How to Stop People from Stealing Content

stealing content

Recently, I was talking to a guy looking to become an authority in the financial space. He has lots of content, charisma, and over the years, has been very successful for both himself and his clients with his proven methods. He quickly turned the conversation towards wanting to protect his content, how to put up paywalls, ensure that others paid for access to his work and how to keep copycats out.

So, how do you stop people from stealing content?

Howdy folks, Nick here. The short answer is, you can’t, so stop trying. And that’s all there is to it. Alright, good talk!

No, but seriously, I’m only partially kidding. There are definitely things you should try to protect. For example, if you have a unique catchphrase that is integral to your brand, then get it trademarked. (Starting point for trademarking a catchphrase if that’s you!) If you are using photography or videography, that you created and/or that you own, then consider adding a watermark. (Starting point for a watermark on photography if that’s you!) On your website, add a copyright statement that folks can easily find that outlines terms and conditions for using any content from your platform, including anything you post on social media, your newsletter, blog, etc. Here is an example from a website we created.

However, if you are trying to protect your thoughts and ideas from competitors, sharks, whatever — you need to understand that it’s pretty much impossible to keep that from happening, even with paywalls and login systems. Make something available online, and inevitably, if it’s of any worth, someone will pirate it, oftentimes, not even trying to make a profit, but simply to make it available for everyone. Heck, one of my favorite examples of this happens all the time on Reddit when someone posts a link to a news article from the Wall Street Journal or some other pay-to-read or watch platform. Just scroll down one or two comments, and within seconds you will find a mirror link or a TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) of the content, typically with the words, “I’ve got you fam.”

So, let’s change the approach and mindset; instead, make some decisions about how you post your content online. One way to organize things — split your content up into three main groups or levels:

The 3 Levels of Content Approach

Level 1: Content for capturing the attention of relevant strangers. This will be more marketing-oriented materials. This is giving away some things of value (entertainment, knowledge, etc.) for free without any strings attached, simply to introduce them to your brand. This content is typically geared more towards telling your brand story and demonstrating your relevance to your intended audience. There is a lot to unpack with this level, and it really depends on your industry and your intended audiences. 

Level 2: Content that you give to people that follow you. For example, this is info we put into a newsletter or that you can require a login to access. This content rewards people for simply joining your tribe. They don’t have to actively pay for anything, other than allowing you to email them or DM (Direct Message) them. Another approach to this kind of content, a smarter approach, is to use something like Catch Engine to ask them a series of questions and then give them content based on their answers. 

LEVEL 3: Content folks pay to have access to (anything that requires a paywall). There are any number of ways to achieve as well as execute this level, and if you spend a lot of time coming up with proprietary knowledge about something, you absolutely should consider charging for it. We all need to make money to live and sustain what we are passionate about. If your content is educational enough or entertaining enough, people will pay for it, because they want you to keep doing what you are doing. The audience you want to build and support you will not steal from you. Just be mindful that your paid content typically will have a shelf life of some kind, and there is a good chance that its value to people will decrease over time.

Having said all this, here’s something else to consider. Stop worrying so much about folks stealing content. You are constantly on the move, advancing your position in your area of focus, doing research, building your influence, coming up with new ideas, evolving. Copycats will be hard pressed to keep up with you, and they will never be able to surpass you. They have to stay under your radar, otherwise, they will get found out and most likely lose whatever clout they may have gained. Also, if it’s brought to your attention that someone is blatantly stealing your work and reposting it as their own, then reach out to an IP lawyer to talk about how to stop them from doing it and/or get compensation.

Each case of stealing content may be unique, and there are certain measures you can put into place to deter copycats, but for the most part, your time will be best spent in creating new content and advancing your brand!