Rosie over at leaves ‘n bloom recently posted a warning that a pseudo-blog hosted by blogger has been scraping the content of lots of garden blogger’s posts. Why? Presumably because their site is loaded with garden-related adverts that earn them money from click-throughs, and they want to attract lots of traffic. Popular blog posts on relevant topics up their google ranking, pop up in search results, and worse, could convince people they are legitimate. They are stealing the content these bloggers take so much time and effort to create. I say “they” because as far as I can tell I am not currently amongst their number. But – it could be you!

More Crocuses

(This is such a depressing topic I just had to insert some gratuitous plant pics just to cheer myself up)

Rosie included lots of useful info. about how to make it harder for the blog scrapers to steal your content, and supplied links to many more. I am not going to repeat all that here, though there will be some overlap because I want this to serve as a useful record for me. However, having poked around a little myself I also found another couple of good sources of advice etc. and thought I would share them, together with – for those of you using WordPress – some good plugins to help implement the advice. For people using Blogger, sorry, not sure what the equivalents are.

For myself, I’ve decided to try and do what I can to deter the scrapers but then try to forget about it. I’ve also decided not to add watermarks to my photographs. I’m not in the same league as some of the amazing photographers out there, and only post small versions of my photos making them of limited value. I hope. Plus I just prefer seeing “naked” photos! I may well change my mind – I tend to about everything else!

  1. Make sure your blog feed is set to only publish summaries of posts. If you are using WordPress, go to Settings>Reading and select “summary”. This does, however, make it harder for people to follow your blog as e.g. you can’t use a feed reader. At least, you can, but you will only get the summary, you’ll have to click on the links to read the full thing. I’ve actually switched back to full feed for this reason, and am relying on (a) not being interesting enough and (b) the other measures helping.
  2. Put a copyright notice in your blog feed. Something like “Copyright 2011 (insert your name). All rights reserved.”. There is a WordPress plugin called Simple Feed Copyright that does this automatically. Though this is unlikely to make them think “Oh goodness, I’d be breaking copyright if I scraped this, I’ll leave it alone”. After all, the process is automated…
  3. Add a footer to your feed, something like “This post was written for (link to your blog) by (your name). At least that way you get linked to if they do steal your feed. By the same token adding links to other posts within your blog when you write a new post will force them to help your stats. Karma… There is a good WordPress plugin called RSS Footer that makes this easy.
  4. Set yourself up a google alert for your feed footer text – you will then get an email whenever it shows up. Feed scrapers tend to be lazy and so don’t get around to removing footers. At least then you can spot it happening, and if you want to, go after them.

A few links to places I found that had what seemed like good advice, to go with the excellent stuff Rosie has pulled together:

So there you go. Fun, huh! Hope some of this is useful to some of you. I refuse to get depressed about it though – the buds on my Magnolia stellata are breaking out. Spring is coming, and I have more interesting things to think about than people stealing my words.

Emerging Magnolia Bud

50 thoughts on “Beating the feed scrapers

  1. Hi,

    Yeah, putting the copyrights won’t stop the scrapers stealing the images, but it will alert any readers to the fact the blog post doesn’t belong to the website… Everything is copyrighted without the need for declaration, but it will help make people feel a little better.

    I don’t copyright my images, and generally they’re too small to be able to use for print or such, at only around 600-900 pixels, it isnt good enough quality. But they can be reproduced on the net.

    Not sure how I’d feel about it happening to me, but it’s not the first time I’ve had images stolen.

    Lovely stellata, I do hope I have flowers on mine this year!

    1. Hi Liz, I am a little cynical about the extent to which the majority of people actually notice if the watermark doesn’t immediately and obviously relate to the website. I think I’d be pretty mad at someone using one of my images without checking first and without attribution. I am thinking about putting some sort of explicit copyright statement re photos in the sidebar. On the other hand, I already think my sidebar is too cluttered!

      Good luck with your stellata this year.

  2. Do these people not realise that it’s theft? Would they go in to a shop and take something without paying for it? Hmmm, probably, they have no morals.

