How to Protect Your Intellectual Property Online

It’s inevitable. If you are successful as a blogger, people are going to steal your content. You’ll wake up one morning to a Google Alert, notifying you that your name was mentioned on another blog.

A Lock and a Copyright Symbol - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #5271774

Photo courtesy of ©

Great, you’ll think, I love free publicity. I also know that “inbound links” help increase my search engine rankings.

You then click on the link to read the post. To your horror, you discover that another blogger has re-posted one of your entire blog posts, word-for-word.

This has happened to me several times. Each time, it takes my breath away. I feel violated. I think, I spent a considerable amount of time creating that post, and they just re-posted it without my permission?

What do you do?

First of all, breathe. This is not the end of the world. As a writer, your biggest problem is obscurity not piracy. The very fact that someone thought enough of your work to re-post it on their own blog means they value it. You should first of all take it as a compliment.

Now let me suggest that there are eight ways you can protect your intellectual property online. If you follow these steps, they will dramatically reduce the chances of your content being stolen. They will also provide a strategy for dealing with it when it happens.

  1. Understand copyright law. Your post is protected from the moment you create it. You don’t have to register it. It is your intellectual property, and no one can legally reproduce it. However, the law only protects the expression of your idea not the idea itself. If someone writes about your post in their own words, that is perfectly legitimate. In fact, you should welcome it. Consider it free publicity.
  2. Publish an official copyright notice. This is not required in order to protect your work, nor does it grant you any additional rights. However, it reminds the world that this is your intellectual property. You own it. Using a copyright notice (e.g., “© 2010, Michael Hyatt”) can thus serve as a deterrent. I put mine in my blog’s footer, so it appears at the bottom of every page.
  3. Create an explicit permissions policy. Create a separate page, spelling out exactly what people may do with your content. I have divided my Permissions Policy into two sections: what others can do without my permission and what they can do with my permission. Be explicit. This will keep people from contacting you about every use of your content, but it will also give you a published standard to refer to when someone violates it.
  4. Give the benefit of the doubt. Not everyone who re-posts your content does so maliciously. In my experience, most people simply don’t know the law. They are not intentionally infringing on your rights. Usually, they are fans who are excited about your work and want to share it with their readers. They are just uninformed about copyright law and need an education.
  5. Request that they remove your post. You can do this either via email (preferred) or in a comment. However, be gracious and assume their motives are good. You don’t want to throttle their enthusiasm. You want them to promote your work; you just don’t want them to violate your rights. I start by thanking them for posting it, but graciously explain that this is actually illegal. I then point them to my Permissions Policy and suggest that they post an excerpt. In every case, people have apologized to me and complied with my request. (Your mileage may vary.)
  6. Demand that they take down your content. I have never had to go this far in the online world with my own content. (As a book publisher, my company has had to do this with people who were scanning our books and posting them online for free.) However, if the offender doesn’t respond well to the last step, you have to escalate your response from a request to a demand. You do this by sending a “demand letter” (or email), insisting that they take the content down. Even here, I would still be gracious (at least the first time), assuming they simply don’t understand the gravity of the situation.
  7. Notify the infringer’s hosting service. If you still can’t get the offender to cooperate, you need to do a little research. Find their “WhoIs Record,” using a tool like DomainTools. This will show you their domain registration information, including who hosts the site. You will want to send an email to the hosting service. Usually it is an address like abuse@[the name of the hosting service]. Tell them that you are requesting a “take-down” of the Web site and explain why. Legitimate services will investigate and, if they agree, send their own demand to the offender. If he doesn’t comply, they will take down the site.
  8. Hire an attorney to take action. If the service provider is shady, incompetent, or offshore, you may need to hire an attorney to represent you. You have to weigh this against the damage you believe is being done and the cost of litigation. It can get expensive fast, and there is no guarantee of success. Real pirates are incredibly evasive and can disappear and reappear online faster than you can work through the legal process.

The last thing I would leave you with is this: “don’t let the tail wag the dog.” In other words, don’t deprive your legitimate audience—the vast majority of your readers—from your content just because you have an occasional person who violates your copyright. It’s just not worth it. As I said at the beginning, your biggest problem as a writer is obscurity. The more people reproduce your content, the more people will be exposed to it. Ultimately, this will benefit you.

Question: Have you ever had your content misappropriated?
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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

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  • Dan Miller

    Mike – thanks for the clear guidelines here. Yes, in the world of massive information people seem to assume that online content is free for the taking. I've found that it's also tricky with people who are creative with domain names – using perhaps one letter different than mine. Or adding "the" to the front of one of my domains. I tend to assume that "imitation is the sincerest of flattery" but sometimes it feels more like stealing or just being too lazy to be original.

