If you’ve been following my tips and tricks on freelancing, then you’ve seen my articles on how to land clients and how to start your own freelancing business. At the same time, I hope you’ve been paying attention to how to avoid a scam.
If not, it’s time for Essa’s tutorial on DMCA and how to keep from getting your work stolen.
Unfortunately, there are scammers out there who are only trying to collect as many articles as possible so they can resell them or use them without paying. Let me explain to you how they do this, because these requests will actually appear perfectly legitimate.
Generally, the scammer will request a test job. A test job is not the same as a free sample. Instead, it’s a common, legitimate request when starting with a long term client. If the article is accepted, the client will pay for the rights to use it and you’ll begin a relationship.
In one of these scam instances, they will request the test job. Then, after you submit the article, they will just disappear. Sometimes, they’re just a normal client who is too busy to respond. A follow up email will usually get a response with a yes or a no from a non-scammer.
However, if they delay or start making excuses as to why they have not made a decision, chances are you’re dealing with a scammer.
Let’s be honest. Most of the articles you will write for test jobs are going to be around 500 words. If they can’t read an article of 500 words in under two weeks and make a decision, chances are they are planning on stealing it. Don’t let them.
The easiest thing to do is send an email withdrawing your application and asserting your copyright. Resist the urge to tell them to go fuck themselves. Regardless of how tempting it may be, after you’ve wasted hours of your valuable time writing for them, be a professional. You can never truly tell if someone is scamming you, or if they are simply an unresponsive client. Regardless, you don’t want to work with them. Scammers for obvious reasons and unresponsive clients because getting them to pay you is damn near impossible.
Just send an email thanking them for their consideration, but state ‘due to time constraints’ (or whatever cliched phrase you want to use) you will be unable to work with them. Then, make sure to add this sentence or something similar.
“I also assert all rights in articles submitted for consideration and not purchased per standard copyright law.”
To a non-scammer, this sentence simply tells them that you’re keeping the article for your future use. To a scammer, it tells them “I’m watching you. Don’t fuck with me.”
Standard copyright law isn’t complicated. You don’t need to register anything and you don’t need to file any legal forms. Simply stated, once you write something, you own it until you sell the rights to it. Never agree to transfer of copyright prior to payment. As long as you can show proof, either through a word doc or emails, that you wrote it first and that the copyright wasn’t purchased, you’re safe unless you have to take it to court.
Trust me, you won’t have to take it to court. There is a simple law out there to protect you and it’s scarier than any courtroom. It is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, aka, the DMCA.
After your close call with a scammer, sell your article to someone else ASAP. It’s much harder to steal something if it’s already posted online. Usually, scammers will sit on these stolen articles hoping that you forget about them. Before you sell it, check to make sure it hasn’t been posted by searching one phrase from your article on the internet, or checking the scammers website.
If you find your article posted somewhere, you need to act. First, use the contact form on the website to send a polite message reminding them that you own the article and requesting that they remove it immediately. Give them a limited timeframe to respond. Every second they’re posting your stolen article is a second they’re making money on your stolen article. In the past, I’ve given anywhere from 24 hours to 1 week, based on how likely I thought it was a scam over an innocent mistake.
If you don’t get a response, then it’s time to get aggressive. Find a formal DMCA notice of copyright infringement. Send a copy to them. Send a copy to their hosting provider and send a copy to any advertising partners listed on the site. Advertisers are making money off your scammers copyright infringement as well, so they are guilty by association. Ironically, they are usually the first people to do something about it. Generally, they’ll pull their ads and end their affiliation with the scammer.
Here’s where the DMCA gets scarier than a courtroom. Once you have sent proof of your copyright and the right DMCA form, the web host will either remove the content themselves or ask that the site owner remove the content. If the site owner refuses to remove the copyright material, or doesn’t respond, the hosting provider will shut the entire site down.
Not only will your scammer get their page shut down, if they do get it back up after removing the copyright material, they will also get a black mark on their Google record as a copyright violator. Any website with multiple DMCA notices gets tanked in the Google rankings. As their goal in stealing your material in the first place is to get an increased site rank, you just hit them where it hurt. Well done.
It is getting harder and harder for these scammers to swipe content. Thanks to that, those of us trying to make a reputable living doing this have a better chance of doing so. Never let someone make money off your work when they haven’t paid you for it. Instead, know your rights when it comes to your material.
And above all, know when to be an asshole.