    1. I don’t think they care Jo! Any more than the spammers care or the people constantly trying to convince you that they have a genuine reason for needing all your bank details…

  3. Theft it may be, but it’s the wild west out there, and I can’t say I’m shocked when people appropriate text and images that are put up on the web for free. It’s a risk and the remedies are negligible – I guess I just consider it part of the cost of blogging, which for me is just an outlet for my gardening obsession, not a profession.

    1. I think that’s a very sane attitude Cyndy. I might feel differently if I was trying to earn money from my blog, but I refuse to put myself out too much when there is actually so little I can do anyway. It makes sense to me to do the easy things, but chasing people with Take Down notices is not for me.

  4. I had a map of the rhubarb triangle that I had created appear on some university educationalists blog – he got it from another website – the author of that had asked me whether he could use it and credited me. It just goes to show that some people who should know better ‘steal’ work! I posted a comment on his blog saying that if he had asked I would have had no problem with him using the map – never heard from him though!!

    1. Hi Sue, that’s the thing, isn’t it. If someone asks, many of us would be happy to share some of our content. Not being asked though, is just plain rude! Pity he didn’t have the courtesy to apologise.

  5. Hi Janet, it’s sad to have to run around setting obstacles around your own blog to prevent theft. I have always watermarked my photos even though I shrink them to a non-print-worthy size before publishing anyway, but I too don’t really wish to change my feed to summary for those who use readers to visit. I think I’m far too small fry to be really impacted by scraping, but I might investigate some of the other tips just in case, thanks for compiling this information. S x

    1. Hi Sara, hope you find some of it useful – the two plugins I installed were trivial to set up, in fact there IS no set up involved with the copyright one! No idea if it actually makes much difference, but at least I feel I have done something. Now I am going to resolutely ignore it all again!

  6. It both bothers me and not. The part that bothers me is that they make money and probably get more hits than me. The part that doesn’t is I don’t mind others admiring my work and thinking it nice enough to have on their blog, crediting of course. As per making money, I have had requests to list ads, but have always refused. Maybe a few ads would keep the scrapers away. I am going to do all that you mentioned above. You have great tips and advice. I would love to get the widget from WordPress that you have listing posts of the commentators, but it says I have to have a self hosting blog accepting my changes to the CSS. I see it so many places, I did not think that many knew to play around with CSS.

    1. What a shame about the plugin, I hadn’t realised how many had that requirement. Given how problematic the CSS side of things can be with different browsers, that seems unfortunate.

      Like you I would be fine with someone asking to use my stuff and then crediting me, it is the traffic stealing that gets a bit much. Like you I am not trying to earn money from the blog so keep it ad free – I wonder what difference it would make.

  7. Janet, like so many I’m both offended and complacent about this activity. I hate that there are people out there stealing without a thought but having a legal background I know there is really very little anybody can do about it. It’s a lot of hard work and grief to chase these scammers down for little reward. Most of the time I choose to turn a blind eye rather than get too riled up about it. I have instituted a few changes on my blog though, shortening my feed, adding a copyright notice. We can’t make it too easy on these guys can we.

    1. I think that’s the thing – finding the balance between making our own lives more hassled and doing little bits and pieces to hopefully act as at least a small deterrent – or at least mean you get links back to your own site. I agree that its not generally worth chasing people down – though I suspect it is different if it is semi professional or part of your business promotion.

  8. Good advice Janet, I will check out your links and set up my feed to just be a summary. The Google Alert thing confuses me a little —will have to read through how to use it within the blog. My mind isn’t awake enough yet….need to finish that second cup of coffee!

    1. Hi Janet, am happy to chat to you via email if the second cup of coffee doesn’t make the google alert thing clear.

  9. I think you’ve summed up nicely how I feel about this with this statement: “I think that’s the thing – finding the balance between making our own lives more hassled and doing little bits and pieces to hopefully act as at least a small deterrent – or at least mean you get links back to your own site.” It’s bothersome but I’m not inclined to loose sleep over it…life’s too short. But it does irk…

    1. Hi Cat. You’re right, life is too short to allow the thieves to win by making us lose sleep. Far too much actual gardening to do!

