Miscellaneous

One Angry Otaku Deals With Stolen Content

September 2020 was an incredibly difficult month for me. The new job I had started had too many issues to count, I was in and out of doctor’s appointments trying to work out severe stomach cramps I was getting at 3am in the morning so wasn’t sleeping at all and one of my cats was diagnosed with a tumour and we were told he has three months to live. So September fucking sucked. And then, to top it all off, I found out someone had been stealing content off my site and re-publishing it as their own.

Stolen Content

The way I found out was completely a fluke. I tend to schedule my posts to go live at 11:30pm – 1:30am Sydney time and check how they did when I wake up in the morning. I woke up on the Wednesday morning after publishing my izneo app review post to see someone had linked to my I Want to Hold Aono-Kun so Badly I Could Die review (which I had included a link to in my izneo review). As I always do, I quickly clicked on the page to see who had linked to my blog and to my shock I came face to face with my own izneo app review post on a website that wasn’t mine. Word for word, screenshot for screenshot – exactly copied and pasted from my blog and posted onto another. At first I was a bit shocked and then mostly annoyed. I had worked so hard on that review and to see someone rip it off really frustrated me. I was on my way to work so I just messaged a friend about it and went back to doing whatever I was doing. 

Within minutes my friend replied “They have your stuff from 2 years ago…” and “They stole other people’s stuff too”. I went and re-opened up the website, and, without sounding too cliche, this feeling of dread filled me as I scrolled through and found my friend was completely right. There was content from two other websites on the webpage and they had not one, not two but fifteen of my own posts dating back to 2018. All of these posts were my posts I category tagged as ‘manga’. Before I was annoyed, now I was angry. Until I scrolled to their ‘oldest’ article and saw what it was. Their first/oldest article was my August 2018 post on Natsuyuki Rendezvous – the article in which I discuss and reflect on my grandfather’s death. And that’s when I kinda burst out crying on a train at 8am in the morning. 

My head spinning, I made my way to work and kinda just sat down and stared at my computer screen. I had no idea what to do, and my heart was racing. I messaged my mum and she suggested that I make a tweet about the situation. I’m not too good at social media so was a bit anxious nothing would come of it, but was overwhelmed and so incredibly thankful for all the support people gave me. I was such a mess and all the advice and kind words really helped me calm down. Everyone’s suggestions were so helpful and really helped me begin working out exactly what to do.

I really have to do give special thanks to Mike from My Place to Write who contacted me via Twitter and offered his help. Over the two weeks or so it took for everything to be sorted, we were emailing back and forth. The first email he sent me was filled with his detailed investigation of the site and a step-by-step guide on how to go about getting the stolen content taken down. Mike really was an incredible support when I went through this and I think I would have lost my head without him.

I thought it might be useful to share a very brief summary of my steps in case anyone finds themselves in a similar situation (but hopefully you won’t)

  1. My first action was to submit a DMCA complaint to WordPress, thankfully they replied very quickly but informed site wasn’t a WordPress site and there was nothing they could do (ugh)
  2. The wonderful Myx from BlahBidyBlah & Mike told me that the site was going through something called CloudFlare (which acts like a proxy). You can’t get the domain or host details from WhoIs and have to go through CloudFlare. They do have an abuse form, so I submitted my complaint to CloudFlare and waited
  3. I began contacting other sites that had their content stolen, one of which encouraged me to submit a Google Copyright Weblink Removals Request (took 14 days for the request to be completed, by the time it was done the website had been taken down!) 
  4. After a few days, CloudFlare informs me that they agree content is stolen and they have forwarded the complaint to the website’s host
  5. The website that stole my content did not have any contact information or comment section so I thought it was impossible to get in touch with the owner directly. However, Mike in all his brilliance found an email address!! So I sent an email and demanded they take everything down in very VERY strongly worded language. 
  6. I don’t get a reply from the host from the CloudFlare complaint
  7. I don’t get a reply from the owner from my email
  8. Mike’s amazing email also included the contact for the host directly. I send them an email following up CloudFlare’s report – they inform me CloudFlare never sent them the complaint!! I am requested to fill out a new complaint form (which I do happily)
  9. The host responds in 2 days agreeing that the content is stolen and the owner did not reply to takedown requests. Informs me account is suspended
  10. I check the website – account isn’t suspended
  11. I go back to host who says CloudFlare is running an old cache of the website and I need to contact CloudFlare to refresh their cache
  12. Back and forth between CloudFlare and host about whose problem it actually is
  13. Finally host does something with the owner’s back up account 
  14. I check the website and see the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen

Error 404

tumblr_82cafd330483b381bfd2384e6af8a5e6_2c67baf6_250

Or at least I thought….

