On Thursday night, thanks to the Trackback plugin on my blog, I discovered that someone had stolen 10 of my blog posts. 10. It was a ‘scraper site’, ostensibly about travel, and they had been scraping blog posts from travel bloggers from all over the world.
Of course, scraping goes on all the time, and there are limits to what you can do about it (another useful way to find out if someone has been scraping your content is to check regularly on Copyscape). In fact, someone stole a blog post from me once before, although fortunately that was resolved very quickly. I had disabled the right click then, but if someone really wants to steal your content, they will.
What happens when someone scrapes your blog is that the post they have published with your words in it then ranks almost as highly as yours does on Google. They are a virtual cuckoo in the nest, and this can be catastrophic. Apparently you’re supposed to be flattered that they’ve scraped your blog, since it means you’re obviously ranking high for the topic they want their content to be about, but I don’t see it that way at all.
But there was another reason I was so upset about what had happened. And that’s this. The posts this person had scraped included very personal posts about my dad, and about my son. To see my words about my grief and my child on this cheap little scraper site with its ads for all kinds of nonsense made me absolutely furious.
There are heaps of posts advising you what to do if you discover your blog been scraped. The first thing I did was send a cease and desist email to the owner of the site, via the email on one of his sites (he has about eight), telling him that he had committed plagiarism and that I would take very swift action if he didn’t remove the posts immediately. (Incredibly, he has a ‘copyright’ footer on the scraper site, which is how I found him.)
I then looked up the ‘whois’ domain via his ip address which had come through on the Trackback comments, and discovered which company his domain was registered with – Go Daddy. I contacted Go Daddy to tell them (a very laborious process, as they require so much evidence, and they’re based in the US. There is a London phone number, but that just gets you through to someone who knows nothing).
To my joy, by late Thursday evening the entire site was offline. I then received an email from the scraper to say his site was currently suspended, but as soon as it was back online he would remove the posts in question.
I went to bed feeling fairly confident it was over.
But on Friday I was very upset to see the site was back up and the posts were still there. Once again I emailed the owner of the site, and Go Daddy. The owner of the site responded shortly afterwards to assure me that all the posts had been taken down – they had, although I noticed that all the other posts he had scraped from travel bloggers were still up there (I have told as many of them as I can.)
Then I had an email from Go Daddy to say that since the posts had been removed the case was presumed to be closed.
Er… not quite.
I have now complained to Go Daddy after they responded to one of my tweets about the fact that they are continuing to host this scraper site, which, as I’ve said above, contains lots of content scraped from other bloggers. They have promised to look into it again, so we’ll see what happens there.
I’ve now added a copyright sentence to my RSS feed, so that it appears on all my blog posts – the idea of this is that someone does scrape your site, because inevitably they will be bots rather than people you should get the ping back.
The other thing you can do if it happens to you is complain to Google so they stop indexing the site, but this is something you need to do while the posts are still live – and I just wanted to get them removed as quickly as possible.
As I wrote to the scraper, when he told me the posts had been removed, I don’t understand why he couldn’t have created his own content. I also asked him what possessed him to scrape content about my father and son.
He did not reply.