Beware of Copycat Blogs: It Happened to Me!
A little over a month ago, I was attempting to fetch an article I’d written on my blog last year. The easiest thing, naturally, was to google “beirutista” with a few keywords representing the article’s content. Sure enough, the first item in the yield nailed it.
But as my eyes quickly scanned the list, I noticed something strange. The third entry retrieved was an exact replica of my article, but the source was not my blog. In fact, it was a different blog sharing the “blogspot” domain. The blog’s name? Ironically, the title of one of my own posts: “The Long Awaited Verdict on Shake Shack.”
My heart sunk, and numbness soon elevated to fury. How dare he? How dare this Blogger profile by the name of Khan replicate my blog article for article, picture for picture, impersonating me and passing it off to the world as his own! He probably had in mind to introduce AdSense to the blog in order to generate revenue from ads.
I did a couple searches on the Google help forum to see if anyone had experienced a similar debacle. Several had seen instances where their articles were plagiarized in whole or in part, but none had witnessed their entire blog reproduced under someone else’s name. Or, perhaps, none had undertaken the painstaking labor of documenting it to other users.
I eventually stumbled across something called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which among other things, heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet. It was signed into law by the US Senate under President Bill Clinton in 1998. Fortunately, Google is a staunch advocate of the law and responds to clear notices of alleged copyright infringement.
At length, it took about four iterations of completing this form before Google took ultimate action against the perpetrator. I had to singly identify which articles were reproductions of my own (that’s about 160 articles!), noting both the offending URL and the counterpart Beirutista URL as well as offering a summary of the content. Each form allowed me to detail as many articles as I could manage, and I squeezed in between 8 and 10 per submission.
It was quite evident that a robot was handling my claims, because even though I’d mentioned that the entire blog was a rip-off of my own, it wasn't immediately dismantled. Only the articles and URLs specified in the claims were removed successively, in batches, until finally, the fourth claim sealed the deal. The Google robot must have picked up on the repetition, and the case was escalated. Ten days after the submission of my first claim, the copycat blog was taken down!
I’m still unsure as to how I can effectively protect my blog and prevent such incidents from happening in the future. For now, I've inserted a banner on the website that warns against any copying, sort of like a watchdog. Technically, I doubt anything is 100% safe from potential evildoing. If you have any advice on the matter or are an expert in online proprietary material, please clue me in.