While the recent run in with Partha De Sarkar was unusually bitter and ugly, fact of the matter is, I have been continuously battling content thieves for the past 7 years, ever since I started my entrepreneurial journey of developing and running websites.
And while most of those incidents have ended peacefully, usually with the content thief apologizing and removing my content, at times I have had to fight them out, in public and through back channels.
So here are the 5 things I have learnt from content thieves:
1. Majority of the theft is on purpose: While there are instances where people unwittingly share your work eg. photographs and articles with others by uploading them to social media sites, most often than not, it is the intention of the uploader to claim credit for your work! And they do this to achieve a certain goal, often in an attempt to promote their business or something which they hoping will eventually turn in to a business or to promote their pages/groups/communities/forums/websites or in a bid to promote themselves! Either way, you are likely not their first victim, neither would you be the last!
2. Content thieves have no ethics, moral values or shame: Of course they wouldn’t be stealing your work in the first place, if they had ethics and moral values. However what makes dealing with such individual or organization particularly distasteful is the fact that they will not only try to argue/flatter their way out of the situation, they would also go to the extent of insulting you and your work, when they come to know, there is no way out. To top it off, when you finally arm twist them into taking down your work and/or agreeing on a big fat compensation, they will start behaving as if they are doing you a favor! So my advice simply is to go in, get your work taken down or get paid and move out (like a strike force), don’t sit and argue or try to reason with these thieves. Yes if they promptly take down the content (especially in case of a user generated content eg. social media and forums), acknowledge their prompt response positively and thank them for it and move on.
3. Big or small, every one steals: Sad reality of the world is, it isn’t just the petty businesses or Facebook page/group owners who steal content, it is also done by multinational companies (or at least their PR/Content/Ad Agencies they hire), biggies in print and traditional media and even government departments. Worse part is, generally bigger the company, tougher it is to take them down and only god or a good lawyer can help you, if you ever have the unfortunate luck of being plagiarized by a newspaper or news channel (been there, suffered that and seen others suffer as well), because these people are the hardest to deal and reason with. Even though it is generally their “guest contributors” who plagiarize your work (sometime verbatim) to gain popularity or promote their business.
4. Be professional, but don’t try and behave like a lawyer: At the end of the day, what separates us from these thieves is a sense of professionalism, courtesy, moral values and ethics. So when you deal with such individuals, do it in a professional manner and it would increase your chances of getting a positive response. However, do not talk in legal terms or threaten to sue them unless you intend to (especially in case of large corporations), since as a policy matter, they will forward your call/email/letter to their legal department and then you would have to directly deal with lawyers, which will leave you with less leeway and make reasoning and negotiations harder. If you have to get something legally worded and sent, get it done through a good lawyer. If you plan to sue someone, don’t tell them that, go to a lawyer and send them a legal notice!
5. At times it is easier to pull the carpet from under their feet: At times it is far easier to get your content removed by reporting the matter to competent authority, instead of trying to deal with the douchebag, who plagiarized your work eg. contacting the forum/social media/site directly, instead of contacting the offending party (for Facebook take down requests, click here to contact their copyright department). Similarly you can contact the webhost of the content thieves to have their site/blog taken down, if they fail to respond positively to your complaint.
Of course at the end of the day, it is worth remembering, that it is you, who has created the content in the first place and can and will do that again and in all likelihood, much better than earlier, while those who stoop to stealing others work, would forever be limited by the search results of Google!