About two weeks ago, I learned that one of my best wheelchair articles had been illegaly copied and spread around the internet. I was stunned.
I had spent days researching an important article about wheelchair ramps. I even had two experts review it to make sure it offered quality information. Needless to say, I am very proud of my work. I was careful to write at the bottom of the article that the article is copyrighted and not to be used without permission.
Imagine my shock when I placed a line of my article into a search engine and found nearly 100 copies on the Internet in addition to my own. In seconds some people had simply copied and pasted my writing into their own websites, claiming ownership of my hard work!!!
Turned out that there were three people behind the copyright abuse, two were in the ramp building business and they were relatively easy to manage. A DMCA notice to the company with a copy to the Internet provider and they were quickly taken down. The third has been a nightmare.
A jerk with a bad website selling used wheelchairs on Ebay, copied my prize article and submitted it under a pen name via an article submission wizard. Like a cancer this thing has spread so far and wide, it is nearly impossible to stop. But I am trying and will not stop until I have taken them all down. I am contacting website owners and hosts and sending take down notices and slowly some of the better quality websites are responding.
But there have been two big surprises along the way.
First, the host of the offending Used Wheelchair website, Bluehost, has shown a surprising lack of interest in this matter. I have written to the Bluehost legal department asking them to close down the offending website. How can a reputable company be willing to host a website that is obviously stealing and spreading copyrighted content? Since my copyrighted material is not on their severs, but only links to their servers, Bluehost simply does not seem to care. Bluehost seems to be quite willing to offer its hosting services to an obvious copyright infringer.
Second, I have received very different responses from the search engines.
Bing: By far the best and most professional. After writing, I received a response from MSN DMCA agent the very next day asking me to clarify whether I was asking for the offending articles be removed from their search engine index. I wrote back to confirm that I was. They responded that their response time is 3 days. To my delight, they have all disappeared from Bing's search!!! GOOD JOB BING! GOOD JOB MSN!
Google: A week after writing to Google, no response at all except an auto generated email. Is anyone home? Does Google take copyright theft seriously? Hard to say.
Yahoo: Yahoo seems confused. First, they wrote me to tell me that none of the sites that had my copyrighted content was hosted on Yahoo servers. This is true. When I wrote back to ask if they could remove them from Yahoo search index, they wrote back and told me that my notice was incomplete. That was strange, because it was the same notice that I sent to MSN and they had no problem with it. I have sent a third message to Yahoo. Hopefully it will clear up the confusion. However, unlike Google at least Yahoo is responding and there is hope for progress.
Two messages to EBay, the source of revenue for the copyright thief have also resulted in disappointment. Confused Ebay customer service representative simply sent back a form letter about selling copyrighted products on Ebay, and how Ebay is not responsible for it. When I wrote back to clarify that I was not writing about copyrighted products but rather copyrighted content from one of their advertisers, I received another form response from Ebay concerning copyrighted products. Judging from the confused response, it appears that Ebay has little interest and no proceedure concerning copyright infringement.
My hat is off to MSN and Bing. They obviously take copyright abuse seriously and have a very professional procedure to deal with it. I wish it were so easy with all of the search engines and advertisers.
I am not sure how to protect myself from such copyright theft in the future. I have set up an alert for a sentence from each of my most important articles. My hope is that if someone copies it, I will learn about it immediately and hopefully be able to reach more quickly.
The sad thing is it seems that there is little to prevent thieves from stealing copyrighted content and claiming it as their own. If it happens, the only thing you can do is spend hours working to take it down. If the website's host is unwilling to lend a hand and the search engines are slow to respond, what will stop this copyright thief from simply stealing again?