Forewarned is Forearmed: Copyright Violation, Content Plagiarism and Duplication (And How to Avoid Them)

Does anyone remember the good old days of pen, paper and penmanship? Where pride was pressed and sealed into the ink of the printed particulars, signed and attributed solely to its original author and backed proudly by its publisher?

Most know that plagiarism is a crime; however, in our increasingly digital and social age, you could become an offender without even being aware of it. And this may have serious consequences for you as a blogger or e-commerce website owner.

Just an image copyright violation can entail penalties over $3 million. The famous photographer Kai Eiselein once sued a well-known BuzzFeed web resource for using his football player photo in one of the BuzzFeed fun posts. According to the article by John Villasenor published on Forbes as of June 22, 2013, the initial sum of the compensation could even surpass $3.6 million.

And that’s just one of many cases. To raise awareness of the issue and take timely measures, this article aims to cover possible solutions for content plagiarism or duplication and copyright violation.

Duplicating One’s Own Website Content Or Scraping It From Others

Why do content duplications occur time and again? To speed the process of launching a website ad save budget on quality content marketing, one can resort to copy-pasting entire website sections, blog articles and even about or home pages. One fact to remember: If the victims do take care of their safety, they are likely to set alarm notifications as soon as somebody decides to “break into their house”. Thus, the thief shouldn’t underestimate precautions taken by others and shouldn’t be surprised to receive a copyright takedown notice one day…

Besides, countless reposts of your own content, be it press releases or blog articles, won’t do you any good either. This way, you make your own web pages struggle for better positions in the niche. So, what if such duplications constitute over 70% of your web content? Google may take “manual action” against your site, which may even lead to its removal.

If your goal is to achieve a high search ranking as a trustworthy resource and not another spammy site, you shouldn’t neglect the value of original content. Some SEO experts say that the key point here is the volume of the duplicated content you have. The more, the worse, since Google will consider it as thin content and make your ranking lower, which is not good for your blog readers or web customers. They will simply never know about your existence if your site is on the 20th page in the search results.

So, what safety measures can you take? Below are a few tips you can make use of:

  • Create unique content for each web page on your site, avoiding repetitions.
  • Double-check newly written posts, product descriptions, press-releases or home page content for plagiarism using a plagiarism checker like Unplag, scanning files against the Internet or files already uploaded to your account.
  • Use the Screaming Frog to be quickly notified of any duplications.
  • Apply permanent redirect 301 to prevent web page duplications and remove any outdated pages from the web index.
  • Take advantage of Webmaster Tools to manually detect similar pieces of content and eliminate them.
  • Select unique keywords with Google AdWords for each page, but don’t overuse them.
  • If you are not sure about the source you take information from, then make these links nofollow by adding a meta tag rel=”nofollow” into html link code. For example, <a href="" rel="nofollow">Site</a>.
  • For the pages to not be indexed by search engine bots, make use of a meta tag “noindex”, e.g.: <meta name="robots" content="noindex">. For particular search engine bots, specify the search engine name, e.g.: <meta name="googlebot" content="noindex">. Avoid content duplications on other search engines using meta-tags. For more details on noindex meta tags, click here.
Violating Copyright By Using Images and Videos Without Permission

Most copyright infringements happen simply because it often takes too much time to read big portions of text mentioned in the Copyright or Usage Policy sections. This refers to written content as well as images and videos. When taking visuals from stocks, always remember to carefully read license terms and conditions. Here, you will also find information on how to better attribute the author and for what purposes you can use his or her works.

It is worth mentioning that even when you use some elements of an image, video or text, you still can run the risk of violating the author’s copyright. That recently happened to the Handmadeology site owner with an online shop on A green and yellow tractor image turned to be exactly the same as the copyrighted version created by John Deere.

Another thing you need to pay special attention to is the fair use of copyrighted images and videos. Penalties for breaking it may be imposed even if you immediately delete copyrighted visuals from your site, provide a link to the original source and cite the author’s name, or use it for non-commercial purposes. Additionally, some of the visuals can be protected by the Creative Commons licenses. It means that you should attribute the copyright owner, but not necessarily contact him or her personally to get permission.

