Are you too trusting of your digital footprint as a blogger?

red shoes covered in mud

This month I experienced my first copy and paste blogging experience.

What’s that? It’s when someone copies all your photos from a tutorial you have done for a DIY or a project, pastes them into a blog entry on their blog, possibly uses your tutorial word for word or “in their own words” and if you’re really lucky, links back to you to let you know they did it. If they don’t link back and pretend it’s theirs, that’s called blog scraping.

I have read countless bloggers who have posted their experiences of having their content stolen. One of the best reads is was what happened to Susan at Between Naps on the Porch and no matter how far along you are in blogging, you should read her story and advice on how to handle it all. Kristi from Addicted2Decorating also has a great post about this subject.

I had two different posts, copied by two different bloggers this month alone. The only reason I found out about them was when I looked at my Referrers page on my WordPress Dashboard and saw a link from an unfamiliar site, clicked on it and saw my post. The other was a Pingback (WordPress has a feature that when another blog links to you, they notify you). I am lucky that they did give me a link back to my blog as the originator of the content. But both my posts were there.

And I couldn’t understand how any blogger would think that was ok to do.

So maybe this needs to be spelled out in layman’s terms because there are a lot of new bloggers out there that think this is perfectly normal blog sharing. It is not.

Copying all the photos and instructions from a post/tutorial that another blogger did and posting it on your blog is a huge no-no.

There’s a pretty simple reason why you don’t do this (aside from the fact that it is stealing content).

Why would anyone go to see the original bloggers tutorial, if it’s already on your blog?

You basically get that bloggers views and visitor counts to your page. You get people that come to your site to click on your ads thinking you’re posting all this great content. And now you’re now making money off of the content that you did not write. And that blogger did all the work, took all the photos and wrote up all the instructions. And what do they get?

Nothing.

Now blogging rules for social sharing of creative content tend to be pretty relaxed in a lot of aspects. They are in many ways encouraged and spreads the word about a given blog and that bloggers projects, increases their traffic and all that I scratch your back, you scratch my back type of good stuff. Even with that however there are a lot of grey areas in this type of social sharing and you are fully within your rights to not allow anything from your blog to be shared by others without your consent. This is why for example at Link Parties there is usually a disclaimer that says you allow the host blog to use your submitted photo on their site thereafter for featured content. This is to cover their ground and ensure they don’t get a letter from your lawyer down the line. Taylor Davies for IFB (Independent Fashion Bloggers) wrote a great post about Copyright, Content Laws and the Social Sharing of blog material. It is primarily for US laws but it is very useful overall.

Now when this happened to me, the first thing I did was privately email both bloggers and explained the situation. Both graciously took down my posts immediately. They genuinely didn’t understand that this was not normal practice for sharing content. Now in that sense I was lucky because it could have been a lot worse. I also moved my Copyright Policy from my Contact Page and put in my sidebar on the main page of blog where everyone can see it, to show what I allow on my site. Everyone’s site is different so check their policies if you are unsure.

But it did get me to thinking a lot about my digital footprint. About the comfort level we have as bloggers with how much we share, what we share and the digital trail that we leave online of our identity. How trusting we are with the virtual strangers that visit our pages and take a peek inside our lives. One of my tutorials that was re-posted somewhere else were full of photos of my children in them. As a mom and as a blogger, I would never use a photo of another bloggers child without their consent. But as angry as I was and no matter how many fingers I wanted to point at the culprits, the only person I should be pointing it at is myself.

I posted the photos on here. The blame lies with me. We assume that because we wouldn’t do that to another blogger, that they won’t do it to us. Which is frankly utterly naive and completely stupid.

I also thought about my blog content overall. Will I look back and wonder in 10 years if a given subject was a good idea to have voiced an opinion on or shown a certain picture? I read a great post this week from Alex at I Don’t Blog about this issue and her perspective about her online presence. If Facebook was around when I was a teenager, I’d probably be going around un-tagging photos of myself and deleting my self righteous, over confident and under experienced commentary. The adult that I am now is so far removed from the person I was at 19. How will I feel about my posts in another decade? How will my kids feel about my posts in a decade? Who knows if I will even have a blog then. Pressing delete doesn’t eliminate everything.

Your digital paper trail can last a lot longer than you. Sometimes it appears on other peoples digital footprints.

