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You write articles, photograph or create things in another way that you (also) publish digitally. And then you have to find out that someone has used your material. Plagiarism, or rather: copyright infringement. Damn annoying, because you did your best at it. Fortunately, your work is automatically protected by copyright and therefore you are allowed to take action. How to detect those infringements, what you can do and how, is completely presented to you. 

Feel free to go directly to the summary if you think the whole article is too long ;-)

Copyright infringement or plagiarism?

When is it plagiarism and when is it copyright infringement? Plagiarism is a rather general term used when someone is copying or copying something from someone else. Legally, you use the term "copyright infringement." And: that copyright is rigorous, so you have to demonstrate the infringement really well. In this article, I am talking about plagiarism being the act of copying your work or its parts. And when it comes to the legal side, I'm talking about copyright infringement.

Disclaimer: No legal advice

Please note: I am not giving you legal advice here. For all legal matters regarding intellectual property and copyright I would like to refer you to Charlotte's Law. You will receive some advice based on the basic knowledge that I have, so you have to go to Charlotte for all legal details. In this article you will find several links to articles by Charlotte.

What's the problem with plagiarism?

There are several reasons why plagiarism is or can be a problem:

  1. Copyright Infringement; this is the case anyway and as far as I am concerned the main problem
  2. Duplicate content; doesn't necessarily have to be a problem and probably isn't
  3. Hassle; Detecting plagiarism takes time, you have to work on it and it is annoying that someone steals something from you

And it's just terribly annoying when someone has the guts to steal something from you that you've put time, effort, creativity and more into. The problems are explained in more detail:

1. Copyright Infringement

You made something that is really your thing. Because I mainly experience copyright infringement in texts, I am mainly talking about texts. A text that you have written is unique, it has your style. In addition, you have of course put a lot of effort into writing that text (or making that visual material). Copyright is automatically based on this. Unless the work can be called generic. And that can be a tricky one. Because when is a text generic?

More than 80% similarity in 3 paragraphs of text is clearly an infringement of copyright.

The copyright infringement is clear here. Surely this much similarity can no longer be a coincidence?

Almost exact match is no coincidence, is it?

When several sentences (almost) exactly match, copyright infringement has likely been committed. It cannot be a coincidence when there is more than 80% agreement with your text. Still, it can become a yes-no game and in that case you will have to engage a lawyer. Partly for this reason, recording evidence is significant.

TIP: 'plagiarism' is therefore not a legal term, it is referred to as 'copyright infringement'. Keep this in mind in your communication.

2. Duplicate content as a result of plagiarism

When someone publishes the same as you, there is duplicate content or 'duplicate content'. This does not necessarily have to be a problem in terms of SEO. Usually, the person who plagiarizes you will have less authority than you (otherwise they don't have to copy you, do they?) And thus automatically rank lower in the search engines. Still, it may be that Google ranks the copied content higher than the original and you are not happy. Furthermore, duplicate content is normally not really an SEO problem.

3. The hassle you have about it

Plagiarism is just a hassle. First of all, you have to actively track it down yourself, which takes time and effort. And then you have to tackle it, for which you first have to record all the evidence. And as soon as you claim your copyright, you often get a lot of hassle. The infringers deny, make excuses, and often think it's okay if they just remove it. Anyway, you actually have to take action, because plagiarism takes place more often than you dare to think. For example, I find at least 10 cases of infringement of my copyright every year, only on texts from my own website. Texts that we have supplied for customers also turn out to be so good that they are regularly taken over by others.

TIP: Do not take immediate action if you discover an infringement of your copyright. You are often (too) high in your emotion, so that you do not always approach everything rationally. Hold on, think carefully about what to do, and take the time to consider and take your steps.

Copyright infringements are the order of the day

Copyright infringements are commonplace online. Every year I can observe at least 10 times that someone apparently thought that the texts on my website were so good that he or she could not do it better. That's a nice compliment of course, but no reason to copy and use my texts as if you had written it yourself. What I have come across:

  • 1-on-1 copying of texts
  • copy parts of texts and use them to write your own text
  • rewrite texts so that it is not an exact copy

The latter in particular is pretty sneaky, because it sometimes makes it more difficult to prove that your copyright has been affected. How do you track down those infringers?

How do you detect copyright infringement?

Of course, it depends on the type of content you create how you track down the infringers. There are tools to track copyright infringement online. Below you will find an overview of tools that you can use for both images and text. Find out for yourself what works for you.

