Content Rules

The internet is a funny place. It moves at furious pace. New content is produced so frequently you could never run out of things to read even if you sat in front of your computer 24/7.

It’s not like your high school or college English class where you had to cite your sources, and it was easy for your teacher to catch plagiarism. The internet is a vast and wide place, a little like the Wild West, where anyone can buy a domain and start sharing content. Even if that content doesn’t belong to them.

With the advent of sharing sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and dozens more the need for fresh content is even higher. The key to success (or building traffic) is content being shared. Sourcing content you want to share back to its’ original source is becoming harder and harder. I know because I spend a lot of time sourcing pins back to their source on Pinterest and have often found full blog posts, photos, and more stolen from the original author.

Anyone who has a blog, website, or produces content knows that they have to be on the lookout for content theft. That’s why on my websites you will see a copyright notice, as well as legal wording that you can not share content without permission. That protects me legally (somewhat), but doesn’t mean people won’t take my content.

© is for copyright

Before you start shaking you head there are some common myths out there about content creation and sharing. Yes, I want my content to be shared, but the caveat is that it should point back to my site not someone else’s domain or Pinterest board.

Sharing something on the internet does not mean it’s public domain.  

I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t play one on the internet, so I won’t get into the legal mumbo jumbo surrounding IT law, copyright, and fair use. You can find some great articles on these issues below. Not sure about a particular situation? Consult a lawyer.

Boiling it down to the essentials though-you should never take another person’s photos, design, or words and pass them off as your own. If you want to use something, ASK.

Content Dos and Don’ts

How can you protect your content?  

  • Add a copyright to your website–Wordpress users will find WP Copyright plugin easy to use
  • Obtain a Creative Common License
  • Controversial as it is posting partial RSS feeds and partial blog posts will help prevent theft
  • Use Google to search for phrases from your blog posts
  • Set up a Google alert with your blog name, name, and any other info that you may find on your blog.
  • Add watermarks to photos using PicMonkey (you can add the copyright symbol © using option+g on a Mac)

What happens when a big brand takes your content?

This week a major story unfolded in the blogging community-one that has long-term implications for a major brand and the blogging community.

NickMom launched a website and social media efforts as part of a new block of programming they are rolling out that targets moms. The tone is a little less Backyardigans, and a little more snark-filled fun for moms. Featuring snarky and funny photos, infographics, and more the site aims to appeal to parents with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge humor about parenting.

The problem? Much of their content strategy is devised around pulling photos, infographics, and content from other websites and adding a  link back…sometimes.

What does that mean? Here’s an example: this page is a direct image taken from the (awesome) blog, Not Just a Housewife, that was clearly watermarked. It was taken  without permission, and the via link at the bottom may be a nod back to the source, but it’s not enough.

It’s not just one blogger though. It happened to my friend Annie from MamaDweeb too. NickMom took a photo of her daughter and used it in a series of most awkward 1st birthday photos. It has since been removed, but you can see a screenshot here). Laughing Stork also shares that NickMom’s content is a little too similar to hers. HowtobeaDad produces some of the funniest images on the web for parents, and their Godzilla vs. Baby graphic was a little to similar to this Dinosaur vs. Baby image NickMom shared.

Meanwhile, FailBlog picked up a cool ‘product fail’ that  HowtobeaDad  produced, and  subsequently  the image was posted on the Guys with Kids  Facebook page. The image was used without permission or proper attribution. While it has since been properly credited to the original content creator, it’s still a major fail from another big brand.

Apologies and proper crediting are a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough in my opinion. There needs to be a better response time for these brands, and a clearer directive for those running the social media accounts.

More info on NickMom:

Amy Bair of Resourceful Mommy led the charge with this post “Hands off Our Content,” and subsequent updates. You’ll find responses from NBC and NickMom here, but the story is still unfolding.

Kelby Carr, founder of Type-A Mom and Type-A Parent, had a lot to say about how NickMom is sliming bloggers.

ShePosts, a site dedicated to blogging news had a wonderful piece by Fadra Nally about the whole debacle. It includes a quote from NickMom at the time of posting, though more recent updates include information that NickMom will be evaluating the way they run their website in its’ entirety.

Look for updates on these posts regularly as this story develops.

Links about content theft, plagiarism, and copyright:  

If you have content stolen, you can request a DMCA takedown which essentially requests in writing that a site host remove your content. Legally this is the best method to have something removed. Instructions on how to do perform a DMCA  are here.

Imitation is not flattery, we know that, but  this article from Alexandra Wrote  makes a great point that giving credit is NOT asking for permission.

Ever been in the wrong? See how to handle it gracefully here. This is a perfect example of what NOT to do, and how to handle it if you are wrong.

A thorough post on copyright issues from a Ryan, a successful blogger who has dealt with his own share of copyright issues.

Want even more? Head over to Plagiarism Today, a site dedicated to making sense of plagiarism, copyright, and content theft.

Have you ever dealt with content theft or come across  plagiarism of your work? Let me know in the comments.

Do you have a recent social media post? Share in the comments for Social Media Saturday.


About Kelly

Kelly Whalen is the founder and editor of the Centsible Life blog. She started the blog 6 years ago as her family faced a mountain of debt. The blog became a resource to readers and a hub for everything you need in life for less. Kelly lives in the Philadelphia area with her superhero husband, 4 awesome kids, and one adorable dog. She still believes you can have it all....just not all at once.


  1. says

    A few weeks ago, I had the chance to interview a member of the cast of Glee ( Within hours, two other blogs had copied the entire post word for word as well as the first image with the watermark still showing. Both had given me a tiny credit at the bottom of their pages. I contacted both parties and requested them to take down the posts and received no response. I then sent out invoices and received a response from one apologizing but had to contact Google and the host of the others to have it removed.

    I Facebooked through the whole process and appreciated the support and suggestions I got from bloggers there (especially the one about sending an invoice!). This doesn’t seem to be an issue that is going to disappear anytime soon.

    • Agatha says

      A while back I read an article that since the proliferation of the internet the definition of “plagiarism” is different and much more loose for younger peeps. So I don’t see this problem going away anytime soon. I guess we each must just do our best to avoid this at all costs and be respectful of other people’s work!


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