When you post to social media, your content is public. But that doesn't necessarily mean that someone can come along, steal your content, and repost it as their own.
Like other forms of visual and written media, social media content is protected by copyright laws. Essentially: if you post it, it's legally your work that can't be stolen by others.
However, people will be people, and chances are your content will be stolen at some point.
Some common occurrences of this are people reposting Instagram content without attribution or reposting Facebook videos and playing them off as their own.
If you find your content reposted without your permission or attribution, you can take action to secure your intellectual property.
So in this article, we'll show you how to look for stolen content on the web and discuss what to do when you find stolen content on social media (or elsewhere).
Sound good? Let's dive in.
How to find stolen content on social media and the web
First thing's first: before you can take down stolen content, you need to find it.
And while searching through every single social media post, blog article, and YouTube video is an impossible task, there are tools you can use to automate the process for you.
Here are a couple of our favorites:
Social Report — find stolen content on social media
You know we had to do it: we picked ourselves first... but hear us out for a minute.
Social Report is a full-service social media tool with awesome publishing, reporting, and monitoring tools. But for the sake of finding stolen content, we'll focus on Social Report's monitoring tool.
Using our social media monitoring tool, you can create Search Agents that monitor up to ten keywords at once across all social networks.
This is helpful for a variety of marketing tasks but can be used to monitor for people stealing your original content.
Do this by making a few Search Agents that monitor keywords and hashtags that your brand uses frequently.
Then, check the search results frequently for duplicate content and visual media. You can even enable email notifications for quick notification of people stealing your content.
Google Alerts — find stolen content on the web
Think of Google Alerts as Search Agents for blogs.
Using Google Alerts, you can run ongoing keyword searches for any number of terms. This is helpful for brand monitoring, tracking trends, and—of course—looking for stolen content.
To look for stolen content, make a new Google Alert every time you publish a new article on your blog. In the alert, include part of your article's text.
Then you'll get an email alert whenever someone publishes an identical piece of copy. Google Alerts searches all blogs and online publications, so you'll get complete protection from people stealing your content.
What to do when you find stolen content on the web
So you've set up your Search Agents and Google Alerts. Months go by, and you get a notification: someone stole your Instagram post.
Uh oh, what do you do now?
As promised, here are your options. We've listed them in order of severity, from simply contacting the poster to taking legal action.
Let's check 'em out.
Contact the owner of the blog or social account
The first thing you should do when you find stolen content—whether on social media or a blog—is to contact the person that owns the account via email or direct message.
There are many reasons that your content may have been illegally republished. The person may be inexperienced and not know the basics of copyright law, or they may have brought on a new intern that was struggling to meet a deadline.
Whatever the reason may be, give the person a chance to redeem themselves privately.
In your correspondence, discuss how you found your original content on their site without expressed permission. Make it clear that this is illegal and that this email is a notice to take down the content.
Alternatively, you can offer to license the content to them in return for payment or attribution, but that's for you and your team to decide.
Generally, this is all you need to do. The person will usually respond in a couple days and remove the stolen content from their site. But if they don't... here's what you need to do.
If that doesn't work, report the post to the social network or blog host
If you don't hear back from the writer in a week's notice, it's time to escalate to the next course of action.
With that, our second step in taking down stolen content is to report the stolen content to the social network or blog host. Here's how to do it.
Reporting stolen blog content
On the social media side, reporting stolen content is easy: report the post using the network's built-in abuse reporting tools.
For example, on Instagram, you can click the 3 dot button at the top-left of your post and tap the Report button in the pop-out menu. Then you can submit a report on why you'd like the post removed from the social network.
You should hear back from the social network in a few days. It's really that easy.
Reporting stolen blog content
Reporting stolen blog content is a little bit trickier.
To do this, you need to get in touch with the person hosting the blog in order to report content theft.
Thankfully, finding this host isn't as hard as it sounds—just use the free WhoIsHostingThis? tool to find the blog's host.
Once you're on the site, enter their domain into the search box on the site, run the search, and look at the Hosting Provider URL field to find a link to the blog's hosting provider.
Some hosts have a special page for reporting stolen content. But if they don't, you'll have to email the provider and let them know about your stolen content situation.
In your message, explain your situation and send a link to both the stolen content and your original content. Further, tell them that you've tried reaching out to the blog's owner directly, but haven't heard back.
In our experience, the social network or web host will get back to you in a few days with a resolution.
Have your lawyer send a DMCA takedown notice
If contacting the social network still doesn't get your stolen content removed, you have to start considering legal action.
Namely by sending a DMCA takedown notice.
Essentially, a DMCA takedown notice is a legal letter that explains that the recipient has stolen your content and that they legally have to take it down.
You can technically send one of these letters your own, but we recommend having it sent and signed by a lawyer. This adds a layer of legitimacy and urgency to your request, proving that you mean business.
If the content thief doesn't take action after this letter, you will have to take further legal action. Make sure to discuss this with a lawyer or legal professional as there are different avenues you can take.
Now it's your turn
Now we want to hear from you: have you been the victim of social media content theft? If so, did you follow any of the steps in this article? Let us know in the comments.
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