Plagiarism checkers for texts

Most plagiarism checkers for texts mainly focus on checking pieces of text to enter yourself in the tool. These exist mainly to prevent students and other writers from committing plagiarism in their theses, whitepapers, etc. Or for authors who want to check whether their own text is not eligible for plagiarism. For your online texts, you need a tool that, based on the text on a URL, checks which other web pages have matching texts.

Several tools  at a glance

The tools are almost all in English and are then called Plagiarism checkers. For a long time I used Copyscape for my texts. This is free with limited use, but if you want to regularly check content of (almost) your entire website for plagiarism, you still have to switch to paid tools. Some other free tools you can use:

With most of these plagiarism checkers, you paste your text in a box, or a URL in a box below, after which the tool looks for matches. Most of the free tools I tested didn't really work, and even on pages that I knew had text taken from them, didn't give any results. Then it is best to use the free version of Copyscape, where you can enter 10 URLs every 24 hours.

Copyscape and Copyleaks both have a so-called freemium model, you can do a few free checks there and pay for more than what they offer in their free version. So you pay for these tools if you have some serious content and want to check it regularly for copyright infringements.

Overview of detected copyright infringements in CopyScape Premium.

In CopyScape you save the observed infringements of your copyright to handle them if necessary.

Automatic check for infringement (paid)

Do you not want to manually check your texts, but automatically monitor whether your web pages are copied? That is also possible. It costs you some money, but of course that also saves you time. And you are often there sooner than if you check it manually each time. These are the plagiarism checkers that automatically check your content (paid, but sometimes also free):

  • PlagiaShield [aff.]; free one-time scan of 1 website up to 500 pages, various paid subscriptions for more pages and/or websites
  • Donotcopy: Dutch initiative where you have the choice to check 1 or (up to) 20 websites for copyright infringement for a very reasonable price
  • Copysentry: from Copyscape, with a base amount of $ 4.95 to 10 pages and then $ 0.25 per page

All these plagiarism checkers regularly scan your web pages for possible copies. Most of that was weekly, which is now just monthly at PlagiaShield. Weekly is also possible, of course you pay a little more. I personally don't need a daily or weekly scan so I'm happy with PlagiaShield's monthly scan. Fortunately, there is now a choice of providers that automatically check for copyright infringement. Until 2020 there was only Copysentry; Donotcopy and PlagiaShield were added in 2020 and I really like both.

My advice for tools to find breaches (text)

Of course it is nice to get advice on which tool to use. Now there is no straightforward answer to that. It mainly depends on how many pages you want to monitor and with what frequency.

  1. If you do at most a few checks a year, Copyscape is fine, although it does most of the work for you. Depending on the number of pages, you spend a few euros to a few tens annually.
  2. If you want regular checks for copyright infringement, an automated plagiarism checker is your choice. PlagiaShield does monthly checks for a decent starting price of € 14.90 per month. Then you can monitor up to 5 domains and up to 1000 pages.
  3. If you really want intensive checks for copyright infringement, CopySentry, Donotcopy and PlagiaShield are your options. Where PlagiaShield checks monthly by default, you can opt for weekly at an additional cost. CopySentry and Donotcopy both have weekly checks and with Copysentry Pro you can even monitor your web pages daily.

So especially look at what you have to monitor. With 1 website and more than 50 pages, Copysentry is expensive, because you pay extra per page. Then PlagiaShield and Donotcopy come into the picture and it is a matter of choosing based on your volume and possibly whether you want to have your content checked weekly or monthly.

In short: for monthly checks PlagiaShield is the cheapest, if you want weekly checks for possible copyright infringements, choose Donotcopy.

Second opinion to be sure

Since each tool works in its own way, the results vary a bit, I have noticed. No tool really finds all copyright violations, so my advice is to always get some second opinion with Copyscape. If you do that once or twice a year, it is easy to do and lose a few tens a year.

TIP: Create a spreadsheet with the pages you want to monitor in CopyScape with tabs up to 900, 1400, 1900, 2400, 2900 words and so on. You pay for these kinds of limits and it is a shame to pay the highest rate if you also have shorter texts.

Yes, but those tools cost money ...

Oh, you think it just costs money? That is actually something. If you receive compensation, you may soon have an annual subscription to one of the automatic plagiarism checkers. And of course it is not necessarily about the compensation. Don't you want your copyrighted work to be used only where you permit for?