I don’t want to stop blogging. It has been such a great experience and I have met some really amazing people because of this community. But I may be reworking my future content at least where my kids are concerned. So in many ways this could be a blessing in disguise. If you’ve had a similar experience, by all means sound off in the comments and let me know.

And in the meantime, I’ve said this before in my first 6 month Blogging Lessons write up and I still think it’s one of the most important things to recognize when you blog – Pause and Re-Read Before you Publish. Or Tweet. Or Facebook. Or Instagram. Or Comment. Or Pin. Or Tumble. Or LinkIn. Or Blog.

See the paper trail now…

32 Comments

  • Reply
    Kate
    May 17, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Very helpful Alex, and timely; yesterday another blogger took one of my tutorials, featured it on her site, received comments complimenting her on her originality in coming up with the idea and then even posted a comment on my site publicising her own and suggesting readers pay her a visit.
    I’m astonished by the audacity of it and her belief that this could be in any way appropriate blogging behaviour!
    I’ve emailed her; hopefully she acted from naivety and this has been a wake-up call… But perhaps that’s too generous…

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      What the hell? This type of stuff positively infuriates me. That’s beyond my comprehension of “really?” That’s way too generous. Maybe she missed the part where you did the project? I can even tell a “Kate” project just based on your signature photo style.

  • Reply
    Janet @ House Four
    May 17, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Wow I’m so sorry to hear this happened to you. Some people really just don’t get it. And/or have no clue how much work it is to do a project, photograph it step by step and then write about it. Just writing that sentence made me tired 😉
    I probably go too far the other way. That is I share no photos of myself or my family online. I do have a security related reason for that decision, but it makes blogging hard sometimes. There are subjects or photos I would love to discuss or share that I just can’t. The upside being I won’t ever have to explain to my kids why I over-shared about their lives before they ever had a say in the matter 🙂
    But it’s really the security issue. When I was a family photographer I belonged to several online photo forums and it was a regular occurrence to see someone posting about an online porn sites stealing photos of people’s kids and reposting them. The thought of that makes me crazy. And unfortunately there’s not much anyone can do to stop it.

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm

      No actually I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I have almost never shared a photo of myself on here. Which isn’t b/c I am hiding but usually b/c I am the one taking all the photos and don’t have anyone to take of myself. And topics – ITA with you. Anytime I post something I think would this embarrass myself or my family? I don’t care if others choose to blog for cathartic reasons, but for me I’ll go somewhere else to talk about issues/politics etc. My goal from this blog is to tell random stories of crafts, projects, my life and to make people laugh.

      Your photography forum story is exactly the reason I am rethinking the use of their faces on here. I don’t post anything vulgar of them but I often think you never know who is visiting your page. B/C that stuff scares the hell out of me.

  • Reply
    Victoria • Restoring our Victorian
    May 17, 2013 at 8:35 am

    The people who “reblogged” your content may have just been naïve… and I think it’s generous of you to give them the benefit of the doubt… but I personally think it’s outrageous, and inexcusable.

    The scrapers I know about for myself do not care at ALL that I emailed them. This may or may not be because their site is in Chinese, and I cannot type TAKE MY POST DOWN in Chinese.

    The other one is sort of porn-y. What that has to do with bows, I have NO idea.

    • Reply
      Bethany the ngnrdgrl
      May 17, 2013 at 10:22 am

      You CAN say “take my post down” in Chinese through Google Translate. Might be worth a shot. And ewwww for having your bow post on a porn-y site. (>_<)

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      No joke both of the posts were in another language. I emailed them in English and kept thinking I hope they have google translate. You can file a complaint with google. Go visit the first link I posted for Between Naps on the Porch and you can find where to register a complaint too.

  • Reply
    Jessica@CapeofDreams
    May 17, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Thank you for posting this. It is something that I have not concerned myself with up til now. I need to put a copyright statement on my page. Do you mind if I paraphrase yours?

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      Not at all Jessica! I think it would help to clarify things within the blogging world for anyone who is ever confused about how to link to other blogs, use of their content etc.

    • Reply
      Bridget
      May 21, 2013 at 11:40 am

      I too have been having trouble coming up with a copyright statement. If it is alright with you, I would also like to use your statement as a guide.
      I know that Pinterest also brings many people to our sites who have not otherwise been familiar with blogging, further blurring the lines of proper blog ediquette. I am so nervous that the same thing will happen to me, if it hasnt already.
      Thanks for sharing.

