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Do you find others’ posts inspiring and want to be like them? Me too! I definitely have my blogging idols. But what is the difference between learning from others, wanting to succeed, gathering ideas, and finding inspiration versus stealing blog content?
I recently had a copycat book blogger. She rewrote a chunk of my blog content (and others) across her site. Many posts were very personal and unique to me and my voice. She admitted pulling from my website and others in my community but only removed one offending article. I sent a Cease and Desist letter and started reporting her to appropriate channels.
Momma don’t play.
- Learn why stealing blog content is not flattery. Blogging other people’s content without permission is not OK. In fact, plagiarism, taking someone else’s work and passing it off as yours, is illegal and unethical. You also cannot ‘borrow’ copyrighted material.
- Find out a few ways that you can protect your blog because chances are, at some point, this will happen to you.
- Discover how to report your stolen content. You have rights.
Why Stealing Blog Content Is Not Flattery
Right now, I should be writing a post about beautiful Iceland according to my content calendar agenda. That wistful content is my happy place. So thank you, rogue blogger, for obliterating my time ALL WEEK to report your transgressions. However, I am inspired for this current post.
So what happened? Why did this happen? What did I do to stop this content stealer? What is the difference between copying blog content versus having overlapping material? When is inspiration a copyright issue? And when, quite frankly, do bloggers’ morals just blow chunks?
Full Disclosure: I am a blogger. If someone is stealing your content, plagiarizing, infringing on your copyright, or doing illegal, shady things, always consider seeking professional advice from a lawyer. This post will not cover all of the comprehensive answers or solutions. Please do your research and read on as guidance for my situation and ideas on how to handle yours.
How I Discovered Someone Was Stealing My Blog Content
When Blogger’s Ask For Help, Take Your Advice Or Courses And Then Steal Content From You
My copycat reached out the day she started her new book blog, aggressively infiltrating my communities on social media (like Pinterest) and talking about blogging with me. Friendly but a little rude, I figured she was harmless and motivated. Blogging is not easy.
Within weeks of starting her blog, she populated her site with stolen, rewritten, and mimicked work. A ripped off blog name. Similar taglines. Reviews and book lists that looked like others. And for me, she used 3+ book blogging posts from my site pawned off as her own.
I didn’t notice for 5 MONTHS. Sadly, this blogger went off my radar or I would have seen that within 2 weeks of starting her blog, she was writing about blogging as a professional and giving advice. The advice she copied straight from my posts. Not to mention using undisclosed affiliate links, and let’s be real, products she had never used because they were COPIED. I feel bad for her trusting audience.
How I Truly Discovered The Rogue Book Blogger
How did I find the copied posts? You can always Google yourself and parts of your work. There are watch websites and Google Alerts. I did not do that, though. Mine slapped me in the face.
Karma is a weird, happy beast. Deciding to spend my morning pinning from blogging friends’ group Pinterest boards, I started seeing posts that looked like mine. This isn’t too unusual. Many of us write the same book list topics with our own flair and review the same books. In the travel industry, a gazillion bloggers write about visiting the Blue Lagoon or one day in Riga. This isn’t the problem.
However, my “Why You Should Start A Book Blog” post was personal, comedic, and fun. Essentially, the post wasn’t easy to accidentally replicate unless you stole it along with my voice and phrases. Which she did. I clicked on the pin first.
Have you ever started reading a post and just knew it was YOURS? I know my work. I live with my high-pitched Minnie Mouse voice every day, and I hear me.
The headings matched mine and she merely reworded and moved them around. The content and voice: mine. As Kaleena from Reader Voracious once said of stolen content, the work resembled a “Frankenstein nightmare.” Yup, I had just read my post on someone else’s blog.
I clicked around the site (I hate giving rogue people blog traffic), finding post after post copied not word-for-word but slyly similar using many of the plagiarism methods Turnitin discusses. Girlfriend stole my blog content.
Please know, too, that because she contacted me about blogging Day One, I knew she had been pillaging from my site and using it as a reference. No question there. Don’t get me wrong. Please do look at my advice and content: I teach, I share, I connect, and I love to help. BUT DON’T STEAL IT AND CLAIM IT AS YOUR OWN. Quote me, deep link me, and write your own damn posts.
I emailed offending blogger immediately after noticing she was stealing blog content. Well, first I screamed into a pillow.
