5 Free Copyright-Related Steps Every Blogger Should Take Today

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If you’re a blogger (or any other kind of Webmaster) your content is being copied, it is virtually a guarantee. Whether you are big or small, users and commentators, along with spammers and scrapers, are using your work. Some of this use is likely legitimate, even desired, but some of it also likely goes beyond what’s allowed and into copyright infringement.

Still, not everyone has an interest in enforcing their copyright. Whether they don’t feel passionately about the issue or don’t see it as worthwhile, they feel that the (limited) time spent dealing with plagiarists and other infringers isn’t well spent.

But no matter how you feel about copyright enforcement, you still have a strong interest in both tracking and understanding how your content is used and also heading off unwanted uses of your work.

So taking a few minutes to think about your content and how you can protect/track it makes sense as it might reduce the amount of misuse you see, without you doing anything to stop infringements, and let you find readers you didn’t know you had.

1. Add/Update a Copyright Notice in Your Footer

If you don’t have a copyright notice on your blog, you need to add one and make sure it is up to date. Though you don’t need a notice to have your work be copyright-protected, many people don’t understand that and will think all work without the © symbol is free for the taking.

There’s a very simple trick for WordPress users to make sure that the date is automatically updated, making it the last time you ever have to change your copyright notice.

2. License Your Content

Next, explain the terms under which others can use your content. Are you reserving all rights? Say so clearly and post a notice indicating as such (All Rights Reserved). This can be a part of your above copyright notice.

If you want to allow certain uses of your work, add a Creative Commons or other appropriate license. Do not try to create your own license.

Expressing the terms of use clearly is important as it prevents misunderstandings but it should not be the sole focus of your site. Make it clear for anyone who is looking for the information but don’t down beat readers over the head with it.

3. Sign Up for FairShare

Fairshare, powered by content-matching service Attributor, is hands-down the best free tool for finding matches of your blog content.

It’s fast to sign up for and easy to use. Just provide FairShare with your RSS feed and subscribe to the one it generates to receive updates on matches to your content it finds. Whether you are just interested in tracking where your content is used or are actively enforcing it, it is an invaluable tool.

4. Use Google Alerts for Static Content

You likely have static content on your site that isn’t in your RSS feed and, thus, isn’t protected by FairShare. Visit Google Alerts and create alerts for each page using unique phrases in quotes. Then, you’ll receive RSS or Email alerts when the content appears elsewhere on the Web.

As an alternative, you can use Plagium with its free weekly reports.

5. Add an RSS Footer

There are literally dozens of plugins for nearly every major platform that can do this, but it’s important to add a footer to your RSS feed. Since that is the most common way your site will be scraped and republished, you should add something to it that ideally links back to your site and/or adds some kind of copyright notice (perhaps one similar to the footer of your site).

You can also use a digital fingerprint, string of letters and numbers that should be unique to your site, and create a Google Alert for it to track where your RSS feed appears on the searchable Web.

Bottom Line

Though I’ve already harped on the benefits of content tracking as a statistics metric, there is much more that Webmasters can do to protect their content, all without filing a single cease and desist letter or takedown notice.

Since all of these steps can be taken in under an hour’s time, it makes sense to take a moment, make sure that your site is up to code, your content is tracked and your feed is protected. Though you can’t stop everyone from misusing your content, no matter how much enforcement you do, there are simple steps that can reduce infringements and help you reach out to new audiences at the same time.

Clearly, this is time well spent even if ongoing enforcement isn’t.

Disclosure:I have consulted for Attributor in the past and my current company, CopyByte.com, uses their paid products.

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