You’re browsing the Internet… and then there you see it. It could be an image or a blog post…. but all you know is one thing, it’s yours!! You spent hours toiling over creating it… deciding how to word it perfectly or exactly what font to use. And now it’s on someone else’s website and you are FURIOUS.
So what do you do? Here are 6 steps to take when someone steals your content.
Step One: You did something right
Take a step back and realize for a moment that you did nothing wrong, in fact you did something right. Before you go down the road of “I hate social media!” and you start swearing off blogging, you need to calm down. Realize that the whole point of blogging & social media is to have an impact- which results in more comments & sharing of your content. But, your content was just so good… that maybe it worked a little too well and someone stole it. Realize that what you worked so hard to do, worked. Don’t swear off social media.
Step Two: Don’t hate
Your first knee jerk reaction is to hate the person who stole your content. To think of them in a dark room doing an evil villain laugh as they stole something that you created. Well, at least that was my first reaction. The “How dare she??” and the “how can I make her PAY for this?”.
But what you need to focus on is the “why”. Why did this person take your content? Was it ignorance? Did they just not know any better? Were they intentionally trying to hurt me and my business?
After asking myself these questions- I came to the conclusion that this was a case of ignorance. While this person seemed well informed on social media, it’s quite possible that she wasn’t familiar with copyright laws and was simply trying to generate content for her blog based off of a piece of my work that inspired her. This was a mistake.
Think about it for a minute- at the end of the day, what would you like to happen?
Do you want the content removed completely? Do you want them to give you credit? Do you want an apology? Damages? Decide now what you need to make you feel better about the situation.
Step Four: How would you like to be treated?
I had already drafted in my head this very cutting email that included a whole lot of caps lock and exclamation points. In reality, it probably resembled some of Kayne West’s angry tweets. Haha. Then it hit me- do I want to look like Kayne West in this, overreacting and mad? Is that what I want my brand to be? Is that who I am? If the answer was no… then I need to go a different route.
I stopped for a minute and I asked myself, if I had made this mistake and I needed to be called out on it- how would I like to be treated? I know I’m not perfect. I don’t pretend to know everything, so I’m bound to mess up. So when I do mess up, how do I like to be treated? I would not like to be treated as a villain but instead as a fellow business owner who slipped up.
Personally, since I’m very familiar with copyright laws- I know that I could immediately get the help of a lawyer and seek damages. But, would I want to do this to a fellow small business owner? Even if this was an honest mistake? I decided that all I wanted was source credit. But if I wasn’t going to get that- I wanted it deleted or I’d seek damages with a lawyer.
I’m not a lawyer and of course every business is different- so consult with a lawyer first to decide which is the best option for your business.
Step Five: Make Contact
Do your best to find an email address/mailing address/ phone number where you can get in contact with the person who took your content.
DO NOT let this play out in public- in a comment section or on social media. You need to have this conversation on a private forum. And have a friend or third-party proof this letter, to make sure you sound fair yet firm. I personally, never write an email that would make me embarrassed when I meet this person face-to-face even when it comes to scary legal matters like this.
In my personal case- I made contact via email and I gave a reasonable deadline on when I’d need everything taken of before I escalated this to a legal matter.
Thankfully, this one email was all it took for my content to be taken down & given the appropriate credit.
Step Six: Educate & Do it again
When someone steals something that is yours, you feel a bit violated and very protective over your works. I personally, didn’t want to post/write/create something for awhile. But, I went back to step one and I realized that my work- inspired someone. Yeah, maybe they stole the content- but they were inspired by it. That’s a compliment. It meant I was good. Why should others miss out on my content because one person made a mistake?
Educate your readers on how they can share your content. Nothing inspires you to research copyright laws like when something of yours is stolen. So write a blog post about copyright laws and how they effect your industry. Then educate your audience on appropriate ways to share your content and how to go about giving credit to a source.
Has someone ever stolen your content? How did you handle it and what was the outcome? Tell me about it in the comments below