If you are a copywritcopywriter/copywriteruld even say that you have a responsibility to protect the content your customer has paid for. Isn't it strange if someone else could (for free) use what your customer paid for?

Plagiarism checkers for images

Images are of course not my own subject matter, so I had to search for this myself. In Google and Bing you can work with 'reverse image search'. go to thGoappropriate search engine, click on the camera, enter the URL of a photo or upload a photo and search. It all works quite logically.

Google Reverse Image Search: Search for a photo in Google.

The professionals, of course, use other tools. The best known is TinEye , which you can use for free for non-commercial use. For commercial use there is the TinEye API . Some other tools I've found:

At Small SEO Tools I also ,found a 'Reverse Image Search' tool, of which I don't really see the point. In this tool you still have to go to one of the search engines yourself, then you can go directly to a search engine yourself to upload your image or enter URL there as above.

And then you find a violation of your copyright, (how) are you going to deal with the infringer?

Prepare to take action.

When you discover copyright infringement, you should prepare well before taking any further action. These are the main points:

  • Make sure you can prove that you are the copyright holder
  • Record as accurately as possible evidence of what has been plagiarized; take screenshots of both the infringing page and your own page
  • Calculate the damage of the breach

Keep in mind that the infringer will deny, make excuses, and get out for damages if you make a claim. So what are you supposed to do?

Record evidence clearly

So record what has been plagiarized. Take screenshots with the date and also build up as much evidence of publication dates as possible. If you can prove when your piece was published and that the disputed piece was published later, someone else cannot deny that. If you have the proof, they can't deny it. In addition to screenshots, you can also capture evidence by capturing web pages in the Wayback Machine and saving them as HTML.

For example, all my pages that I already published on letterzaken.nl are in the Wayback Machine to prove that I had already published them at that time. The publication date can also be found there in the source code, so that even when republishing with a new date I can still prove that I had already published this much earlier.

TIP: Use a tool like GoFullPage for full web page screenshots.

TIP 2: install the Wayback Machine extension in your browser (Chrome or Firefox), so you can save a webpage in a few clicks.

Record the publication dates

In some cases, Google shows the publication date of web pages in the search results. This is often the case with blog articles in particular. If not, check the source code of the page to find out a publication date. You do that as follows:

Right click> Page source> CTRL + F (on Mac CMD + F)> type 'published' and see if 'date published' appears in the code. There may also be 'date modified' behind it, so that you can demonstrate that the page as it now stands was published on that date.

NB: this is not foolproof, so do your best to find out when the page was published. This is also possible with Google Custom Search.

Find out publish date with Google Custom Search.

You have to do something for it, about it works well. First of all go to G,oogle Custom Search, there you click on 'Create a custom search engine'. In th.'next screen you enter the domain name, adjust the name if necessary and select the language. It is not necessarily necessary for this purpose. Ready? Click on 'Create' and continue.

You don't have to do anything else in the next screen. Actually, Google Custom Search is meant to place a search function on your website and that's what all the parts on this page are for. Just click on 'Custom Search' at the top left and you will be taken to the page with your special search engines.

You can have multiple websites in your dashboard. Click on the domain name for which you want to find the publication date and search with specific words for the page on which you found the plagiarism. In this example I use my webpage 'well-considered words' myself:

If Google doesn't show the date in the search results, you will find it. What struck me is that it is not always about the date of publication. Pages I once edited have a more recent date. This means that Google will note the date the page was updated or when Google indexed it as it is now.

Publication date is not watertight

As you probably know, I regularly republish existing articles. They are then updated and because they are recent again, they are also republished with a new publication date. It can therefore, never be made completely watertight in terms of publication date. Unless you can prove that your (first) publication date is earlier than the registration date of the domain name. You check it with SIDN, and if your page has already been published before the domain name was registered - which has also happened to me - you have excellent proof that you were there before. Furthermore, as far as I am concerned, the best options are:

  • Add any webpage you publish directly to Wayback Machine
  • Have your website recorded in blockchain via Wordproof timestamps
  • Revisions of your page if you are using WordPress

Backups of your website can also prove that you had published the page before, provided that you really have the backups from the date of publication.

Claim or remove?

