Deterring Blogspot Content Theft

My friend, BugEric, recently found that his blog’s posts were being stolen and reposted on an unauthorized clone blog. I have dealt with photo theft and it is really upsetting when people take your creative work. My blog wouldn’t be very valuable to steal from, but if you have well written content and post frequently, your blog might be appetizing to someone looking for “free” content to monetize. I am not going to go into the takedown solutions which you should persue. This post is about making it harder for someone to steal your work in the first place.

The easiest way to steal blog posts is from the blog feed. One thing you can do to limit the value of your content to thieves is stop publishing full posts in your feed. That makes stealing entire blog posts more difficult. People who regularly read your site in a feed reader will be annoyed with this change, but many sites work this way. Forcing users to read your posts on your site will draw more traffic which is a good thing if you make money displaying ads. When I used a feed reader, I disliked sites that did this so I prefer not to limit readers that way, but I understand there are good reasons.

I am not an expert at blog security but I have some CSS and javascript that I think will help deter content theft. These methods have been around for years and should work for most blog platforms. I am only going to list how I did it on Blogspot.

In the site Template, insert:
<style>.yournametext {display:none;}</style>

In the Post Template:
[a couple blank lines]
<div class="yournametext">This article is Copyright Your Name.
<a href="http://yourblog.blogspot.com">yourblog.blogspot.com</a>.</div>
<script type="text/javascript" src="https://googledrive.com/host/0B9MBju5-QxEPbDNqTU1oVHgxSDQ/"></script>

Every time you write a new post, that code will appear and you can type (or paste) your regular post above it. That text will be invisible to viewer on your site but anyone who scrapes your HTML code or steals from the full feed will get that at the end of the post. You could include a year in there, but remember to change it every January. Users of feed readers will also see this if you publish full posts in your feed.

The javascript code will redirect anyone who views your stolen post on their blog to your site. The code is short so we could include it in the template, but it is better to put it in an external file just in case you need to update it or add to the code later. If you have your own domain, you should host the file there. Blogger doesn’t allow you to upload files, but there is a trick you can do with Google Drive. Follow the instructions here. They will walk you through uploading and getting the proper googledrive.com/host/ link for your file.

Your javascript file will include:
if (document.location.href.toLowerCase().indexOf("yourblog.blogspot.com")==-1) {
document.location.href = "http://yourblog.blogspot.com/"; }

If you prefer to stay with partial posts in the feed, the hidden CSS text at the bottom of the post won’t show so we need to add your notice to the feed. You can do that under Post Feed Footer, fill in:

<div>This article is Copyright Your Name.
<a href="http://yourblog.blogspot.com">yourblog.blogspot.com</a>.</div>

That will show only for Feed Readers and thieves who populate their blog automatically with your feed. If you are allowing full posts in your feed and used the CSS trick above, don’t do this because users of feed readers will see duplicate copyright notices at the end of all your posts.

If the rest of this post is too technical for you, adding that Post Feed Footer is a pretty easy solution that can help at least get your name and link on the stolen content. Of the three things I listed, if you only do one, make it this one. The CSS isn’t hard to do either. Setting up the javascript file takes a bit more effort. A determined thief could defeat all these techniques (and any other you could come up with), but hopefully its easier for them to target someone else instead of putting in a bit of extra work stealing your writing. Especially if you have a few different things he has to fix.

A common suggestion is to block copying and pasting from your blog. This can be done with javascript or CSS like user-select: none;. These techniques only provide a false sense of security. It won’t be so easy for someone to manually copy information (even your name) from your blog, but this won’t have any effect on someone who steals every post. They will have certainly automated the theft so every time you post, they get new “free content” for their doppelgänger blog without doing any further work.

There are some services that attempt to track unauthorized text use. I have not tried them, but from what little I have read about them, when there is a free option, it is very limited. Most small blogs don’t have a budget for content protection so we have to do it ourselves.

While hosting your own blog like mine does give you more features and plugins to use, I don’t think there are many other good solutions to preventing content theft than those I gave above, just easier ways to implement them. And if you run your own site, you must be sure to keep the software running it up to date. And you should install some security plugins (like WordFence) to help keep it safe. Hackers like to target blogs with old software where known bugs allow them easy access to your webserver. Being on Blogger or another hosted services is not a bad thing for many bloggers.

Here are some useful resources on the topic of blog article theft:
The Six Worst Ways to Protect Content
Content Scrapers
Beginners Guide to Preventing Content Scraping in WordPress

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