A few weeks later, I published my manga review for the ‘King of Eden’ and received yet another notification that someone had linked to my post. Upon clicking this I found a new website with all my manga posts. At least this one had the respect not to republish the post about my grandfather. But I was still incredibly horrified and disgusted. 

This new website did have a comment and contact feature so I quickly commented on each post demanding they take it down and sent a strongly worded email. Surprise, surprise I didn’t hear back. I then used a WhoIs lookup, and find the domain provider, not the host. Thankfully the domain provider was very friendly and provided me the host details and I submitted yet another long complaint email. I won’t bore you with the details, but it took about a week for everything to be taken down with the host and my anxiety was through the roof. 

giphy-1

I am still quite anxious about my content being stolen, I noticed that this new website was created on the same date as I did my Twitter post about the first website. I have a theory that it’s the same person behind both websites. When I discussed this with a friend they told me that it could be someone just loves my work so much and wanted to share it. But honestly that just made me feel even more sick. 

Whoever is doing this, you have not only stolen my work but stolen any joy I have writing. Each time I create a post I question whether I should even publish it in case you steal it. The month and a bit that I spent taking your websites down were awful. I was up at night, not able to sleep, and consumed by anxiety and stress during the day. I don’t have any else to say but shame on you. You disgust me. 

I know reading through this some of you might say that I was overreacting or being too emotional about my stuff being stolen. But honestly, during September and October it was absolutely the last thing I needed. Seeing work that I had put so much time and effort in be ripped off  made me feel so disrespected and disgusted. My anxiety has gone into overdrive and I’ve lost all motivation to write posts. I was very lucky that I had pre-written almost all my October posts as I haven’t done anything for November besides my weekly reviews which I painfully force myself to do. When I log into WordPress and see notifications, I feel a surge of panic worried I’m going to get another link notification to stolen content. I sincerely hope that this is the last time that this will ever happen but at least now I know how to deal with it, and am confident if it happens again, no matter how unpleasant, I can get it removed. I’ve also put in some safeguards in. 

Firstly, you’ll notice on the sidebar (on computer) or if you scroll to the bottom of this post you’ll see a legal disclaimer saying that all written content on this site is under copyright and you cannot reproduce it without permission. The second is that I changed for any ‘feeds’ to only show the first few sentences of my posts rather than the full post. I suspect that whoever had stolen my content had sent up a feed to copy anything tagged ‘manga’. Unfortunately, to my email followers, this will impact you and you’ll need to click on ‘read more’ in your emails to get the full post. I’m truly sorry for this and I hope you don’t mind .

Screen Shot 2020-10-29 at 2.41.56 pm

Example of how email notifications now look

Anyway, a long post deserves a short conclusion. From here, every month I’ll be setting up a day to google random titles or specific sentences from posts to check that nothing like this happens again. And if I do find another site, I am more than equipped to bring it down. I once again, thank everyone and anyone who offered words of advice and encouragement during this time. Stay vigilant everyone, look out for your work!

If anyone has issues with stolen content and would like any advice, or to see the messages I sent to the hosts of the websites please get in contact via Twitter, more than happy to help out and pay it forward. 

Or if anyone has any tips on how I can better safeguard my site, those would also be much appreciated!

17 thoughts on “One Angry Otaku Deals With Stolen Content

  1. “I know reading through this some of you might say that I was overreacting or being too emotional about my stuff being stolen” Not at all…not even close.
    First off I’m truly sorry to hear that you have been having such a rough time lately. Having been on hiatus for a while I have been out of touch with some things unfortunately, so on that regard I’m sorry that I might have missed a few things and haven’t been able to offer support.
    That said, I did know of course about your content being stolen. It happened to me once as well, someone literally copy pasted my entire site and as mentioned I send them a quick message to take it down or I would be reporting them. For me that did the trick (luckily) but I’m sorry it wasn’t that easy for you.
    I’m even more angry at the fact that this person whoever he/she is has made you lose motivation to write. I can understand it completely, especially with all the hard stuff that has been going on. All I can say is don’t let such an individual win. Because really that’s what they are doing here. I’m not the only one here who loves seeing your posts come up, and you should be truly proud of all the hard work that you have been doing here over the years. Heck you are almost at 1000 wordpress followers, something that should make you even more proud.
    All I can say is that I truly hope this has been the last time and you can now enjoy the fun of blogging again. In the meantime all I can say is you are a great blogger, and I wish you the best. I really am keeping my fingers crossed for you that the last two months of this year are at least going to be better for you😊
    PS: Just to give you a heads up (even though I always want these things to be a surprise, but I also having read this want to give you a heads up to not get a shock), in December you will see a link back to one of your posts on my blog. As you will be featured in Volume 10 of Bloggers in the Spotlight over on my blog😊
    Well, this has become quite a long ramble on my part…sorry about that! Anyways, take care of yourself, and be safe! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Raistlin, and please don’t apologise. I always appreciate your support so much, and your comments always brighten my day!