  • Michael Hyatt

    That sounds pretty intentional. That reminds me: I need to grab all the iterations of my own name! Thanks.

  • Dianne Guthmuller

    Michael, thank you so much for this post! I've been blogging for a year and a half. I began a one-year study through the Chronological Bible in January. I'm posting Mon-Fri. Needless to say, I am beginning to feel very protective of God's work through my hands. This was just what I needed, easy to understand, and easy to implement!____Your blog is a valuable resource to me!____Blessings in Christ!____Dianne Guthmuller

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Dianne. I’m so glad it was helpful.

  • @WomenLivingWell

    I've been thinking (worrying lol!) about this lately. I need to get some things trademarked…thanks for motivating me – it's on this week's to-do list. I know I've needed to get it done – now's the time – thanks!Courtney

  • SueB

    Only one time that I knew about. Because my blog is mostly craft-related, I allow people to use my ideas, templates and tutorials but I do appreciate a credit line that refers back to my blog. I struggled to design a small, paper robot, posted it on my blog and in another gallery and the idea was taken and shared as if it were an idea from the other person. I had to put it in the whole scope of life to not be irritated. It's' just that it was a difficult project that took much time to design. I need to have some sort of statement on my blog about the use of my ideas – thanks for the prompting.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think a policy statement will really help you. It will help clarify your own thinking. Plus, it looks more official and will serve as a deterrent for some.

  • Ashley W.

    How do you feel about people linking to your blog or certain posts? Does that fall underneath a copyright infringement?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I love it when people do that. It is not an infringement. (Think of it as a “live footnote” that takes people back to the source.) This falls under the “fair use” aspects of copyright law. Besides Google ranks your site higher, the more incoming links you have. This is something every blogger should encourage.

  • 1ballerina

    Mr. Hyatt,
    I want to let you know how much I appreciate the information that you share here. As a newly published teenage author, I look forward to your "lessons." I realize that I have a lot to learn, and I am grateful for your help.
    Most sincerely,
    Melinda Marchiano

    • Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Melinda. I think a policy statement will really help you. It will help clarify your own thinking. Plus

  • Keith Jennings

    Let's not miss the fantastic tactic not in your post, but accomplished BY your post. Your writing about this issue in an encouraging, helpful way will obviously be read by both intentional and unintentional "offenders." This can help set expectations going forward, and (hopefully) avoid an awkward confrontation. Thank you for sharing!

    • Michael Hyatt

      That did occur to me. ;-)

  • Lynn Rush

    Wow. This is very helpful information. Hopefully I never have to use it. . . :-) Thanks!

  • anthonyharden

    Great timing for me. I took the first steps to setting up a WordPress blog site this weekend. Don't look Michael, I started with a series of posts on my brief and somewhat disallusioned experiences with the publishing industry. I will never copy your content but I really like the way you do things. Wish I knew how trackbacks work.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your kind words.

      I don’t know how trackbacks work either. But they do. At least with WordPress.


  • Laurinda

    I haven't had this happened to me yet. I guess I'm not that popular yet!

    I have an attorney on retainer because of Identity theft from a few years ago. When I started my blog, I let him know that I may have to call on him for assistance in this area. Thanks for this post I often wonder how other writers deal with this.

    • Michael Hyatt

      By the way, I put the attorney last in my list, because I think it is the means of last resort.

      I was speaking with a friend last week. His first impulse was to hire an attorney. I said, “Not so fast cowboy.” I think it’s rare that you have to escalate it to this level.


  • BarbaraBoucher PTPhD

    I appreciate this post, too, Michael, and will bookmark it for reference. While I have been aware of most of what you said, I could be a bit more mindful of how to protect my work – from out-and-out stealing.

    Do you have an understanding of composite sites, 'clubs', used-to-be-called web-rings or sites where you register to become a contributor? I pulled-out of one such – Wellsphere – because re-posting my posts was part of the agreement to register. I was getting no referrals from them, and why would people go to my blog if they read it on Wellsphere? I realize these sites might constitute some of the 'give-away' but I have opted for guest posts instead.

    Thanks again.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I don’t have much familiarity with Web-rings. The only thing I have noticed is that I rarely stumble onto one that I want to pursue. Thanks.

  • @BrettCohrs

    Ahhh… so you don't have to do anything special to put the copyright thing on your page. I've not had the problem, but was curious. Thanks for the post.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You don’t need to put it on your page to activate the copyright. That happens the moment you create your content. You only need to put a notice as a deterrent.

