How to Protect Your Content

There are lots of potential problems that can creep up on you if you’re not vigilant about protecting your website’s content. Trust me, I speak from experience. In this article, I’ll try to walk you through some ways that you can protect your copyrighted content.

How to Copyright Website Content

Step one in this process, is to be sure that you actually do own the copyright to the content in question. So, how do you do that? Well, if you wrote the content yourself and didn’t plagiarize – you own the copyright. It’s really as simple as that. You should, but you don’t necessarily have to display a copyright notice on your site.

If you buy content, there are a couple more steps you need to take.  First, you need to be sure that the content you’ve purchased has not been plagiarized.  You can check it yourself by doing a few searches on Google, Bing, or your search engine of choice.  Just copy a few sentences of the content, wrap it in quotation marks, and hit enter.  If an exact copy of those sentences is found, you probably need to start looking for a new writer. The best tool, in my opinion, for checking content is CopyScape.  I use their premium service to check all content that we have written for us.  It costs $.05 per search – and you can paste in the entire article, or a link to a published article and CopyScape does the rest.  A nickel is a small price to pay for this peace of mind.

Once you’ve confirmed that the content hasn’t been stolen/plagiarized, you now need to be sure to specify to anyone that you are buying content from, that you are also purchasing the copyright to the content they are writing. After all, as soon as they write the content, they technically own the copyright to it.  Just specify that, as part of the business transaction you are conducting, the copyright to the content in question is being transferred to you or your company.

Displaying a Copyright Notice and/or a Warning Banner

As I mentioned earlier, it’s advisable that you display a copyright notice on any content that you’ve published. Again, it’s not a necessity – you own the copyright whether you publish a notice or not – but it’s worth the 10 seconds it takes to setup if it discourages people from re-publishing your work.

Copyright Notice Examples

  • © 2011 ABC Company, Inc.
  • Copyright 2008 – 2011 ABC Company, Inc.
  • All Site Content © 2011 ABC Company, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Basically, a copyright notice serves to let the general public know that you do, in fact, claim copyright ownership of the content on your site.  The word “Copyright” and the © symbol are interchangeable.  Also, the HTML code that you need to use to display a © is: ©

Copyright Warning Banners

If you want to take the Copyright notice a step further, and hopefully head off people stealing your content, you might consider displaying a warning banner, like these available at Copyscape.

Check for Stolen Content

So, you’ve displayed a copyright notice, and you may have even tossed up one of those warning banners on your site. If your content is good (and sometimes, even if it isn’t), unscrupulous website owners are still going to steal your content. It’s just the nature of the beast, unfortunately.

If you’re serious about protecting your content, you’ll need to check frequently for sites stealing your content. Do searches for snippets of your content on search engines, or you can use CopyScape. If you want to automate the checking process, CopyScape has a service called CopySentry – they’ll monitor the content on your entire site (or portions of it) daily or weekly – for a pretty steep fee…


  1. Michael McMahon says:

    1.) Contact the web site owner w/ a cease and desist (C &D) and make sure to submit to their on-line contact forms and give them a deadline to remove it, say (24-48 hours)

    2.) If your C&D fails, do a who is search and find who provides their hosting. If the host isn’t some unknown third party in the untamed lands of Eastern Europe and Asia, you should get a positive response from the hosting provider.

    3.) Once all efforts fail, file a formal DMCA complaint with the search engines, namely Google and Bing.

    In step 1, it is important to note that you intend to file formal complaints (steps 2 & 3) if the content is not removed immediately. From my experience, this process is pretty effective.

    Bryan, at what point do you get lawyers involved? Do you use a general attorney, or do you use one w/ intellectual property (IP law) experience?

    • Sweet, you basically just wrote my next blog post for me: How to Get Stolen Content Taken Down.

      I’ve never had to get lawyers involved. I’d imagine that the only time you would, is if the party in question is disputing your ownership of the copyright. Hosting companies typically respond immediately to DMCA’s.

  2. Michael McMahon says:

    While I know you’re not a lawyer, are hosting companies liable for not removing stolen content? I would assume that they can hold some responsibility…

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