Feelings Of Guilt And Is It Me?
Secret disclosure here too… I KNEW this blogger had taken my work 200%. But still, I self-doubted if I could do anything. Was I powerless? Would people believe me?
Copying Blog Content Is Not Flattery
Plus, some bloggers preach the cliche that ‘imitation is flattery.’
Truth: I always feel disgusted when I see bloggers’ justifying mimicking and stealing others’ content. Equally barfy is when bloggers and non-bloggers say it’s flattery. Get your year’s worth of hard work, content, and words straight out stolen from under you, rank front page Google for all of those posts, and let’s see how honored you feel. I’m not flattered; I am straight out pissed and hurt.
P.S. Copied text that matches yours confuses Google, registers as duplicated work, and your Google rankings are now toast.
But it doesn’t matter how I feel. There are rules, laws, and regulations. Let’s see how copyright laws feel instead…
Others say, “Well, it’s your work but it’s not literally word-for-word.” More to come on this. There are many types of plagiarism.
Let’s not forget too: Plagiarism gets you kicked out of school. Why do we accept and judge it as less in the blogging world? No one should copy your content, and nope, you shouldn’t just “let it go.” Everyone needs to educate him/herself on plagiarism.
And to all those who don’t care, again, wait until it’s you. You can hate me for saying that, but it’s true. You’ll understand then. I have no doubt.
Plagiarism vs Overlap: Will Blog Content Overlap?
And this is where the problem starts: justifying stealing content or brushing it off. “Ohhhh, EVERYONE has a post about how to start a book blog. The points are mostly the same and ‘standard’ (my rouge blogger’s word there) so I copied YOURS. I love your blog and your content. You inspire me so I used it.” Mmmmhmmmm, OK, sort of. Naw. Let’s play:
Travel Example Of When Content Overlaps And Is NOT Plagiarism
Recently, another travel blogger and I visited the same country around the same time. Did we see the same sights? Some of them. Did we write itinerary posts with the same places? You bet.
However, while our itineraries overlapped, we still had different feelings and experiences. I saw landmarks that she did not and vice versa. My posts added a boozy and bookish flair for my niche and had my voice. Her posts represented HER. With similar general content, our posts remained in many ways unique to us. No question there. It would be a small miracle if we ate at all of the same restaurants every day.
Being Unique Works In Your Favor
With that said, being unique is king. I believe the Internet is big enough for all of us. We hear this all of the time. It’s not my phrase. My only competition is myself sucking. And with this particular awesome travel blogger, 1. I love her and would never even worry about her content looking like mine and 2. She’s good so I want her in my community. We decided to deep link non-competing, relevant travel posts and even collaborate for posts to fill in gaps of what we saw and experienced. Ultimately, we wanted to work together as a team to enhance our readers’ travels.
Working together with similar content is beneficial to you. Swiping it is not.
Not every blogger is all Kumbaya, though, and you do you. That’s totally acceptable as well. We don’t have to work together or share or collab or even talk. Just don’t rip those people’s itineraries and change a few words. If you learn something from them, credit them. They are not your competition except maybe for a front-page keyword on search engines.
Your audience reads you FOR YOU. Think about that.
So, Yes, Content May Overlap With Bloggers
So will content overlap amongst bloggers? Yes. Bloggers have similar niches, itineraries, and how to blog guides. But they shouldn’t be exactly the same, with the same branding, same voice, and pretty much SAME everything. Just because hundreds of people write about something doesn’t mean you can copy their post.
So When Does Inspiration Become Stealing Blog Content?
Are you with me on overlap?
What about inspiration? Do we get pin design ideas from each other or love a particular blog format?
YES. But, once again, we all have colors, fonts, voice, words, and ya know, branding. We have different things to say our way.
Does my WWII blog post inspire you to write one based in another country? Cool, let’s connect, collab, or share. In fact, I might have that exact same post with many different books. I tend to add YA titles in my posts and multicultural elements. That makes me, me. My reviews are my opinion.
When “Inspo” Goes Rogue?
Let’s say you see my posts and are now inspired. Where can this possibly go wrong?
My rogue blogger claimed she just loved my content and was inspired. In an email responding to my legal confrontation, she even said that “your points encouraged me to start one [meaning my now copied why book blog post].” She said that she felt other information I provided such as how “to book blog” was “standard;” she justified swiping it because it was a guide that seemed universal enough.