      By the way, I insert the following PHP code in my footer, so that the date is always the current year. (I realize this won’t be relevant to anyone but the WordPress geeks among us. However, I thought it might be helpful to them.)

      {p class="fl"}{a href="" title="See my Permissions Policy" target="_blank"}©{?php the_time('Y'); ?} {?php bloginfo(); ?}{/a}{/p}

      Replace the curly brackets above with the appropriate angle brackets.

  • Brett Barner

    Thanks! I enjoy clear guidelines like this, and it's helpful to other people who try to be honest with their posts without bothering the author with a silly questions. (ie. "Can I link to your website?")

    So if I followed this correctly, I'd need to get permission to use your permissions policy as a template. Is that correct? :)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, that is correct. I have already had several people write to ask permission. Mission accomplished!

      • Brett Barner

        Thank you! :)

      • jondale


        Great post. I hope we never to get to step 8. I'd probably try public humiliation of the guilty before I hired an attorney :-).

        Have you considered publishing your permissions policy under a Creative Commons Sharealike license? Seems like it could be a good way to share it with others and you can even ask others to give you credit each time it's used. That's how wordpress does their privacy policy:


        • Michael Hyatt

          Good idea, Jon. I will do that. In fact, I need to add this to my Comments Policy as well. Thanks.

  • Cyberquill

    No, I've never had my content misappropriated. To my knowledge, I've never had my content appropriated at all, neither mis- nor otherwise.

    As a writer, your biggest problem is obscurity, not privacy. Great line. How true.

    Regarding copyright law, I understand that all my creations are protected the moment I create them. The Achilles heel of this "protection," though, seems to be that I cannot prove it was I who created it. If someone else snags it and then claims he wrote it and it was actually I who stole it from him, that's a problem. The time stamp on a blog post is too easily changed to prove date of creation. And forget about other art forms that don't come with a time stamp in the first place.

    Point being, unless and until we officially register our intellectual property, it strikes me as "protected" in theory only.

    • Michael Hyatt

      In 30 years of publishing, I have never seen that happen. It might; but I haven’t witnessed it. The registration does make this easier to prove for sure, which is why we do that very thing at our publishing company. It doesn’t confer any additional rights, but it makes the claim more secure.

  • alisa hope

    I think it would be pretty gratifying the first time this happened — to find out that your words were worthy to be stolen. But, I'm sure it would get old fast.

    Like you said, though, most people really don't know much about copyright law or etiquette.

    • Michael Hyatt

      In every case this has happened to me, the person who re-posted my content thought he was doing me a favor. They just weren't that familiar with the law and were mortified when I explained it to them.

  • Gregory Scott

    Michael–That's good advice. I haven't had content misappropriated, but as an attorney, I can attest to the difficulties you identify in point #8. I always appreciate your advice because it's practical and born out of experience.

  • Barry

    What's going to hold up in court is whether you have your stuff copyrighted or not, not good intentions. (Much easier to prove it's your content).

    And why not? registering your blog content with the US copyright office is 35 bucks!

    Here's a good discussion about the topic online. Although none of the people involved are attorneys.

    • Michael Hyatt

      This may be a quibbling over words, but again, your stuff is copyrighted from the moment you create it; you don't have to do anything to trigger that. It has nothing to do with your intentions.

      However, by registering your copyright, you make it easier to prove in court that you are the creator and thus the owner. And, yes, this is so cheap, you should do it. Thanks for sharing the link!

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  • John Richardson

    Thanks for clarifying this tricky area for us, Mike. In my five years of blogging, I've seen all sorts of issues arise, but most problems can be handled with a little education. BTW… In doing some research on note taking, I did run into a popular post over at that has a bad link to your site. You might want to have them update it.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for the heads up on this. I will ask them to change it. Thanks.

  • @theCRICKETtoy

    Really informative post.

    You know that I SO want to repost this entire entry on my website now. :)

    Instead, I will give you a Twitter shout-out linking to your site.

    Thank you again for the time, energy and information you put into your blog.

  • JMac

    The idea of "originality" is imaginary. The reality is all intellectual "property" has been borrowed from others before you. Any idea is simply restated or recombined in your own words. So is it better that your thoughts are shared freely so others may learn and benefit in as many places as possible, or to cling to it and imprison it within the confines of copyright? It wasn't until the free market economy emerged and capitalism took center stage that concepts of "originality" and "credit" became favored. The truth is, we all stand on the shoulders of giants.

    • Michael Hyatt

      While there is nothing new under the sun, the manner in which it is expressed is original. Moreover, without copyright protection, artists and writers will not have the financial incentive—not to mention the means!—keep creating?