  10. Janet, nice follow up to Rosie’s article. I’ve often linked back to previous articles within our blog posts, but unfortunately, some of the scrappers now simply strip the links out automatically. I do like the idea of the WordPress footer widget though. I’ve depended on Google Alerts for some time to alert me to where my content ends up, and even if the blog name is in the footer, it should help to trigger an alert. We just have to do what we can, and watch out for each other. I’m hoping the new Google Chrome add-on will help drop the search rankings of some of these feed scrapper sites so they stop getting rewarded for bad behavior! Sadly though, it’s not just scrappers. A professional home and garden website lifted some of my content last year, and when confronted, they suggested I take up the DMCA violation with their lawyers. Burden of proof was on me to prove the content was mine. So much for being professional ;)

    1. What a cynical view from the so-called professionals! What’s the google chrome add-on you refer to? Sounds good…

        1. Hmmm, just tried to look for this on google and found a site explaining how to do scraping… Mind you, I was looking for another way to earn money…

      1. Janet, the Chrome extension is called “personal blocklist”. I don’t like posting links, but if you google “google chrome personal blocklist” it will come up. It won’t directly block a spam splog, BUT, Google did infer that they will take notice of patterns of blocking. So if a number of individuals block the same infringing scrapper/splog, Google can then demote that splog in the search rankings, so they’re not being rewarded the same way for lifting our content. It’s not ideal, but Google at least seems to recognize the problem, and it’s a first step.

        1. Fabulous, thank you – I have installed it and blocked the sites I already know are scraping content from garden bloggers. Let the fight-back begin…

  11. I am hopeless when it comes to understanding all these technical gimmicks, but even so, you’ve given some good advice, Janet, that I can use. Shame on these scrapers! Plagiarism in every other area is considered unethical and often has serious consequences; you think the same would be true on the internet. I’m not going to worry about it too much right now, though; I much prefer gazing on those blue crocuses–they are absolutely gorgeous!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the crocuses Rose – much better than letting some unscrupulous blog scrapers disturb your peace.

  12. thanks for the info and links Janet unfortunately as with many plugins said to be for wordpess they only work with which you have and not with which I have,
    like you and other commenters I find it wrong that people do this but as someone who has worked with textiles and the needle arts and crafts all my life I am very used to it, the times I have seen people pass off as their own work something that is made from a pattern designed by someone else and the number of people who sell things made from patterns and ‘how to’ articles in books and magazines, then there are the numerous tutors who teach from someone elses book, it goes on even more now people can just scan and print from home, yet few see this as wrong, there are always unscrupulous people who get more pleasure from stealing than doing the work, Frances

    1. Sadly I think you are right – there are always people around ready and willing to steal the creativity of others and make a profit from it. I didn’t realise that so many of the plugins were not available to users. I certainly assumed that the tools for avoiding blog scraping would be readily available!

  13. My long-lost uncle from Nigeria says that if I just send him an administration fee of $500 he will ensure maximum beneficial publicity for all my photos – he can apparently easily arrange for them to appear on LOADS of websites and blogs… :)

  14. Thanks, I have now set up a Google alert for my copyright notice. Ari Herzog reckons scrapers can’t be bothered to edit out copyright notices. So we expect the alert, and the link back to our blog.

    I find a short feed irritating. For blogs that prefer light text on a dark background, full feed gives me an easier way to read. Some use a reader for speed, and they don’t want an extra click thru to your blog. Win some, lose some. This is another hard working post on Blotanical.

    1. Glad you got something useful from it Diana. From reading around I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t win enough protection from shortening my feed to make up for making it harder for people to follow my blog using a reader. Its all compromise. Thanks for the Blotanical heads up – will be headed back there to share some love after the weekend, honest…

  15. This is an increasing concern. I haven’t had the chance to look into this more thorougly, will have to bookmark this post. Sounds like a this will be my activity come Sunday night!

    1. Goodness, I hope you have a glass or two of wine with that! Its a bit of a maze really, lots of compromises to make and differences in how the various blogging platforms work don’t help. Don’t let it spoil your weekend!