She lifted others’ “inspiring” book lists because, hey, they were standard. Hmmm…
That’s getting SO GRAY to RED now right?!
The Differences Of Inspo, “Standard,” And STEALING Blog Content
I agree here: blogging about blogging has somewhat standard bullet points: hosting, plug-ins, choosing a brand name, and using tools like Canva. Same for starting a bookstagram or books set in a country. But if I see you talking about giant wine glasses at Joann’s, I am taking your ass out.
If you rip and copy every single point one by one from a blog and change a few words, you are in the WRONG. Once again, experienced bloggers will still have a few (or many) different recommendations, their own swing on it, and their voice. I doubt we literally did ALL of the EXACT same things in that order with those same feelings, tone, and phrases.
Same for this cheating blogger’s lessons learned. She copied my “increase blog traffic” post literally heading by heading. Quirky phrases unique to me: STOLEN. P.S. She learned in less than 3 months EXACTLY what I learned in a year+. I guess she did: from me by stealing my post.
While I trust that “consistency” will land on most blogging about blogging posts at some point, when your post is 200% mine, it’s not ironic or chance or universal or duh. YOU STOLE WORK. I didn’t inspire you to create cleaner pins, better use of subheadings, or find new blog post topic ideas. My success and solid posts inspired you to CHEAT and STEAL to get ahead.
This is also sounding incredibly repetitive and annoying now, right?! And it is. I am saying the same thing 10 different ways because I’ve heard it all this week.
But get this: ALL OF THESE EXCUSES & THOUGHTS ARE PLAGIARISM. And if a site is copyrighted, it’s copyright infringement too. I don’t care how you “justify it.”
P.S. Hobby Blogging Doesn’t Mean You Can Steal Work Either
One more point to clarify:
This blogger claimed that she blogs for fun as a hobby, meaning stealing is no biggie; it doesn’t matter then, right? You aren’t making money off of anyone…
WRONG. Plagiarism is plagiarism. In this case, she stole my work, time, and she indeed tried to make her own affiliate sales from me.
P.S. Know that rogue blogger’s site was fully monetized, she had a Work With Me page (looked exactly like mine, cough cough…SO STANDARD), and she had posted her VA services all over Facebook groups–funny how well documented the web is. I’ll let you judge because I sure did…hobby, my butt.
Dealing With A Copycat Blogger
I hope by now, you see the problem and the excuses that won’t face up against the rules and bloggers’ rights. This week’s blogger wasn’t the first transgression, and she won’t be the last.
Last year, a blogger tried to cut and paste my content that he said was “gold” onto his brand new site. Honestly, that plagiarism is SO much easier to deal with immediately. Straight out word-for-word copying gets instant action. Rearranging and changing someone else’s content gets just slightly harder to prove. BUT IT CAN BE PROVEN, and in my case, it was.
Again, this is all still PLAGIARISM. Ya just made a lazy attempt at mixing it up.
A lot of bloggers thinking ‘mixing up’ someone else’s content is OK. It’s not.
Learn The 10 Types Of Plagiarism Here
Turnitin (the system my MLIS-degree program used to check ALL papers), made the world an Infographic with 10 ways to plagiarize. I highly recommend reading it: The Plagiarism Spectrum.
Which brings me to the ultimate offense. I can be pissed all I want, but hey, this is plagiarism. I feel like I needed to say it AGAIN. Stealing words, content, and ideas and pretending it is yours is plagiarism. Grab that dictionary. This blogger infringed on my copyright too, which has legal ramifications. The law protects me. Peruse Turnitin and DMCA. Google it. As bloggers, do whatever you need to understand.
Wanna know the consequences of rogue “inspo”: accounts get suspended, your site may poof, and hey, you might find yourself owing a ton of cash, if it goes that far.
Oh yea: Under 17 U.S.C. Section 504: copyright infringement statutory damages range between $750 and $30,000 per piece. Damages land you up to $150,000 per work for willful infringement. My lawyer hero, Amira from A Self Guru, will reiterate that. This goes for pictures and images not protected by Fair Use. That sounds serious, right? Because you committed a SERIOUS offense.
What Are A Few Things That You Can Do To Protect Your Blog Content
Are we on the same page about what stealing blog content looks like? How about plagiarism and copyright infringement?