      • JMac

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts. So, you can see how every expression is not entirely original, right? Obviously you learned the vast substance of what you wrote from someone else. And they learned it from someone else before them, and so on.

        Like I mentioned, it wasn't until capitalism began to monetize creative works in a free market economy, (which had successfully been created for centuries before without concepts of copyright), that artists made authorship, ownership, and "originality" a priority.

        If you're interested in the history of how this all evolved, I'm reading "Borrowing Brilliance" right now by David Murray. His book has really opened my eyes to how innovation actually works. Highly recommend.

  • kohlsgirl1

    Reposting a blog is not the same as stealing content; most bloggers welcome the opportunity for the exposure. Any blogger who says otherwise is lying. Even your own blog has a the "share on Face Book" icon, as well as the quick option to share on other social networking sites.

    • Michael Hyatt

      As I point out in the post, sharing an excerpt is one thing; re-posting an entire post is another. The former is great exposure, because the reader must click-through to read the entire post. The is good for the original blogger, the blogger who posts the excerpt, and the reader. Win-win-win.

      However, reposting the entire post is theft. It is a violation of the copyright law. It deprives the original writer of traffic and penalizes him or her on Google. (Google penalizes for duplicate content.)

      My “Share on Facebook” icon only shares an excerpt.

  • alamin

    Where did you got this much info on your blog from?? Also can i take the

    initiave to take the feeds from your blog for my yoga website?? But cant

    find the RSS feeds link here!!


    Md.Alamin Khan

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  • Ephraiyim

    Sorry, but I strongly disagree that the concept of intellectual property is viable. One cannot own a thought. Once expressed that thought belongs to anyone who reads or listens to it.
    Personally, when I copy something from another’s site, and I do this frequently, I do it because I want people to have access to those ideas. I do not take credit myself and try to be very careful to give credit to whoever the originator is. This includes pasting their heading to my post, any links to the article as well as the site. This is, in my opinion, a form of flattery.. Any author who would think otherwise has an ego problem.
    If an author has made a clear statement on their blog that they prefer that people not copy their blog I respect their request not out of some imagined legal obligation but only as respecting their wishes that have been expressed. I certainly do not do it because of some supposed “right” they may think exists.
    I am sorry but you do not own something once you have made it public. The way you happen to have arranged a set of letters and punctuation is not yours once you have expressed it. The primary reason for writing anything is, ultimately, to have some influence upon ones readers. Said influence by it’s nature should cause others to think in similar if not identical terms. Since that is true then one would expect, dare I say, desire, that those readers would express what one has said in as close a way to the original as possible up to and including exact quotation.
    This is not stealing ones ideas but flattery in it’s highest sense. Having said this, I will be careful not to copy or even mention anything whatsoever you may say as I would not want to offend you. That is not because I fear what you may do but, merely, respecting your wishes. Of course, that may also mean I do not believe that anything you express has any value worth mentioning.

    • Ephraiyim

      I just realized something. You are the folks who copyrighted the Word of God. You are doing to Him the very thing that you claim no one has the right to do to you.
      Scripture originates with Him. Even the way you rearranged it came from a study of the original. You plagiarized Gods’ Words. That pretty much dismisses anything you might have to say about the subject as moot.
      If I steal something from another that, essentially, renders my opinions on matters of theft as meaningless.

  • Michael Young

    I do a little graphic design. It’s mostly for fun, I don’t make any money at it, nor do I make stuff for other people (not normally). But I created something that I consider my “masterpiece.” Well, one day on Facebook I see a comment someone left on my friend’s status. The person who posted the comment had his profile picture as my artwork! At first I was a little bitter about it. Then I found out that he had found it on Google Images. This actually made me happy.
    But what made me more happy was when one of my graphic desing buddies (the guy who taught me what I know) told me after learning about this said, “You aren’t a real graphic artist, or any other type of artist for that matter, until someone pirates your work.” So I guess it’s official. I’m a graphic artist!
    So, as an aspiring author, if someone ever steals my work, I’ll be very happy and pleased. Then I’ll no longer be “aspiring” in my mine, I’ll be a legit author.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Anonymous


    My content was used a few times. It was pretty hard to track it down so I let it go. I now have some very concrete steps to follow.


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  • Roy Wallen

    Once again, great advice, as well as assurance.

  • Joe Abraham

    Thank you Michael for this informative post. I consider many bloggers are unaware of their rights and privileges. And some feel shy about exercising their rights. But, I believe, we got to do it right with a graceful heart!

