and interesting short story, you publish it online on your blog/website, it starts to get traffic to your blog and you hope to use the increase in traffic to try to get people to advertise on your blog/website. Suddenly after a week or so, you realise that you are not seeing as much traffic on the blog, you try to find out why by doing a google search of your short story, and then lo and behold – your short story has been published on another blog(s), so the number of people reading your short story hasn’t really reduced, what has happened is that they are also reading it on other blogs, and therefore those blogs are using your content to steal potential viewers on your website, and are reducing your ability to monetise the content you created.
The above scenario is one which the average Nigerian blogger is familiar with, and sadly it happens all too often, and that is why we have written this post – in order to provide a guide for online content creators who are constantly having to deal with content theft. This includes blog writers, graphics illustrators, and musicians.
Before we decided to write this article, we actually tested out this process. As a provider of legal information on diverse topics in Nigeria, our platform has been the target of online content theft many times, and so we created this process which we are sharing with you in order to deal with the culprits who targeted our platform. We had a 100% success on this, dealing with over 1,000 issues of content theft. So, just know that this works, we are a testimony to that fact.
Step 1 –
Find out if your content is being stolen online. The easiest way to do this is to copy and paste a section of your article in the Google search bar, and conduct a Google search. If your content is a graphic, you can do a Google image search, if the content is a song, you can do a Google search of the name of the song, or some of the lyrics.
Step 2 –
If the search you conduct identifies some blogs, websites which are hosting your content without authority from you, then the process starts in earnest. You need to identify all the websites. Make a note of the date it was published, and were possible, make a note of the author.
Step 3 –
The next steps is to preserve the evidence. Take a digital picture of the offending content using a service like the ‘Wayback machine’ – so you can preserve the ‘evidence’. This is basically you creating some form of documentation which confirms that your content was indeed being used without your authority and consent. Sometimes when contacted by the original content owner, a content thief will quickly take down the offending content and claim that they never had the content posted on their website. By taking a digital picture you are able to counter any such claim. Taking a digital picture is also very helpful if you intend to claim some form of financial compensation.
Step 4 –
The next step is to identify the culprit. Try to put a name/identity to the person behind the website. The best way to do this is to do a ‘who-is’ search to determine who the registered owner of the domain is. You can conduct a ‘who-is’ search here.
Step 5 –
Once you know who the owner of the domain is, you will need to make initial contact by sending an email with a ‘cease and desist’ letter. The key things to cover in the letter – specifically stating that you are the owner of the intellectual property, that you are aware your rights have been infringed on by the content being published without consent on their website/blog, and that you are requesting they remove this immediately. It would be great if you included a link to the original content on your own website/platform, and then a link to the offending content.
Step 6 –
If there is no response to the letter sent out in Step 5, or there is an unsatisfactory response, then you should conduct a web host search. Please note this is different from a domain name search. With a web host search you are trying to determine where the domain is being hosted. You can conduct a web host search here. Once you identify who the web host is, then send them an email with a Takedown letter. In this letter you are basically informing the host that your content is being infringed on by a website hosted on their platform, and if the website is not taken down, the website host will be liable for any damages that arise from the breach of your intellectual property rights. At this stage, most web hosts will take down the website because they do not want any liability for intellectual property rights infringement.
Step 7 –
Once the content has been removed (or the website has been taken down), the next step is to determine whether to ask for financial compensation from the content infringer. If the person/website benefited immensely from illegally using your content or unauthorised use was not limited to just one or two instances, but was on a massive scale, then consider requesting compensation from the infringer by threatening litigation.
Step 8 –
Litigation. This should only ever be used as a last resort, not only because it is expensive and time consuming, but also in most cases of one-off content infringement, it is not a viable step to decide to sue. As we mentioned, earlier we had a 100% rate on all our letters, the majority being taken down by step 5, but a few of them got to step 6. We never got to step 7 and 8 however, it was never worth it and by then they had complied.
And there you have it, 8 steps to stop online content theft. We hope you find it useful.
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We hope you have found this information helpful. Please note that this information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. This answer is not intended to substitute for the advice of a qualified lawyer. If you require legal advice, please consult with a qualified lawyer.