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10 Things You Can Do When a Brand Steals Your Content

10 Things You Can Do When a Brand Steals Your Content

As a content creator, dealing with stolen content can be frustrating and challenging. To help you navigate this issue, we've gathered advice from 10 industry professionals, including executive country managers, attorneys, and managing partners. From proposing a collaboration to focusing on content and requesting attribution, discover the top strategies these experts recommend when a brand steals your content.

  • Secure Agreements and Copyright

  • Utilize the DMCA for Content Protection

  • Propose a Collaboration

  • Request Attribution and Backlinks

  • Publicize Content Theft

  • Contact the Brand for Compensation

  • Send a Cease and Desist Letter

  • Embrace Irony and Showcase Expertise

  • Proactively Protect Your Work

  • Focus on Content and Request Attribution

Secure Agreements and Copyright

Make sure you have a good independent contractor agreement in place with language that states clearly you are the owner of the content you produce for the brand. That can be challenging because a brand will typically want to own what it pays for—particularly if your deliverables include any of that brand’s copyrights, trademarks, or other intellectual property.

If a contractual clause is not an option, and if a brand does steal your work, you may have a claim under the US Copyright Act. But even the Act has its limits. While a creator may have a de facto copyright over material they produce and publish, they may not be able to enforce that right unless they received federal protection over the work from the United States Copyright Office.

Utilize the DMCA for Content Protection

If the webmaster does not want to comply with your request, the DMCA is the way to go. Of course, you could try litigation, but the DMCA is faster and removes the content without the need to go to court. Most takedowns happen in a matter of days, with many taking place in less than 72 hours.

On a side note, the offending website could run into issues with ranking. While a DMCA takedown is not a ranking factor, it can still cause issues for the site owner due to traffic loss. Google may also de-index the site (remove it completely from search results) for multiple violations.

Mike Wood, Digital Marketer, Legalmorning

Propose a Collaboration

In my experience, when a brand "borrows" your content without permission, it can feel like a violation. But remember, every challenge can be a hidden opportunity.

Instead of going into combat mode, you might reach out to them for a collaboration. This approach worked well for us when a well-known insurance brand duplicated some of our articles. Instead of filing a complaint, we proposed a partnership.

We suggested they continue using our content but with proper attribution and backlinks to our site. They agreed, and this partnership not only resolved the copyright issue but also boosted our site's visibility and user engagement. It was a win-win situation. It is important to think outside the box as you may turn a potential conflict into a lucrative opportunity.

Lorien Strydom, Executive Country Manager,

Request Attribution and Backlinks

Sure, you could reach out and tell them you will take legal action or ask them to take it down, but this could be an opportunity in disguise. With the increased importance of trust signals like do-follow links for ranking purposes, this could be a chance for you to reach out and say thanks for trusting and sharing our content, but please do include a link and cite us as the original source.

You could also offer to send them a write-up summarizing or introducing your content and add a link to the original post there.

Roksana Bielecka, Community Manager, ResumeHelp

Publicize Content Theft

Publicizing the issue means raising awareness about the content theft by sharing your story with your audience and the public. This can be done through various channels, such as social media platforms, blogs, podcasts, or even traditional media outlets like newspapers or TV. By doing so, you create a public dialogue about the infringement, which can potentially pressure the infringing brand to respond and rectify the situation.

When publicizing the issue, provide a clear and concise account of the theft, including evidence such as screenshots or links to the stolen content. Encourage your audience to share the story, amplifying its reach and impact. This can also serve as an educational opportunity, reminding others about the importance of respecting intellectual property rights and the consequences of content theft.

Nyla Rose, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, BeastBeauty

Contact the Brand for Compensation

As a full-time blogger and YouTuber, I put out a lot of content each month. Many people in my network are in similar positions, and, unfortunately, brands sometimes steal people's content for use in their own marketing material and ads.

However, in my experience, many brands don't even realize this is a legal issue. This is especially common with YouTube and TikTok content. So, my advice for content creators is to get in touch with brands when their content is stolen to inform them why it's an issue. Then, ask for either fair compensation for the use of your content or for the stolen content to be taken down.

Oftentimes, brands will pay content creators or give them credit for their work. If this is acceptable, then a quick solution is easy to hash out. If the brand refuses to cooperate, then you can consider seeking legal advice and action.

Send a Cease and Desist Letter

If a brand steals your content, one thing you can do is send a cease and desist letter, which is a legal document warning the brand to stop using your content without permission.

In the letter, you can state that the content belongs to you, provide evidence of ownership, and request that the brand takes it down immediately. You can also mention any legal actions that you may take if the brand doesn't comply with your request. It is important to keep a copy of the letter and any responses you receive from the brand, as this may be useful as evidence in a legal dispute.

If the brand continues to use your content, you may take legal action, such as filing a lawsuit, to protect your intellectual property rights.

Embrace Irony and Showcase Expertise

As a founder, investor, and advisor committed to showcasing subject matter expertise through published content, I understand the frustration of content theft. When a brand steals my freely shared content, I see it as an opportunity.

By sharing the brand's posts featuring my content and adding ironic comments, I turn the tables and use their actions to my advantage. This approach not only amplifies my perceived expertise but also engages audiences in a clever and memorable way.

However, if the brand crosses the line of intellectual property infringement, I take prompt legal action and report the violation on the relevant platform. Embracing irony can transform content theft into a powerful tool for growth.

Proactively Protect Your Work

One effective approach as a content marketer I suggest is taking a proactive approach to protecting your content from theft. This involves regularly monitoring your content and setting up alerts for any instances of potential theft. However, if you do find that your content has been stolen, reach out to the brand or company directly with evidence of your ownership, such as timestamps or watermarks. Politely request that they take down the content or provide proper credit.

To increase the effectiveness of your communication, consider framing the issue in a positive light and offering a solution that benefits both parties. For example, you could suggest collaborating with the brand on future content or offering to create custom content specifically for them. Remember to always remain professional and respectful, as this can help to build a positive relationship with the brand, even during a dispute.

Jigisha Dave, Creative Content Communicator, Ace Infoway

Focus on Content and Request Attribution

It can be frustrating to have a business steal your content. I've had a leading company copy a post down to the format and even outrank the content I created. I reviewed the post, updated it, and eventually outranked its content.

While it's frustrating to see, it's not worth the energy to chase down and get them to stop. For one, if it's a blog post, search engines will have crawled your post first and identified it as the original. So, that matters less. For other forms of content, it can get tricky.

You could threaten to send a cease and desist. Sometimes, that can work. Often, it's websites outside of US jurisdiction. And in that case, you're just wasting your time.

Alternatively, you can simply ask them to cite your content in the piece as the original source. Sometimes brands will do that.

James De Roche, Managing Partner, Lead Comet