Others shouldn’t be allowed to just profit from your hard work without your permission, right?
Sadly, there are many people out there with bad intentions. They try to steal your work and use it as their own. Now it might be something relatively harmless. For example, they downloaded an image from your website and used it in a blog post on their own website.
But sometimes, digital pirates might scrape all the data from your website to create a near-identical version of your site. And your customers, who you’ve worked so hard to turn from prospects into loyal buyers by winning their trust, might end up on this fake website.
Thinking they’re shopping on your website, they give away their bank details to the fake site. Before they know it, they’re scammed out of hundreds of dollars. Do you think they’ll ever trust your brand or shop on your website again?
You can see how digital piracy can ruin your business. And that’s why it’s so important to protect your work. Because what is yours belongs to you, and pirates shouldn’t be able to get a hand on it. So how do you protect it?
That’s what we’re going to discuss in the article below. We’ll show you a few relatively easy ways in which you can protect your online work. Ready to find out?
Let’s send those pirates back to where they came from!
Ways to protect your work
Luckily, there are several ways in which you can protect what is yours from unwanted use by others. Below, we’ll run you through three simple steps you can take to start protecting your work.
Step 1 – The legal basis
You want to start by making sure everything you create is legally connected to your name as much as possible. To do so, you want to officially register some of your assets, either under trademark, patent, or copyright law. Let’s go through each of these in a bit more detail.
If you have invented something entirely new, you can have it patented. From the first steam engine to software programs, all such inventions have been patented.
As soon as you’ve patented your invention – which you can do at the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) – you are the sole owner of that invention. This means nobody else is allowed to create, use, or distribute/sell this patented invention unless they have official permission from you, the patent owner.
Trademarks are similar to patents, but they don’t refer to unique inventions. Instead, trademarks are reserved for assets like a brand logo, name, or design. These are the things that differentiate you from other traders operating in the same industry selling similar products or services.
Registering a trademark for your brand isn’t required, and not all companies do so, but it is a good way to help protect your work from digital pirates using it.
Where trademark helps protect key features of your branding, copyright applies to any work you created. These can be articles you’ve written for your blog or photos you’ve taken and designed for on your homepage.
As you can imagine, copyright can apply to a lot of different things. For example, if you’re a content writer, you might write several new blog posts every day. So registering for all these pieces of work would take up a lot of your valuable time.
Luckily, under the United States regulations, you automatically own any work you produce, and it is thus automatically protected through copyright law. However, to further strengthen your legal position, you can still manually register for a copyright.
Step 2 – Prevent unlawful use
Now your work is legally protected, you still need to find a way to track down any unlawful use. After all, just because you legally own it doesn’t mean scammers aren’t going to steal it.
This monitoring comes down to browsing the web to see if you spot any counterfeiters or fraudsters popping up using your work as their own.
If you’re a content writer, for example, you can quickly copy-paste a snippet of your writing into Google to see if any websites come up that might have copied (plagiarized) your writing. As a designer, you can do the same thing using Google Images’ reverse image search function.
Other areas you might want to check include marketplaces like Google Shopping, Amazon, or eBay to see if someone is trying to sell your products as their own.
But depending on the scale of your business and how many pieces of work you own, manually browsing the web can be very labor-intensive. Instead, you can try an automated approach, like using a web scraper.
Let’s think of that designer example again. Instead of manually using Google’s reverse image search function yourself, you can use a web scraper as a Google reverse image search API or build your own one, allowing you to automatically scrape data for dozens of images all at once.
Step 3 – Take them down
Hooray! You’ve managed to catch a pirate using your work illegally. So what do you do now?
Well, the first thing you can do is simply ask the thief to take the work down. Try to find a contact email or address on the website and write to them, explaining the situation and asking them to take the content down.
Mention that you own the rights to the work and that you will move to legal action if required. You’ll notice that many people will remove the content to avoid further legal action.
However, if the person doesn’t take your work down from their site, you can pursue legal action. In this case, you want to start by hiring a solicitor to help you. They will send the culprit a cease-and-desist order first. If this also doesn’t work, you can hire a lawyer to further pursue the matter in court.