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Bloggers Beware: Lift Content and You May be Sued by Copyright Owner


Every day, I see pingbacks to articles I write from websites I’ve never heard of that seem to be made for Adsense news aggregators. Most seem to focus on a specific topic, and because that topic was discussed in my article, the site poached all or part of my article for their benefit.

Although I have yet to file a lawsuit, I have sent plenty of takedown notices to frequent violators and their hosting companies (I bet this article will get picked up because “hosting companies” is a popular term for content thieves). Similar to my situation are newspapers and websites that post daily articles written by professional journalists. This content is often “borrowed” or used by bloggers and other websites without permission. According to an article today in, there’s a new company that aims to make money from these copyright violations.

A Las Vegas company called Righthaven apparently has been filing lawsuits for its clients whose rights they believe were violated under US Copyright Laws by content thieves and poachers. The penalties for Copyright Act violations are pretty severe, and many bloggers and websites may prefer to settle them without going to court to save time, stress, and money. With millions of potential targets, this could conceivably be a high-yielding endeavor for the company.

Content providers and publishers need to do as much as they can to protect their content, and lawsuits are a way to show that the copyright owner is serious and isn’t going to mess around. For bloggers and journalists who quote articles and attribute the source of those quotes, it may be a bit dicey if you get caught up in one of these lawsuits.

It’s important that bloggers and writers know the copyright law and be sure to follow it. I know there are plenty of people who think they’re safe posting all or part of an article as long as they link back to the source, but this certainly seems to be a false sense of security.

About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.

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Comments (27)

    Bill Hartzer

    Just goes to show that if you’re a blogger then you need to start acting like a real journalist, one who quotes and links out to their source(s) rather than just copy/pasting stuff.

    If you’re going to copy someone’s content, at least take the time to rewrite it. And for those of you who are lazy or just don’t have the time to rewrite it, there are even programs (article spinners) and wordpress plugins that will rewrite content for you.

    July 23rd, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Kevin Murphy


    July 23rd, 2010 at 3:54 pm


    I see, .org, .co, .info, and .tv are available. Hmmm, this might be fun…

    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:24 pm


    @ Viper

    I wouldn’t mess with a company that’s made it known they are more than willing to go the legal route. If you ask me, that’s just looking for trouble.

    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:31 pm



    “Just goes to show that if you’re a blogger then you need to start acting like a real journalist, one who quotes and links out to their source(s) rather than just copy/pasting stuff.”

    I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen stuff “lifted” from Ron Jackson’s DNJournal over the years.

    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:41 pm


    @ Mitch

    Especially photos.

    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:48 pm


    guess it’s time to buy a blog insurance policy

    July 23rd, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Simon Johnson


    This happens on a daily basis.

    Back in 2008 we created a Domaining Wiki and then found most of the content “borrowed” by people selling ebooks on domaining. Its pathetic.

    Earlier this week I saw a few domainers “lift some ideas” out of our blog posts without actually acknowledging where they came from.

    Unfortunately its one of those things that we have to deal with as bloggers and journalists.


    July 23rd, 2010 at 8:39 pm


    @ Simon

    You should call them out

    July 23rd, 2010 at 8:50 pm


    @ William

    Interestingly, AOL owns 🙂

    July 24th, 2010 at 9:46 am

    steve cheatham

    They pound on me all the time. I have found them on several forum sites I operate scraping messages.

    I have been looking for a way to identify them like spammers so I can keep a real time blockade running without wasting my ime doing it manually.

    We have peoplle looking for an identifying spammers in real time and updating our mail server. Why no do this for scrappers?

    2 cents worth

    July 24th, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Stephen Douglas


    Tell me if i’m wrong, but isn’t it better to have these sites pull your content and links to upgrade your link status for better SE PR?

    That’s been my understanding. If not… yipes, I have a lot of deleting to do!

    July 25th, 2010 at 10:32 am

    steve cheatham

    Stephen. Please explain.
    My situation involved scrapping of a forum and reposting it in asia as their own content. That does not help anything I know of. But then again, what do I know?

    July 25th, 2010 at 10:42 am


    @ Stephen

    Most of these sites have no PR or inlinks and are only doing it on the off-chance someone finds them in Google and clicks an Adsense link. I don’t think it does me any good.