What do you do when you discover a copyright infringement: are you submitting a claim or are ,you satisfied with removing the disputed item? You are in any case entitled to compensation. Legally, you suffer damage by using your copyrighted work. Your work is no longer exclusive, it may cost you turnover and if ,the work has been modified, it may also be altered or mutilated. Whether you make a claim or just request removal is up to you.

How do you determine the compensation?

How do you determine the damage if you request compensation? I first estimate my chance of success. The compensation should be a deterrent, but it cannot be so high that it is not realistic.You should workk it out quickly than that you are busy with it again because the other partywillo be difficult or even have to start a lawsuit.

An example of how I calculate it

I myself look at the following points:

  • how much has been taken over? (number of words; percentage of your piece)
  • can they muster it? (freelancer or bv; it makes quite a difference whether they have bacon on the bones)
  • have they also infringed on others? (that makes your proof stronger)

You must also be able to substantiate the damage. What is your damage? This can consist of:

  1.  The rate you would charge if you had done this work for them; text written, photo taken
  2. Personality Law; that text is yours, the other pretends to have written it
  3. Reduction of exclusivity of your work
  4. Alteration or mutilation; if someone also changes something, your work is different than you intended it to be

From a legal point of view, copyright infringement is already sufficient to speak of damage. Yet you must also be able to substantiate that damage when it becomes legal proceedings. In some cases, loss of turnover could also be an argument, if you can substantiate it.

Calculate an amount for that

You can now calculate an amount for the above points. Do not calculate an excessively high compensation, rather lower than it could be, include that calculation and ask for a lower compensation in your summons. You can indicate that the judge will award a higher amount, plus the costs of the lawsuit, if they lose them. And they will certainly lose it if you can prove the infringement. And you can, otherwise you will not send that summons.

TIP: DO NOT send an invoice, because you have not delivered a product or service. There is also no VAT charged on compensation.

Just ask for adjustment or removal?

Of course you can choose to only ask for adjustment or removal. You can know for yourself. For me, this almost always resulted in annoying reactions such as “I didn't copy yours at all” (no, it's a total coincidence that all those words are in the same place…). To be honest, this made me very numb. Because of this, and because I have had to observe so many violations of my copyright, I always claim damages.

As a website owner you should be aware of copyright

The website owner is responsible for what is on their website. Whether he or she has posted this himself or not. And with that, the website owner should also be aware of at least the basis of copyright. And to be honest: I once made a mistake with a photo and then had to sit on the blisters.

Compensation? Do it right

You can send an angry email yourself about the photographer who caught me infringing his copyright. You saw that he had cut and pasted everything from different emails and / or documents. If you choose to file a claim, do it right. Prevent errors from occurring, resulting from which someone who is legally more grounded will bring down your claim. I myself bought the Summons Letter Copyright Infringement from Charlotte's Law. A one-time investment and you know that it is legally correct.

No claim for damages? Record everything

If you run your hand over your heart and only request adjustment or removal, make sure you record everything. If the infringer goes wrong again, you have even more evidence to file a claim for damages. You may claim the damage up to 5 years after the infringement has been established.

All steps summarized for you

Here's what you do to find and take action on copyright infringement:

  1. Use a tool to track and record the breaches
  2. Record all evidence in as much detail as possible
  3. Calculate your damage
  4. Choose the request for removal with or without compensation

And in the end be prepared for the reaction of the opposing party. If it is unreasonable, don't respond immediately and always stick to the facts. That is why it is also important to only communicate in writing in these types of situations. This way you avoid saying the wrong things and in addition, everything is really fixed when you communicate in writing.

Prevent plagiarism by making copying impossible?

If you have a WordPress website, you can use various plugins to prevent people from copying your work via the right mouse button. And yes, I say consciously try to prevent. Someone a bit handy with the internet knows how to retrieve and copy the content on a web page without a right mouse click. At the most, you make it more difficult for the less experienced internet user.

Self-infringed?

Have you infringed on copyright yourself and got an angry copyright owner on your roof? First try to put yourself in his or her position. How would you like it if someone blindly took over something from you that you put so much time and effort into making? Assume that you are not the first to plagiarize this maker. And do not get on the defensive. You're wrong, that's for sure. Consult with the maker and see if you can work it out together. Most copyright holders don't want to be an ogre ...

Do you have experience with copyright infringement, do you want to ask something, add something or do you have other tools to track down plagiarists? Leave a comment, questions are always answered.

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