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Don’t stop people from stealing your content

In our daily travels around the web we come across many articles on “how to keep people from stealing your content“.  Our opinion?  Don’t try to stop them.

Let them steal it?

First, let me be clear that we don’t advocate content theft.  You should write your own content, legally purchase stock photography, and do the right then when you’re online.  However, the act of trying to protect your content is typically worse for your business than the actual theft would be.  Here are some examples:

Disable right-click?

A popular technique to protect your images is to install some JavaScript on your site that disables a user’s right-click feature.  This has two problems:

  1. It doesn’t do much to protect your image.  It’ll perhaps stop a few folks, but if you put an image on your site, there is no way to protect it 100%.  If it’s on there, it can be downloaded.  Accept it.
  2. Disabling right-click disables a lot of useful features.  Many people use it as their forward/back arrows, or to bookmark your page, or any number of things.  You don’t want to block that.

Watermark your images?

There are some cases for watermarking your images, such as if you sell stock photography, but 99.9% of people don’t need to spend time watermarking.  Last year Trey Ratcliff (a very popular photographer) made some great points on why he doesn’t watermark his work.  Among other reasons, he argues that they make your work look ugly and that legitimate companies don’t steal images anyhow.  If a random blogger somewhere steals your work, it’s not like they would have paid for it.  Plus, with new tools like Google’s Reverse Image Search, you can easily track them down if you want to.

Only push out a partial RSS feed?

In terms of stealing content (and not just images), RSS feeds are a prime source for spammers.  They can grab your RSS feed and quickly republish your well-written blog posts on their spammy sites.  The solution is to only put out partial RSS feeds that show the first few sentences and then include a “read more” link at the end.  Again, we don’t feel this is a great answer.

From my personal experience, I can tell you that I skim through a ton of blogs every day on my phone (I’m usually tracking 500+ sites at any given time).  While I’ll read them in Feedly if they interest me, clicking out of Feedly to “read more” really can throw off my groove.  Instead, if something looks interesting with a partial feed I usually click to “read later” and often never see it again.  However, if I can read the entire post right on the spot I often share it immediately.  Between my various social media accounts, that post can be shown to tens of thousands of readers, which means you could be missing a lot of love (and links!) by only putting out a partial RSS feed.

Serve your readers

At the end of the day, you want to serve your readers.  Certainly don’t do silly things to promote the theft of you work, but most of the things you can do to help “protect” your site will annoy your visitors.  In the highly competitive online world, you need every advantage you can get.

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Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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