      • Reply
        Alex
        May 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm

        Please do! I think ever blogger should have a statement on their site letting visitors know what they are personally comfortable with. Just because everyone has different comfort levels of sharing and there aren’t a lot of official rules when it comes to this type of content sharing.

  • Reply
    Green Door Hospitality
    May 17, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Wow!! I am just floored Alex! Very happy that at least the two people that did this to you removed the content, but what an experience. I also like what you stated about digital footprint. I keep a pretty close lid on a lot of what I discuss and share — which is a bit easier when most of what I share is food. 😉
    I think I’m going to take a page from you and add copyright verbiage to the sidebar so that it is more visible. Thanks for sharing your experience!
    Kenley

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 5:29 pm

      If I could cook Kenley, I’d totally do a food blog or stick to a niche. I’ve found myself lately rethinking the future content of my blog and what direction I want it to go in. Sometimes I think it would be easier just to do crafts. And then I remember how long it takes to do each craft with a toddler in the house.

  • Reply
    Bethany the ngnrdgrl
    May 17, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Man, Alex. I am so sorry this happened. I am glad that they removed the content, at least.

    I have actually quit using Facebook. The privacy issues just seem to large. Facebook is allowed to sell all of your content (seeing it is no longer yours once you post it). I have read that they use people’s photos in advertisements. I feel sorry for teenagers growing up with Facebook. Your post has made me think about how much of my family I want to share on the blog.

    One thing I have noticed with your pictures is that you don’t seem to be watermarking them. Could this possibly be a deterrent? I mean, they could crop out the watermark, unless it is put front and center. But that would be a lot more work for the re-bloggers. This way people coming over to read the re-blogger’s post would see “northstory.ca” or something on all the images. Just a thought.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I am going to read those other posts you recommended. Hopefully this doesn’t spoil your desire to keep blogging.

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      You know what? I left Facebook for over 3 years. People thought I would run back but I didn’t miss it. The only reason I did go back this past year was to network with other bloggers b/c so many of them are on there and we use private forums to talk about blogging issues. But even the word private and Facebook is such an oxymoron so I completely understand and agree with what you’re saying.

      I don’t watermark due to a past experience of having watermarked my old photos under my old blog name. When I went self hosted I changed my name for a whole variety of reasons and to this day I cringe when I see my old posts with my old blog name on them. I know why people do it and I respect why they do it. For me I have enough friends who are so talented in photoshop that I’ve seen the magic they can do to erase a watermark. Mind you there’s a lot of new programs out there that I should look into to prevent lifting photos or even plug in’s to not allow certain photos to be copied and pasted.

  • Reply
    Steve Hughes
    May 17, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I think as a second passes the flattery has passed and then makes me sick to think people copy professional work. You’ll have to watermark your prints (photoshop does this)! They your name can be all over it! (I think you can add HTML to link directly to your page again)!
    Let me know if this happens agAin and we all can jump on them! (With e-bombs)!

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks Steve! I know I should but I don’t due to a previous watermarking blog name nightmare. I do need to figure out more safety measures on lifting photos though. It’s funny b/c I can almost (almost) handle a tutorial being taken but pictures of my kids. Oh man.

  • Reply
    Danielle
    May 17, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Oh Alex… this is so infuriating, I don’t know what to say. I just keep shaking my head. They have software that can check if a student copies someone else’s work, you would think that there would be something that could block copying another person’s blog content.

    Thanks for sharing about this ridiculous practice. You’ve definitely given me food for thought on some things that I need to lock down on my own blog.

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      I cannot even wrap my head around what it must be like to be a teacher these days. I mean to try and figure out if a student plagiarizes an essay or a book report. Are the programs really good?

      • Reply
        Danielle from Storypiece
        May 22, 2013 at 2:14 am

        I think they’re really good programs. My son turns his school papers in online and it scans it before the teacher even gets it. It’s all amazing!

  • Reply
    Alex
    May 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    I still can’t quite wrap my head around how people ever think it’s a good idea to “borrow” content.

    There is so much to contemplate about every single morsel I leave on the internet these days that I think a sabbatical would do me well. Sigh.

    (Thanks for the mention, though!)

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      No kidding I love internet sabbaticals!! I find I can’t get online as much I could last year and it’s totally ok to actually live “real life”. I am also so new to Twitter that I cannot wrap my head around how much content you can miss in 24 hours.

