DMCA remove stolen design content from Google search
If you create and sell digital goods online chances are your product has been stolen and distributed by illegal websites.
I’m not just talking about torrent sites, and people distributing your work to friends. These muppets are setting up websites in plain sight. They are illegally distributing your work, some sites are selling it. They steal your text and your preview images and even make it seem like they created it.
I’ve got 99 problems…
Many designers (me included) are shocked by just how blatant and widespread the problem is.
Let’s face it, we are too busy creating and promoting our designs that we don’t have time to deal with this shit too.
It’s not like we are rich corporations with lots of departments to do everything for us. We make and sell on our own, and that is tough enough already without these fuckers.
Slaving over a hot computer
It’s not just the hours of work to create the product. It’s the images and text you have slaved over to present the work, and all the effort in promoting your work.
I’ve spent as much time on creating preview images as I have creating the product itself. Some products take weeks or even months to complete. Seeing them on illegal websites is like a kick in the teeth.
It’s getting worse
I’m a member of the Creative Market (love it) and have noticed a massive increase in my content being stolen.
Sometimes within hours of posting it. Literally word for word, images and everything. Some illegal sites even put watermarks on my images. What the hell, you stole my image and put your copyright on it—fuck right off.
The content scraping is so fast and exact there is no doubt it’s an automated process.
Why scrape content
I’m not totally sure the illegal sites have your product. I’ve seen my content scraped before and it didn’t have any sales.
I think they scrape your content to install spyware, help the ranking of another site or just fool visitors to boost their advertising revenue.
If you try and download your illegal stolen content you generally get lots of spammy windows, adverts and spyware programs. You get knocked from pillar to post. They seem to be just spam driven honeypots, taking advantage of people’s greed.
Still, I’ve found plenty of sites that are giving away my commercial product for free—and that fucks me right off.
Can this effect search results?
It’s hard to keep on top of these illegal websites, but if you don’t it may affect your google search results and how well your page(s) is ranking.
Some of the scraper sites have hundreds of others in their network that can quickly help it to outrank your original page. I’ve seen many of my products outranked by illegal copies (thanks google)
So much for google’s quality guidelines
Have you ever read googles quality guidelines ? From what I can tell those sites are breaking every rule in the book. Yet they still rank well in a google search.
It’s like its one rule for them and one for the rest of us. If we broke any of those rules you would be dropped from google search pretty quickly.
It just seems so unfair, come on google remove these sites. They only exist to distribute stolen content—they have no other quality content.
Who owns the original content
If you think about it, you might only have 1 website where you are promoting your product. An illegal site scrapes your content within hours and distributes it to hundreds of other websites.
If Google crawls those sites first it could then think the scrapers are the creators of that content, and could downrank you for copying it.
It makes me want to throw up.
File DMCA takedown notice
Traditionally you would have contacted the websites owner and let them know they have published copyright material and ask if they could take it down.
If they ignored that, you would then file a DMCA notice against the host. Who would take action and remove the content or even disable the whole website.
All reputable hosts will do this, normally within a few days.
Trouble with DMCA Takedown
The problem with that is most of the big illegal sites are hosted in Russia and China. They don’t play by the rules and just ignore any DMCA takedown notices.
To compound the problem it can be hard to find who hosts the site in the first place. Many are hiding behind a service called CloudFlare. CloudFlare is a Content Delivery Network to help speed up your website and make it more secure (irony not lost on me).
Trouble is, it also helps the bad guys to hide their IP address—and thus make it harder to find who is hosting.
It can take a lot of legwork to find who hosts the site. Then you find it’s hosted in Russia and you can’t file a DMCA. Aint nobody got time for that.
It’s very easy to loose the will to file these reports. And that is just what the criminals are hoping for.
Determined not to be defeated
After thinking about it I’ve changed my strategy. I’m now putting all my efforts into removing the content from google search results.
Google has its own DMCA tool where you can report stolen material. It involves you filling in a long form, then sitting back to see if google agrees with you.
If google deems it to be violating your copyright it removes the page from a google search.
It’s far from perfect as the content is still there, but google won’t show that page in its search results.
Its like the whack-a-mole game but less fun
It still takes time and effort to file these reports. I’m thinking if I can cut off even a tiny bit of traffic to an illegal site then it’s worth the effort.
It’s still very much like the whack-a-mole game, they keep appearing you keep hitting them back into their holes.
I’m not normally violent but I would really like to hit these bastards with a real mallet.
Add a copyright to your artwork
Before I take you through the steps of filing a DMCA with google make sure you have a copyright mark on your work.
I’ve had a few emails from google where they couldn’t tell who was the original copyright holder. This despite the fact that I have created by Simon Stratford on them in massive lettering!
So now I’m adding a tiny little © Simon Stratford. All rights reserved. on all my images. I should have done this long ago but you live and learn.
How to file DMCA with google webmaster tools
First thing you need to do is setup a google webmaster account as that will give you access to the DMCA dashboard at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-dashboard?
So here is what to do
- First setup a google webmaster account at https://www.google.com/webmasters/
- Find all the illegal sites and copy and paste all the URLs into notepad
- Visit Googles DMCA dashboard at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-dashboard
- Click create new notice button and complete all the fields.
- Paste the illegal sites into the “Location of infringing material: *” and
- Paste your authorised URL into “Where can we see an authorised example of the work?:”
- For Identify and describe the copyrighted work: * box I use text something like this:
- Submit form and wait about 3 or 4 days for google to either remove them from search or email you with additional questions.
What the Creative Market users think
I’ve discussed this issue on the creative market forums. The general consensus is that people downloading your product illegally would generally not be purchasing it.
I think users feel helpless as they complain but nothing really gets properly removed. It’s very frustrating.
Until google and other search engines start to take real action against these illegal websites using the google DMCA dashboard is the only quick way to remove them from search.
It’s a losing battle but it makes me feel better and hopefully you will find this post useful.
P.S Yes that is me in the hacker image, but trust me I couldn’t hack my way out of a paper bag!
That is all.