In the Internet, everyone can gain access to any content. However, even web content deserves to be protected. Here are the questions and answers about copyright and web content theft.
What is a copyright?
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, a copyright is “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something.” A business can have its product copyrighted, though copyrighting is more prominent in creative works. For example, a recording artist copyrights his or her music to mark that it is his or her creation and that the music belongs to him or her. A publisher copyrights a textbook, a fiction novel, or any piece of literature to indicate that this is their work and no one else can directly copy its contents.
What is web content theft?
Theft, in its legal sense, is the act of taking the property of someone else without that person’s permission or consent. Web content theft is the same as actual theft, but the difference is that the theft is done in the Web and it is often unnoticeable. There are a few ways web content can be stolen:
Piracy is one of the most controversial issues in technology, as a person or software can simply steal files from the Internet without giving due credit or compensation to the creator/s and/or publisher. The most pirated content are music files, movies, games, and computer software, thanks to torrent sites and music download applications.
Plagiarism is the act of copying the content of articles such as online newspapers and scholastic journals without proper citation or reference. Considered to be frowned-upon by teachers and professors, plagiarism exists in colleges and universities where a student can copy-paste quotes in their papers without citing the source.
Copyright infringement is stealing web content such as graphics for non-personal use. An example of copyright infringement is a company using another company’s digital artworks to create their own replica of artworks.
Web content theft is hard to control, because it is very hard to regulate all activities that take place online. Some countries such as the United States have established copyright laws to protect online content, such as the DMCA or Digital Millenium Copyright Act that combats theft by taking down content-sharing websites. Meanwhile, some business companies encrypt their properties with copyright-protection codes for added security.
How does web content theft affect the business and search rankings?
Web content theft can take a toll on your company or website, especially when your content is very popular. One of the biggest impacts of web content theft is the flooding of search engines with too many websites that have the exact same content as yours. In that case, search engines flag this as spamming and lower the rankings of some websites they deem as “spammers.” This won’t be much of a problem if your website has a credible reputation with an influx of people viewing your website every day.
But if your website isn’t popular, then you may be at a disadvantage because the search engine may mistake your site as one of the “spammers” and drop your site in the search rankings. The theft can also hurt your reputation as viewers may also mistake you for a “spammer” or worse, the culprit when in fact your site is the original source of the content.
What are the consequences of web content theft?
Web content theft may not be noticeable from a consumer’s perspective, sometimes even going so far as to the consumer justifying his or her theft. Unfortunately, there are visible consequences on businesses, developers, and/or companies. Here are the possible consequences:
Declining revenue and sales
Whenever a video game, a music file, or a movie is pirated, it denies a sale to the creators, the developers, and the companies. With that, it’s no surprise that companies are blaming software piracy and torrent programs for their decreasing sales and loss of income.
Unfavorable business decisions
Businesses, most especially recording companies and game development studios, would of course want to keep afloat and relevant than succumb to piracy and theft. Unfortunately, there are some businesses who make disagreeable decisions in the name of combating piracy. One such unfavorable decision is game companies implementing in-game purchases, which deprive the player from further progress in a game unless he or she pays up using real money. On the other hand, a record company can resort to a tactic called “payola” or the act of paying radio stations to play their songs on a regular basis while promoting the artists and their music to the general public
If the piracy or theft is too much for a company or business to handle, their last option is to close down the business. It is the most unfortunate consequence, but it isn’t uncommon for a company to shut down operations due to web content theft.
How can you tell if your web content has been stolen?
The simplest way to determine if your content has been stolen is to do a search on Google. Just type in any content from your website and check if there any duplicates — for best results, use quotation marks around the text. To check if your image has been stolen, simply go to Google Images and type the name of the image, or simply drag the image into the search box. If you spot multiple sources that have the exact same information as your site, that’s a red flag that you’re a victim of web content theft.
You can also check out search engines for torrents or download links that can pirate your other content such as music files, e-books, video clips, and the like.
How can you protect your web content from theft?
The risk of a piece of web content being stolen is high, but there are ways to protect it from theft. One solution is to add watermarks on your digital images and artworks. Watermarks are transparent images designed to cover an image or artwork, though you can also embed a line of text or another image to mark it. A watermarked image is almost impossible to remove when the image is distributed or transferred without consent. Although it still doesn’t dissuade thieves from stealing, it does dissuade them from using the images for commercial use.