  • Reply
    now at home mom
    May 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

    glad they removed your pictures from their blog, wow! I can’t believe they did this, & pics with your little girls, I guess I am too trusting when it comes to blogging, I refer to the source if there is any to refer to but I guess this is not something everyone does.
    You know, I read a post from “http://mominthemuddle.com/” about not posting pictures about her kids, I agree with her reasons not to. I love posting and integrating pics of Nathan because this blog is a small journal for me but I am reconsidering everything. Another blogger “http://aubreyandlindsay.blogspot.ca/” wrote a post about thinking of how she would integrate her son into her blog too. I guess as a mom, we need to think about this. Now, you’ve really got me thinking, I can’t believe this happened to you twice already! INCROYABLE! I will be reading the articles you mentioned in your post Alex and hope you are enjoying your weekend! 🙂

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      I am so going to check out those links Ingrid. Thanks for sharing them! I think there is a way we can both continue to use our kids but just not necessarily make them a prime focus. I know that’s hard for mom bloggers but I feel like I don’t talk about parenting issues etc on here, so realistically the only time I would have to use their faces is for say a Halloween costume or a birthday. But crafts…maybe it’s time for a different angle of shooting.

  • Reply
    Time With Thea
    May 19, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Thank you Alex for this truly informative post. When I entered the blogging world I had heard that the more popular your blog became the more issues may creep up. I had also heard about blog trollers who leave nasty comments for their own little thrill and then I heard about blog scrapers but wasn’t quite sure what it looked like. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but I guess this can be taken as a compliment that your work was worthy of stealing. As my blog became more popular I was hit with a Cease and Desist letter from a corporation and had to go through a blog name change. I had no idea blogging could be so ruthless. I so feel your frustration/anger and I think you were very gracious to the two bloggers who scraped your work. We learned in school a long time ago that any form of using someone else’s work without giving credit is unacceptable. I also think the more we talk about it, the more we can keep an eye out for it and support each other. Thank you again, Thea

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      You had to change your blog name? See there is also another reason why I am leery of watermarking. I feel like God forbid I get into a copyright battle I’d have to re-do everything. Making a blog name change is really hard. You start at the bottom again with everything SEO related. Not to mention your reputation etc.

      ITA with looking out for each other! If I see your work or anyone’s work somewhere I’ll definitely let you know.

  • Reply
    Lynne Knowlton
    May 20, 2013 at 7:56 am

    wtf? no fair ! If that happens again… will you let me know… and I will go and punch them for you. LOL.

    I would do that for you. I’d take a grenade. Wait, there is a song about that. LOL. xx

    Seriously tho…good point…and I think that new bloggers make the mistake quite innocently. Good for you for handling it so eloquently.

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 20, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      Do not get that song stuck in my head. Locked Out of Heaven was in my head for so long b/c of the damn car commercial I wanted to throttle them. But thank yoU! 🙂

      My biggest and I mean biggest pet peeve for blogging is uncrediting any photos or tutorials.

  • Reply
    Lauren @ The Thinking Closet
    May 22, 2013 at 1:02 am

    I know that it’s just a matter of time before this happens to me. It’s a part of why I truncate my posts in my feed, but still, if people want to grab your content, they will. I’m glad to hear that they responded to your requests via email….I know that’s not always the case where scrapers are concerned. Ugh. Even the word scraper just sounds so scary. Don’t people have better things to do than steal other people’s content? Apparently not! And the whole kid-photo issue is one I’ll have to face one day. It’s really helpful to hear your thought process on it all, as well as to read some of the comments above. Thanks for getting this important conversation going.

  • Reply
    Bewildered Bug
    June 13, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    I’ve had people steal my content before and there’s not much I can do about it. I did, however see a copyright button on someone’s page and I wonder if that makes any sense to put on?

    I’m really sorry it happened to you though – and at least they replied to your email!

  • Reply
    lifesimplyabundant
    June 17, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    This is my first visit to your blog & it is very informative. Thank you for posting this. You have articulated what has been at the forefront of my mind … I started creating my blog over a year ago; but, it’s malnourished because I have fed it any content! Why? Mainly because life has been hectic & I haven’t taken the time to create an about page, file through my saved writing files to organize what I will post when, etc. Deciphering what I choose to blog about from what to set aside to publish in a book, etc. is tough … especially some of the information I want to share is private yet helpful to others. This blog content theft doesn’t make it any easier. Yet, i know I need to just do it, jump in, etc. … with a definite copyright statement.

    With allllll that said, would you mind if you use your copyright statement as a guide?

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