“Little ole’ me?? My content won’t get stolen! I’m too small to steal from! I don’t need to protect my online content.” ← I definitely used to think that no one would steal my content….until my content got stolen for the first time.
Yep, I’ve definitely been the victim of content theft — from my entire website, to names of my programs, to social media posts — I’ve been shocked at just how brazen and lazy some creators really are.
And it’s not just me. Earlier this year, a major Instagram content creator found out that one of her followers purchased her program only to turn around and re-sell her original work as their own — without changing a word.
If you’re afraid of someone stealing your content and want to learn what you need to do to keep your original content exactly that — let’s dive in!
How to Protect Your Content From Being Copied
One of the most beautiful parts of having an online business is just how easy it is to not only start your own business, but how easy it is to market your business through so many types of online content (ie., social media, email lists, blogs, podcasts, etc.)
The downside? It’s also super easy for people to swipe that very same online content.
On the one hand, depending on where you post your content online, there’s literally no way to prevent or block someone from actually stealing it. For example, someone could sit down with their iPhone in one hand and pop open their MacBook in the other, and manually copy down your Instagram caption word-for-word.
You can stop them from doing that — you can just put yourself in the best position possible to do something about it. And based on where you’re posting your content, you’ll need to use different strategies and approaches to keep copycats away from your content.
How To Prevent Plagiarism On Social Media
1. Put Your Name On It
I’m always surprised by how many creative and original-looking graphics and posts I see on social media, only to see that the person never included her name, business name or logo on it.
Of course someone can still try to copy the actual content of your post (that you’ll have to handle with tip #3 below), but in terms of protecting your actual image, it helps to have your name on it.
That way, you’re not only making it harder to copy, but you’re also putting the copycat on notice that this is your original work.
2. Slap a Copyright Statement on It
You can always put the copyright “formula” on the bottom of your social posts and any other original content online. To do that, all you have to do is:
© [year of first publication] [name of content owner/business]
So if I created a post today, it would say: © 2021 Sam Vander Wielen LLC
Copyright law affords you protection even without this “formula” on your posts or other original content, but it definitely helps to put people on notice.
Putting this on your content also establishes when in time you created the content. That way, someone else can’t say later on that he/she was actually the first one to create your copied content.
3. Monitor and Report to Social Media Platforms
When all else fails, you’ve got to use the resources you’ve got at your disposal. Even without directly copying (aka, reusing without your permission) your content or images, a copycat can still copy or mimic your content itself.
When that happens, you should first utilize the platform’s reporting process to notify them that the content is plagiarized. Depending on the platform, this is usually a pretty simple process where you let them know that you’re the original author of the content and didn’t authorize copying it.
To make sure that you’re the most successful with reporting and getting it taken down, you’ll want to follows tips #1 and #2 above to establish yourself as the original creator and owner of the content.
How To Protect Your Blog Content From Copying
1. Use Tech Tools to Safeguard Your Content
OK, so I know a minute ago I told you there’s literally nothing you can do to keep someone from actually stealing your content. But there is 1 mechanism we’ve actually got working in our favor: tech tools!
Talk with your website developer or designer to see if she/he can integrate anything on your website to prevent people from being able to download your images, right click or copy/paste text, etc. If you use WordPress, you might even be able to use a wordpress plugin to stop some theft.
There might even be something else I’m not aware of that they know of! So let them know you’re concerned about copycats taking your content and see if they have any ideas.
2. Issue a DMCA Takedown Notice
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a U.S. copyright law that allows content creators to get their stolen original content removed from the copycat’s website quickly.
Instead of contacting the copycat him or herself directly like you would with a Cease & Desist letter, the DMCA allows the original creator to issue what’s called a “DMCA Takedown Notice” to the internet service provider actually hosting (aka., publishing) the offending content itself.
So, for example, if you found your blog post, recipe or images re-published on someone else’s website without your permission, you’d lookup who hosts their website and contact the website host to issue a DMCA takedown notice. (Most hosting providers have a DMCA form on their site or easily available through their customer service.)
3. Website Policies
In your terms & conditions, you want to make sure you have a content sharing policy and a statement on protecting your intellectual property. This will help you to establish what your (published) rules were, so if a copycat runs off with your post you can easily say that they violated your terms & conditions too.
How To Protect Your Course Content From Being Copied
1. Make it Accessible but Not Too Accessible
Whenever you create a course or online program, it’s a careful balance between making the content easily accessible and easy-to-use for your customers’ sake — but also not making it so accessible that someone could easily download and re-use it.
Unless otherwise necessary, don’t make your videos downloadable or embeddable (there are settings in Vimeo, for example, that would block this). You also don’t have to share your slides as downloadable content, either.
2. Add that Copyright Notice
Just like we talked about earlier, add that copyright statement [©, year of first publication, owner’s name’] to your handouts, PDFs, bottom of your presentations, videos etc. You are 100% allowed to do this without officially registering your content with the U.S. Copyright Office.
3. Register important pieces of content
If you create a course or program, you can definitely register any written or visual content with the U.S. Copyright Office. Although you still do get copyright law protection even without registering, you can additional (what I call “bonus level protection”!) for registering. It can definitely be worth it for more of your “substantive” or important pieces of content, like ebooks, workbooks, video lessons, audio lessons etc.
By registering your content with the U.S. Copyright Office, you’ll also establish yourself as the original content creator — putting you in a stronger position to fight any copyright infringement of your content.
4. Course Contract
Whenever someone purchases your course, group program, or any other program/product where they’ll get access to your original content, you want to make sure you have them sign or agree to a contract.
If you offer a group program, you’d send off a group program contract to be signed along with the invoice/payment method to join the program.