Over the past few months, I’ve received numerous emails, inquiring about my “clients” who are being accused of blog scraping/plagiarism/copyright infringement/etc. And this is where the misunderstanding begins.
On February 20, 2007, I released Cleaker, my first WordPress theme, into public domain. I was super excited about it and really tried to get the word out as much as possible. It seems to be one of those things where it was the right theme for the right time. As of today, there have been close to 15,000 downloads of Cleaker from my site, and while it was still on the WordPress Themes directory, it was probably downloaded 15-20,000 times from there as well. Needless to say, Cleaker is in fairly high use.
Cleaker is available for download by anyone. And I have no say about who downloads it, or what they use it for once they download it. This is the same for all WordPress Theme designers. So my question is what happens when people start contacting you because they think you’re involved? As I mentioned above, I’ve been contacted about this somewhat frequently; most recently I received a phone call from someone in a marketing department for fairly large company. Someone using Cleaker was copy-and-pasting their blog posts, word for word. And since I left an attribution link in the footer with my name, and I also left a badge for Cleave Design in one of the sidebars, this person called and was certain that this content scraper was my client and was very angry with me.
When I receive an email, it often goes something like this:
Your client or yourself who is at [insert website URL] is using duplicate content from my website without my permission and will be reported to Google if the content is not removed a.s.a.p. and I am informed of the fact.
I understand their frustration. I’ve seen some of my posts copied word for word before on other sites, and it is incredibly frustrating. Especially if you are a company and pay people good money to produce the content that is being scraped.
I suppose my question is for the WordPress Theme designers: what do you do to protect yourself against any legal action? In every single one of these situations, I have done nothing wrong. I have had absolutely no contact with the person who is scraping the content and putting it up on the site which is using the Cleaker WordPress theme. But the people who find their stolen content don’t know that – and if they don’t trust me – what is to stop them from pursuing legal options?