My Work Was Stolen

I filed a DMCA takedown notice for the first time — and it worked!

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

When you post anything online, you risk having your work stolen. Unfortunately, it’s part of the world we live in. Good content costs money and, rather than paying for it or producing it themselves, some lowlifes are willing to skim content from reputable websites, package it as their own, and try to make a few bucks on the backs of hardworking writers without breaking a sweat.

Some of the more popular writers on this platform have written about their content being stolen repeatedly, but it had never happened to me. Until this month.

The editor at Runner’s Life, Jeff Barton, sent a note to all the writers in his publication letting them know that much of their work was stolen by the website in question. Not only was he kind enough to notify all of us, but he also did the legwork of emailing the web host provider, who said that each copyright owner would have to file a notice for their work.

The website

Upon visiting the website (which has been completely taken down), my eyeballs were hammered with images of incredibly fit, pierced and tatted up bodies wearing very little clothing, along with a smattering of fitness-related material written by none other than our wonderful team of writers at Runner’s Life as well as In Fitness and in Health.

Scrolling through the platform took an inordinate amount of time due to ads and pop-ups, but eventually I found my article. While on the one hand I’m slightly flattered that I wrote a piece deemed good enough to steal, I was also rather alarmed to find a blown-up image of myself as the feature photo of my article. Not only that, the image, which was taken by my son, was incorrectly attributed to a photographer on Unsplash.

To find my own picture next to the models and images on the website was very surreal and confounding. If you want svelte, beautiful bodies on your website, I’ll just tell you, you’re looking at the wrong writer!

Filing the DMCA takedown notice

Filing the DMCA takedown notice with the web host was a simple process, and I received an email today confirming that the content has been removed.

Screenshot from Author

The website was taken down within a day of Jeff emailing all of us. I can only assume that all of us writers, working together to file these notices as soon as possible, contributed to the web host’s quick response.

Is fighting back pointless?

At this point, I know that many writers are beginning to feel that protecting their work is a case of whack-a-mole — as soon as one website is taken down, another pops up in its place. While this may be the case, in this instance I want to applaud the provider for doing the right thing, as well as the team of writers who took the time to file the required notices. I’m happy that we could work together to take out the garbage.

I think working together was key. While one person filing is concerning, I’m sure that receiving dozens of complaints in a single day is incredibly alarming for a webhost provider.

Most of us don’t have the free time to search for our work on other websites regularly. My article was up for over a month before I found it. But all it took was one person finding stolen articles and letting others know about it. My point is this — if you find something, let others know about it.

Going forward

I’ll keep writing on Medium, though I’ve slowed down considerably the last few months. I like writing about running especially, and this is the best place I’ve found to do that. But otherwise, I’m focusing on my freelance career, where I get paid well for the writing I do.

The penalties for copyright infringement are serious. Stealing content not only hurts the person you steal from, it also damages your credibility as a human being, business person, and writer. Most of us would be happy to write for you, for a fair rate.

And if you must steal my content, please don’t put my giant head as the feature image.

Freelance writer, distance runner, lifelong learner. Let’s chat!

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