      I’m so sorry that you had your content stolen too, seriously the gall of some people! But I’m so glad it got taken down with a strongly worded email. I will definitely try to continue writing and focusing on what I have achieved. Like you said, 1000 followers is a massive achievement and one I’ve been working towards specifically in the last year or so. I think I’d regret it if I gave up now when I’m so close.

      Oh wow!! Thank you so much, I feel incredibly honoured. And thank you for the heads up, now I’ll be able to see the link notification and will feel such a sense of joy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s the spirit! You should never let people like them get you down. Especially not since you have really worked very hard for this: it’s simply not worth it😊 And of course no problem: your blog and you deserve it! It should be out either the first or second week of December😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so sorry this happened to you, and good on you for fighting back! Writing is art, so as far as I’m concerned taking blog content is art theft, and that is one of the biggest offenses to me. You didn’t overreact at all. Like I said, writing is art, even when it’s reviews and stuff. You put a little of yourself in each post, and your hard work build it up. No one has the right to try and pretend that it’s theirs.

    Sadly, I’ve also had content stolen by one of those bulk content farm websites a few times. I made me very upset and depressed, but I pretty much just rolled over and did nothing about it. I figured it’d be pointless because they know they stole it, they have to know the authors will probably see it and be angry, but they don’t care. They just want clicks. Good to know some people do succeed in getting their content removed from those places, but they shouldn’t have to deal with that in the first place. Writing is supposed to be an outlet, meant to alleviate stress and allow you to be creative, not cause anxiety and make you not want to express yourself.

    I hope your work stops getting taken and you can enjoy making posts again. If I see a new update about one of these websites, I’ll be sure to share it on social media. Take care of yourself. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, I really appreciate it. I 100% agree, you definitely do put a bit of you in each post, and it really felt like such a personal violation to see my stuff having been stolen.

      I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had a similar experience. It’s honestly so disgusting that there are people out there who have websites like this that just steal other’s work. They definitely do it just for the clicks, I remember for the second site I dealt with, the whole site was filled with ads, they were probably just trying to get some small revenue from whatever clicks came their way.

      If you ever see another site that has stolen your stuff (and hopefully it will never happen again to you), please let me know and I’ll do all I can to help you get it taken down! I won’t lie, it was a very stressful process, but it was worth it in the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, I don’t blame you for being upset. Fortunately, as far as I know, none of my content has been stolen, but I admit to being irritated that some of my content was immediately summarized and posted on other platforms without even a link back. I know it was a long and arduous process for you which you shouldn’t have had to go through, and I hope you find your blogging mojo again without having to worry about thieves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Echoing the statements of everyone else, I’m really sorry this happened to you. I am glad that you were able to get the junk sites taken down.

    This is also really informative since I doubt I would know what to do in this situation. So… as much as it sucks this happened, thank you for letting us all know how/what to do if/when this happens? I know I appreciate it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, it was definitely a painful process but a very big learning experience. I was very lucky to have Mike guide me the way through it otherwise I would have been so lost. When it first happened I was looking up websites and my head was spinning from all the tech-talk and jargon. I’m glad that this experience can help others on how to protect their work!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m sorry you had to go through this.

    Also, I’m really glad you care enough about your craft to go to the huge amount of work to get the stolen work taken down. And for sharing what you went through! Now other folks have a model to follow. So thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I myself had been blogging manga for years and know first hand what you’re going through, the best thing to do is fight back, never let anyone ridicule your hard work, there are some out there who think blogging is all fun and games, it may be fun, but bloggers are also serious about what they do for a living.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I’m sorry to hear you experienced the same thing, it is such a frustrating and disheartening process to go through. But even if it’s a difficult process, I 100% agree, the best thing you can do is fight for your work ☺️

      Like

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