Can You Prevent Your Content From Being Stolen?

It takes a lot of money, time, and effort to develop a website, both in terms of creating the design and gathering or writing the content. However, it only takes a few minutes for a thief to steal your content and reproduce it on another website!

And while having your content stolen is bad enough, there could be other potential problems. The thief, for example, could manage to rank more highly than you in search engines. Or in the worst of cases, your website could be penalized by search engines as serving duplicate content, even though you would be the originator!

This leads us to the question: Can you prevent your content from being stolen?

How Do Thieves Steal Content?

There are many ways to steal content from a website.

The most basic method involves highlighting text and copying it for later use. In response, some webmasters have used JavaScript to disable users from highlighting text, saving images, and/or using the mouse to view the source code. However, there are many ways around these safeguards, and usually they only end up annoying normal visitors.

Another easy method for stealing content is by copying an entire webpage. Thieves can simply use the save option in a browser’s toolbar. In addition, there are various pieces of software, including web page editing software, which facilitate the downloading of content from live websites.

Finally, for the high tech thief, a ‘spider’ — similar to what search engines may use to index your web pages — can be used to gather content.

Options To Protect Content

Clearly, it is very difficult, almost impossible, to protect content from theft. But there are some methods to accomplish it. These include:

  • Using images instead of text. This will make it harder for thieves to steal texual content.
  • Using flash. When done properly, flash can protect both image and textual content.
  • Encrypting html source code. If necessary, HTML source code can be encrypted in such a way that it looks jumbled to normal viewers, yet is displayed accurately by browsers.

Unfortunately, the three methods listed above do have several drawbacks. First, they aren’t search-engine-friendly, and second, they will increase the time it takes for your pages to load. So we suggest using an alternative approach.

Methods To Dissuade Thieves

If thieves want to steal your content, there really is nothing to stop them, short of the threat of legal action. However, there are a few things that can be done to dissuade theves. Some of these include:

  1. Preventing non-html pages from being accessed directly. This will have two advantages. First, it will prevent anyone from stealing your JavaScript, CSS, or images. And second, users will not be able to hotlink, or steal bandwidth.
  2. Watermarking images. You may not want to mar your images with a watermark stamp, but when tastefully done, your watermarks can protect images from theft and serve as advertisement if any images are viewed on other websites or search engines.
  3. Copyright notice. There should also be a copyright notice prominently displayed on all pages, in the footer of your website.

Yet, some unethical webmasters and content thieves will still take your content. So, what can you do?


Stay tuned for our next article. We’ll discuss how you can find stolen content, and what action you should take in response.

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2 Responses to “Can You Prevent Your Content From Being Stolen?”

  • Salman October 14, 2009 at 3:52 am

    Two PHP code examples for watermarking your images:



  • Bernard Ho April 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Great article.I have the exact question asked at my site. I almost copied and paste your work to answer my reader. I gave him the link to yours instead :)


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