  • Allison Hall

    Knowledge is a heck of thing. I love Micheal’s blogs. They are very informative. I share the link with my coworkers, especially as it relates to leadership and productivity. I have always credited the person. It is the ethical, legal and correct thing to do in the sight of God and man. Information is so easy to access and share now with technology. I encourage persons to credit others when they use their information, even though sometimes the information may not be original. Still acknowledge them. Can you imagine if there was no information for you to access or share?

  • jenbeever

    Mike, I did have two articles on my site copied by other consultants, one of whom also published my article in an online magazine. The whole thing resulted in a spike in my blood pressure, at least half a day spent on the remedy, and years of telling the story (my therapy). My letters requesting that the site owners take my content down were effective. One said they hired a ghost writer and didn’t know that person copied my article. The other (someone I worked for in the past) just apologized.

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  • Josey Jasen

    I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really 

    enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to 

    your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  • LanaVaughan

    I think more bloggers are worried about no one reading their material rather than someone stealing it. 

    But good to know the steps to take just in case.

  • Shelly

    Michael, I’m a little late to this post, but the information was still very helpful. I’ve come across a site that posts my blog content word for word without my permission to benefit payment from infolinks. In fact, the entire site looks like stolen content. There is no contact information and when I professionally and politely left comments to remove my content, the comments were then disabled.  In this case, I have contacted infolinks regarding the theft (they are investigating).  I’m also considering filing a report with google so the site doesn’t show up in the google search engine. In your opinion, am I taking this too far or wasting my time?  At the very bottom of the posts, there is a link to my site saying “see the original post”. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      Try to find out who hosts the site by using the whois tool. Then contact the hosting service. Usually it is at an email address like abuse@[name of hosting provider].com. File your complaint with them.

  • Mason Conrad Stanley

    Mr. Hyatt, 

    I’m starting a new blog and would like to use your permission policy. I didn’t know whether a comment or an email would be best, so I took my chances with a comment. Thank you for the consideration of my request.

    Mason Staney

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, you are welcome to. Thanks for asking!

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  • blue_guru

    Sir: re “Question: Have you ever had your content misappropriated?” — well, I’m aware of one place *you* have had YOUR content misappropriated. Should I provide a link?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, that would be great. Thanks.

      • blue_guru

         Apologies for the delay, I had trouble finding my way back to this page. I took the liberty of informing the site owner I’d be “blowing the whistle”, within the hour your “Power of Asking the Right Question” article had been taken down. Have a good day. ;)

        • Michael Hyatt

          Great. Thanks!

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  • @baobabinvest

    Hi Michael,

    I know this is late coming three years after your initial post – but this remains timely advice! I came across this post while researching how other people have handled this issue. I’ve been blogging for less than a month and have just discovered that one of my blog subscribers has been copying and pasting the entirety of all my blog posts to his/her blog. Thanks for the sage advice on dealing with misappropriated content.

    I have a copyright notice on my blog but evidently, it did not dissuade this individual
    from misappropriating my content so I’ll have to take additional measures to make it more explicit that my content should not be re-distributed without my consent.

    May I please use your permission policy on my blog? I hope using a comment was OK, I’d be happy to e-mail you if you prefer.


    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, you are welcome to use my permissions policy. (Thanks for asking.)

      • @baobabinvest

        Thanks a lot, Michael! Much appreciated.

  • Luke Lenichek

    Hi Michael, I have a question about copywriting. I’m in youth ministry and I want to publish some modifications to some Games on my blog. These games are on several websites and in several books. How do I take this information and use it. So, the authors get credit on there game and I get credit for my modification for the game? If you or your staff could direct me to some posts or websites that would better help me with my question that would be awesome. Thank you so much for all your wisdom.

  • Phil


    I Know I’m late for my comments, but good information is good information !. really usfull tanks, for sharing your tips. In complemteray I shoud sugest that you use a online resgistration for work befor you post it. there is plenty of those, my favorite is because it’s free.

  • cal3b

    Very informative piece you have here. In addition to this, I would also
    recommend using a content protection plugin such as the content copy protection plugins offered by
    (makes things real hard)

  • Kelly Levatino

    Michael – I am a low-on-the-totem-pole blogger and just discovered someone republished an entire article of mine on their site without permission but clearly stated it was by me. They did not, however, link back to my website at all. Is this good publicity, or should I never allow an entire re-post? At the very least, I think I should ask them to add a link back to my blog… thoughts?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I wouldn’t allow it. It is a violation of Fair Use. I would kindly notify them. Tell them they are welcome to post an excerpt with a link, but you can’t allow them to re-post the entire article.

      • Kelly Levatino

        Thanks, Michael.