    July 25th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    steve cheatham

    @Elliot, Agreed. They just leach off good content in hopes of getting an ad click.

    July 25th, 2010 at 1:07 pm


    “I know there are plenty of people who think they’re safe posting all or part of an article as long as they link back to the source, but this certainly seems to be a false sense of security.” In terms of law, is it illegal? I mean there can be an article that aims to make a reply to some certain post on another site, they probably will have to copy some parts from that post in order to reply right…given that they link back to the original post? What do you think?

    July 26th, 2010 at 7:54 am


      @ Soud

      It’s not criminal so you probably won’t get arrested, but there are civil penalties for stealing content, and those rules and penalties are outlined in the US Copyright Act.

      July 26th, 2010 at 9:08 am


    @Elliot I see, but the scenario of “tagging content” if you may call it is valid where it is not meant to steal but rather it is meant to criticise the content. An example to what I mean is a post like this

    July 26th, 2010 at 9:21 am


      @ Soud

      IMO, that’s not stealing content, but rather quoting it to analyze. There are many sites that take my full article and post it with just a link back. They aren’t doing it for analysis but are doing it hoping that someone stumbles across their site and click on advertising – or just to build traffic to their site. Just about every blogger/website deals with this.

      July 26th, 2010 at 9:51 am

    steve c

    Quoting and giving credit with a link is the acceptable way to copy other people’s content. Even then you should only quote excerpts that relate to your need to quote, as in discussing a point in the article.
    I make people do that on my forums so the members don’t have to run all over the Internet following links. But if they want to read the entire article, the link is there.
    Am I stupid (don’t answer that) or is that the accepted way to use other people’s content in your content?

    July 26th, 2010 at 9:58 am


    @ Steve

    I don’t know you well enough to assess whether or not you are stupid, but I think that’s an acceptable way to use other people’s content 🙂

    July 26th, 2010 at 9:59 am


    There are a few dozen blogs that republish my RSS feeds. I figured I could spend my time shooting cannons at mosquitos, or I could make sure to drop links and attributions of my own in my posts. As long as those are still there (and generally they are – most people don’t take the time to strip them out) I’m not bothered by that.

    On the other hand, people (mostly TV and newspaper websites, who should know better) will swipe my content very blatantly – sometimes down to the very css – and then blame it on “an intern” when called out. I haven’t had to resort to lawyers yet – generally making a stink about it on twitter and posting adjacent screenshots (or threatening to do so) will do the trick.

    When you see someone swiping your content and think you might want to do something about it, the very first thing you do is take screenshots. Lots and lots of screenshots.

    July 26th, 2010 at 10:42 am


    Thanx for the clarification @Elliot and steve, all clear 😉

    July 26th, 2010 at 10:54 am


    Some of those advertisements for get-rich-at-home methods advise the creation of ebooks for sale as one way to get money. I wonder how many of those unknowledgeable people simply go to various sites and collect enough text to massage into book format to be sold off.

    It reminds me of people who go into public libraries to steal some of the “better” books to resell on eBay.

    July 26th, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Stephen Douglas

    @ El and Steve C

    The only blog feed suckups I see linking up to my content is just one: DNCRUNCH.COM

    For some reason, I have this opinion that this is a good site. Not really familiar with it, but it’s owned by Wesley Perkins in the UK.

    Seems nice enough. Should I put him on my “Viking Longship Adventure” list? lol

    July 27th, 2010 at 4:54 am

    Mark Anthony

    Righthaven was grubstake’d by the people who own the media company they are calling their “client”.

    It’s more of a shakedown than a way to protect their copyrights. They even filed lawsuit against one of their own sources for quoting the article he was featured in!!

    Maybe their greed has got the best of them. They slowed down suing little old ladies with cat blogs and are now focused on The Drudge Report and other big names.

    December 11th, 2010 at 2:17 am


    Well my content keeps getting reposted on numerous sites, but what’s bugging me the whole time is the use of copyrighted materials we get from big companies.

    We have manage to contact most of them, asking for the use and crediting of their work, and almost all agree of posting their press releases and photos on our website.

    But the thing I wanted to ask you, would an e-mail from one of those companies be sufficient proof they allowed us to do so? How does the law work in that case?


    January 18th, 2011 at 7:52 am

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