Here’s how you can prevent image/video copyright violations from happening:

  • Absence of copyright symbol doesn’t mean the photo or video is in the pubic domain, i.e. free for use, therefore you need to ask for permission before using it.
  • Learn thoroughly the fair use main clauses and get a grasp of the key usage policy rules mentioned on the web source you want to take an image or video from.
  • Take advantage of photo stocks with pictures available for free download and usage, e.g.:,,, etc.
  • If you can’t do without Google Images and want to find the original author of the image you need or see where else on the internet it was used, just follow these quick steps: Save an image to your desktop, enter the Images tab on and upload the image you’ve just downloaded, and you will get a list of sites having published it.
  • Should you be inspired enough to create unique visuals on your own, then make use of tools such as – for pictures, or – for animated videos or presentations.
Using Default or Already-Written Product Descriptions

If you are looking to protect e-commerce items that you may be selling online, then you need to pay attention to product descriptions. If you have a default message show up on each product, you will hurt your rankings more than help them. There will be millions of your clones elsewhere on the web, just because their owners once decided to not change anything.

When stealing product descriptions from sites with higher rankings, you also expose your website to the danger of being lost in the depths of the Internet. Since search engines will regard your site as less trustworthy and will never let it outrank the resource with more weight on original content.

So, you’d better have titles and headings filled with unique product information such as brand, model, style, color or some other type of identifying quality to help customers understand why they need to make a purchase. An additional “no-no” is that you must absolutely avoid copying any content from the manufacturer for the same reasons stated above.

However, too much content won’t work well for the customer experience. It should be well structured and to the point listing what benefits your products give your customers. For this, you can review your product descriptions and mix together those that look almost the same. For example, for coats or perfumes, which are actually unisex, there’s no need to invent two pages with identical texts – one will be more than enough helping you also prevent unnecessary repetitions.

It may happen, though, that you can’t get rid of some duplications, in which case it makes sense to follow the guidelines provided by Google.

Below, there are a few more prompts for you to consider:

  • Give your customers a chance to leave product reviews on your website. This way, you will get a never-ending source of original content and web pages updates, which will have a positive effect on your SEO.
  • Use relevant keywords in product descriptions, URLs and titles, but try not to repeat them.
  • Apply robots.txt to hide text duplications and the pages to be soon deleted.
  • Remember that rewriting descriptions for the products to be removed is worse for the web page weight. Write original ones instead for the whole life cycle of the goods.
  • Increase your conversion rates by adding video or photo product reviews.
  • Generate more unique descriptions in case the amount of words they contain is equal to the amount of other default text (used in sidebars, footers, menu, etc.) on the web page.
Sharing Similar Product Feeds

It’s natural that each e-commerce site owner sees the value in sharing product feeds with other online shopping platforms, especially if they are as popular as or It boosts the chances of any online seller to reach a bigger audience and drive more sales. Still, the question is whether these tactics can affect your website rankings. Here, opinions differ. Most marketers stick to the point that such promotion causes content duplications by appearing on other external resources, diminishing the value of your own web content.

What can save you from this pitfall? Get much simpler feed content ready for sharing with third-party shopping sites and publish more detailed and valuable content on your site. By doing so, you kill two birds with one stone: your earnings go up and your website saves its weight.

Non-Original Content Written By Guest Writers Or Content Marketers

If you welcome every reader to contribute to your blog or if you outsource content creation, there is always a risk of publishing non-original content on your site. Contributors may fail to give credit to the original source of information, and outsourcers may be too overloaded with tasks to craft unique content for you. To prevent these awkward moments, use plagiarism detection tools or searching for similarities by copy-pasting entire text passages into the search string. Once similarities are detected, ask to rewrite the content or attribute the author so you don’t get into trouble.

Bonus For Patient Readers

Taking into consideration all the inconveniences that unoriginal or duplicated content can entail, it is paramount that you learn and incorporate techniques to properly create, cite and attribute content on your site without copying yourself or infringing upon someone else’s copyright. Whenever you are too pressed for time and need another post or product description to appear within less than ten seconds, remind yourself of the penalties this haste can lead to.

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