Creating unique blog content is a challenging task that demands both time and resources. However, it can be even more infuriating when your hard work is stolen by someone who hasn’t put in any effort. Unfortunately, content scraping is a real issue in today’s digital landscape.
To tackle this problem, it’s crucial to comprehend the ethical and legal concerns associated with content scraping. Not only will it help you avoid engaging in such acts, but it will also empower you to take necessary actions if you fall victim to it.
But before delving into the ethical and legal aspects, let’s first paint a clear picture of what content scraping entails and how it’s carried out.
What is content scraping?
Content scraping is taking content from a website and publishing it elsewhere without the consent or attribution of the source or author.
Content scrapers steal original blog posts and pass them off as their own. They may change the titles or use a few synonyms but add no value to the original content. For them, it is a cheap and lazy way to gain traffic and profit from ads.
They may also try to divert sales and followership from the original content owners.
Blogs that publish fresh news articles, genuine product reviews, and thought leadership articles often fall victim to scrapers. Some steal original images, videos, or infographics.
The easiest way to scrape content is using the manual copy-and-paste operation. Another method involves using bots to crawl through a website and copy hundreds of pages within seconds.
Theft of any nature is condemned by law but there are quite some grey areas regarding intellectual property. That’s probably because the internet is growing faster than copyright policies can catch up.
However, copyright law protects intellectual property like blogs. The law applies automatically to all original works. In the United States, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 protects copyright owners on the internet.
It summarily states it is unlawful to remove or falsify copyright management information such as author names, work titles, etc. Also, copyright owners can demand that online service providers take down content that infringes on their copyright.
In 2020, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act established the Copyright Claims Board (CCB). The CCB is an alternative to federal court for creators and users of copyrighted materials. So no matter how small the infringement is, defaulters can still be held accountable.
Many other countries have similar provisions of protection against copyright infringement of digital property. And content scraping falls under such infringement. That’s why you need permission from the copyright owner. At the very least, attribute the copied content to its source.
Writing an article involves a lot of research. and much of that research is studying articles, studies, and other types of content created by other people. Even the most original content is not created in total isolation from other people’s ideas.
However, it is morally correct to give acknowledgment where it’s due. It gives credibility to the user and prevents their work from being tagged as plagiarized. More importantly, it channels the rewards to the writers who have put in the work.
In the content marketing and blogging industry, content scraping is frowned upon. It reflects poorly on an entire industry that prides itself on creativity. Content creation has its ethics and stealing other people’s hard work goes against those ethics.
The U.S. has a moral rights framework to set standards for the attribution and integrity of one’s work. These standards pull from federal and state copyright laws as well as industry best practices.
Implications for businesses that engage in content scraping
Scrapers may generate heavy traffic by copying high-quality content from other websites. They may even make some money. However, this blogging model is not sustainable.
Content scrapers, whether they are individuals or businesses, can face serious consequences. Some of those consequences are listed below.
1. Bad Reputation
Stealing is morally and legally wrong. Scraping articles that someone else has spent time, effort, and money to create is fraudulent. The victims feel cheated and the readers feel deceived when they discover this.
The dishonest act can cause content scraping blogs to lose public trust. They will also lose their followers, customers, and viewers. If a blog doesn’t have the integrity to create its articles, there’s no reason to trust it.
2. Poor SERP ranking
A lot of times scraped content goes unreported but never unnoticed. Search engines use various parameters to detect duplicated content. Even copied works with a few changes are identified.
Search engines usually penalize plagiarized content. A lot of times they perform poorly on search results. Even with complex scraping technology, they tend to lose the compounding gains of blogging overtime
3. Loss of website
When content scrapers are reported to their web host, they usually get a notice to take down the stolen content. If they refuse to comply, the whole website will eventually be taken down.
Putting your business website in jeopardy due to stolen content is a foolish and avoidable mistake.
4. Monetary loss
According to U.S. copyright law, copyright infringement can attract up to $30,000 for each work infringed. The fine gets higher when the claimant can prove the infringement was willful as is the case with most content scrapers. The amount may be up to $150,000 per work.
The violator may also be asked to pay the attorney’s fees incurred by the copyright owner in a bid to enforce their rights.