So what can you do to protect yourself? What do you do when your content is stolen?
As a blogger, first off, don’t steal content. Chances are you will get caught and go down. Have integrity, morals, values, and a sense of the law.
If someone is stealing blog content from you, here is what I did (remember there is a LOT more so seek professional help and read up):
1. Know Your Responsibility As A Blogger
First and foremost (do I sound official here?), you as a blogger are responsible for both protecting yourself and for knowing and following the laws. Are we all perfect? Hellll to the no. Do we mess up or have incorrect stuff by accident. Most likely. Take classes, work hard, network, join Facebook groups, and do your research. Talk to legal professionals. Fix your mistakes and learn from them. Stay in the loop.
2. Copyright Your Blog
I am not a pro on Copyright. What I do understand is that you can have that little Copyright symbol with the year in your blog footer. P.S. The second you publish your work (as long as it is yours to start), it is YOURS right then and there, regardless.
You can set up Google alerts with excerpts from each post too. This will let you know if someone completely copies and pastes your work.
Know that there are other more formal ways to register and pay for hardcore copyright per blog post.
3. Have A Terms And Conditions Page Along With All Proper Legal Pages
I don’t speak legalese, but I know people who do. Sorry, I got mad librarian skills and can save lizards. I can even play basketball in heels.
Having a strict “Terms and Conditions” page lets users know exactly how they can and cannot use your site, content, and words.
One of my blogging heroes, Amira from A Self Guru, is a lawyer and a blogger who has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs with their legal pages plus thousands of her clients. She has a cheap and thorough legal bundle that the best and most invested bloggers use. Raises my hand.
4. Know Your Rights
Check out the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Look into obtaining a Cease and Desist letter, and if needed, seek legal guidance from a lawyer. You have rights.
5. LLC Protection
I talked to a volunteer lawyer when I first started blogging. I registered as an LLC to protect my wine fund from my blogging funds. Seeking official business status is more about protecting and separating your assets vs copyright infringement, but just in case you end up in a legal battle, you want personal vs business separated. Our house is not up for grabs. I won’t risk a $150k fine… I use stock photos carefully AF.
Learn how I became an LLC as a blogger here, and learn the difference filings as a business. If I can do it, you can do it. Plus, The Uncorked Librarian LLC just makes me sound badass.
6. IP, Blocking, Reporting, Emailing
Once someone lifts your blog content, it’s time to get serious. Screenshot copied blog posts with post content and URLs. If you feel comfortable, reach out to the offending blogger professionally first. Ask the blogger to take down the posts.
When posts don’t get removed, start reporting them to the rogue blogger’s web host, Google, and Pinterest–to name a few. Have proof because they will ask for it. Nothing is assumed, and documentation is BOSS.
Then, I blocked all social media accounts–although you might want to skip this to keep in eye on the shadiness.
I also blocked IP addresses–which isn’t a be all end all for many reasons. Won’t point those out for the cheaters, though.
If you see other’s content that you think is stolen on a site, kindly let them know. We need to have each other’s back and hold each other accountable. Don’t get yourself in legal trouble, threaten, or defame. Just be honest, open, and professional.
Let the law lead the way and have faith in it. Pinterest is amazing at getting stolen content down in one day, at least for me.
Lastly, Don’t Be THAT Copy Stealing Blogger
People can claim unintentional plagiarism to a small extent or straight out admit to stealing your work. At the end of the day, bloggers struggle with people copying blog content on all levels. There is protection, but let’s be real too: some bloggers will get away with it.
The law, platforms, and persistence smushed my situation in less than a week. Posts went down, and for now, the offending Pinterest profile is down as well as the rogue blogger’s website.
Every time that I go through some copyright and talk to other’s in the same situation, I learn more and more. I am so sorry if this ever happens to you. Blogging other people’s content is not OK, and it sucks for you. You will power through it.
Fight for your content.
I fought this week like a lover scorned. When you steal my stuff, you unleash a powerful, passionate beast.
Once again, please know that this post is meant to help bloggers stuck with those stealing their work. Let this all be a reminder for those bloggers who seek inspiration from other bloggers: There is a line you can cross. Please don’t. And if you do, be ready to face the consequences, including fines.
Looking for more blogging advice? Try these all-niche blogger hacks.