  16. Hi there Janet! Got to you at last (silly IT geeky office police). I have read a lot about stealing blogs lately, but like you said it is getting a balance between trying to make it less easy and not getting bothered about it. I have placed copyright notices on my blog and selected summary on RSS, although I noticed you took yours off. I am not sure how many people read the blog that way and how would I know? I can’t get the plug ins because my blog is and not So I am not going to sweat the small stuff anymore. I just love your magnolia photo, little furry flower buds. Hope you post photos of it in full bloom. Love your blog!!

    1. Hi Ronnie, sorry the office fuhrer stopped you stopping by! Re knowing how many people read your blog via a reader, do you have feedburner set up to manage your blog feed? If you do, you get a load of useful information, including how many people use a feed reader to subscribe to your blog. For instance, I know that over the past month an average of 40 people read my blog feed using a feed reader such as Google Reader. That’s why I switched back to full feed, as they are more important to me than finding some of my words have been stolen.

      Re vs., I am going to have to look in to this more, I hadn’t realised that no plugins were available to users. And you don’t have to worry about the magnolia, I get obsessed with it every year, and I love to share my obsessions…

  17. I agree this whole photo stealing/content scraping issue is depressing. The thing that’s really sad is when a professional group lifts content without asking and passes it off as theirs. I’ve heard about this happening with lots of bloggers. I was feeling down about it and then I got to your photo of the Magnolia blossoms breaking bud, and that miracle left me with a smile. Thanks for info and the lovely send-off

    1. I agree, when pros steal content you feel even more appalled, you’d like to think people would behave better, but there again it was ever thus. Glad the magnolia helped you exit more happily!

  18. Thanks so much for the useful information. I’ll check out those plugins as soon as I can. I have various other notifications set up and I’ve seen my content pulled and reblogged more than a couple of times. Yes, it’s a big problem! I’m sure it’s just a matter time that they discover you and your blog’s excellent content.

    1. Hi James, this is one time when I hope a compliment is misplaced ;-) Sorry – but unsurprised – to hear that you have fallen victim to this too.

  19. Content theft has happened to me a few times. Luckily I always found out, not only because I make it difficult to steal my content but also because we garden bloggers are a community and we warm each other about content theft. So far I’ve been able to get the thief to remove my text & photo’s from his/her site.

    1. Hi Yolanda, its really good to hear from someone who has experience of the guilty parties taking down stolen material. And you are right, the strength of the gardening blogging community means warnings flow freely, which is great. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences.

  20. Thanks for writing this, Janet. The stealing of our creative property has been ongoing since I first began blogging in 2007. Letters were written, warnings put on the blog posts, watermarks put on the photos and the photos shrunk. Lately I have been inserting a link to myself near the beginning of each post so at least anyone reading will know where it originated. But it is best to not worry about it, since there is little we can do, sad to say.

    1. Absolutely true Frances, there isn’t much any of us can do. If someone wants to steal something, they can generally find a way. Much better to do a little bit to make yourself feel better and then concentrate on the gardening!

  21. I had trouble, may still do, with feedscrapers. I did not really mind too much if I get full credit and the link to my blog iss front and center. I also don’t mind if they just post a snippet, and when their readers (if they have any) want more they click and are taken to my spot. One place I found was using the entire content from one of my posts without offering a clear link. I contacted the web master for the site, and surprise to me, he was gracious and quick to remove my content from his site.

    1. Hi Les. I agree, if someone clearly gives you credit for your content and links back to you it is harder to mind too much, though clearly it would be nicer if they asked first! good to know you have had luck getting someone to respond to your complaint too. I think it is a little easy to get over anxious about all this.

  22. Quick question – I think the WP plug-ins you mention only apply to self-hosted WP sites? I use the .com version (as do many others in the garden blogging world) so probably need to use the advice in your follow up post to this one…

    1. Sadly you are right – though if you are using one of the upgraded versions of the .com packages some of the functionality may be available? Not sure. The bias in this post was why I did the follow-up, which should work for anyone.

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