How content scraping hurts businesses
Beyond the unpleasant emotions that victims of content scraping feel, they also experience other inconveniences. Below are some of them.
Loss of website traffic
Content scrapers can steal traffic from multiple websites just by copying their content. Sometimes they may set up a similar domain name to trick users that already trust the original website.
Loss of profit
Businesses that have their articles stolen also lose valuable leads and sales. The scraper has just stolen their marketing efforts. Some content scrapers not only steal content but also gated content and profit illegally.
Sabotage of SEO efforts
Search engines are not advanced enough to immediately differentiate between original and scraped content if the scrapping followed minutes after the original post.
Therefore, content scraping can undermine the web authority of the source. Often, scrapers have more indexed pages than their victims, and so may get noticed easier by search engines.
If efforts to create unique content are constantly frustrated by scrapers, eventually those putting in the work will get discouraged. They might stop doing all that work and settle for easy rather than high-quality. And that will affect the marketing results of that business negatively.
Strategies for businesses to avoid content scraping
Imitation is the best form of flattery but not when it comes to content scraping. However, we understand that for some reason, you might be tempted to copy a perfect blog post and pass it off as yours.
Perhaps you are trying to improve your SEO, working on impossible timelines, or simply don’t know how to write that well.
Add a fresh perspective
Sometimes you find content online that is a perfect example of what you would love to create. Don’t scrape it. Instead, borrow the information and analyze it deeply enough to form an opinion of your own.
You should use this opinion of yours to differentiate your work from the source.
Here are some content ideas to consider: 5 Brilliant Types of Content For Software Companies
Cite your sources
When you quote a work, share research results, or curate a collection of other people’s work, always attribute your sources. It is the easiest way to avoid copyright lawsuits.
Take a writing course
Your business may need a blog and you find that your writing skills are not so great. Rather than cop out and settle for blatantly replicating other people’s work, learn to write better.
A short writing course will teach you how to paraphrase. You might also learn how to give attributions the correct way.
Use plagiarism checkers
It is possible to unintentionally plagiarize parts of someone else’s work. Plagiarism happens when the changes that you have made from the text you would like to restate are not substantial.
It may be unclear to you what makes substantial changes so you should use plagiarism checkers like Copyscape.
Hire credible content writers
Some webmasters have unwittingly scraped content by hiring cheap and sketchy freelancers who just feed them stolen works. So do your due diligence to find a credible content writer or content marketing firm.
Ojehs, Inc. is one such credible content-writing firm. We write 100% plagiarism-free content and have reviews to prove our articles sell.
How to protect your blog from content scraping
If you are putting out original blog content, then you need to protect your work. There are a few ways to go about that and we list them below.
Use scraping detection tools
First, find out if your content is being scraped. To do that, you can simply use Copyscape or Ahrefs. Or you can copy sections of your work, double-quote them and search for them online.
You can also set up Google Alerts to notify you when certain phrases, and keywords appear in posts.
Copyright your website
There is an automatic copyright protection that applies to all original works from the moment they are created. However, you can register your website as a copyrighted property.
That registration is undeniable evidence of the originality of your work. It makes it easier to enforce your copyright and prosecute violators. The original writings, images, and other unique content on your website can be copyrighted.
Strategies for seeking recourse when content scraping occurs
If you find that your content has been scraped, all hope isn’t lost. There are certain actions you can take to get back what is yours.
1. Notify the website owner
Sometimes website owners contract freelancers to write blog articles but unfortunately, they are given scraped content. They may post stolen content without knowing they are infringing on your copyright.
So the first step is to contact the owner of the website and notify them of the theft. If you can prove with publication dates that the content is originally yours, they should be apologetic and take it down.
2. File a DMCA complaint
If the webmaster refuses to take down a scraped article, then it is a willful infringement. You should file a DMCA takedown notice with the host of the website.
To issue the takedown notice, you’ll need to know the IP of the website and what platform hosts it. You can use Whois Lookup, to find out all of that.
While working on your DMCA complaint, you can also file a legal removal request with Google.
Content scraping is a copyright infringement and an unethical blogging practice. It hurts its victims as much as it does its perpetrators. If you want to build a sustainable blog, avoid content scraping. A business blog is a valuable asset, and you should proactively protect it from scrapers.