How Often Should You Check for Infringements?

Binoculars ImageIt’s a situation that I encounter fairly regularly. A new client, whether it’s an author, photographer or business finds their Web content strewn across the Web and plagiarized. We deal with the initial batch of infringers and I impress upon them the need to start monitoring their work moving forward, to catch future infringers early.

But then the difficult question arises: How often should I check for new infingers?

The answer is a difficult one and there are a lot of variables to consider including how much infringement there is, how long it takes to check for them, the seriousness of letting an infringement go longer and the resources one has to deal with any problems.

For example, many content creators are fine not checking for infringements at all or doing so only at irregular intervals. Others can wait and search every other month or so while those in competitive fields where infringement is common, especially when search engine optimization plays a major role, will likely need to check very frequently.

So, if you’re someone who is interested in seeking out infringements of your work, how often should you check? The answer is truly up to you but there is a pretty simple way to find out what it is.

Dealing with the Initial Aftermath

Though it’s ideal, most content creators don’t start out by tracking their infringements from day one. Most either don’t think about the possibility or make it a very low priority until something goes wrong, often with bad search results for relevant keywords.

Then there’s an initial burst of activity as they are forced to “clean house” of old infringements and try to restore some semblance of order. However, that process isn’t always indicative of how often one should track their work.

Simply put, finding a lot of infringements does not mean that there are many more to come. For one, there could have been a burst of interest in the content some time previously and that excitement has died off. For another, if you let infringements go unchecked for a long time, even if they aren’t frequent, you’ll likely find a good number when you do come around to look.

In short, past infringements are a poor indicator of future ones.

Instead, the easiest way to find the answer is to simply start looking and then make adjustments to your schedule constantly.

Finding the Right Pace

For most copyright holders, I suggest starting out performing searches once per week. For most, this isn’t an overly burdensome amount of time to spend over the short term and it is as frequent as any smaller content creator would likely need.

While some services do daily or constant checks for content, they tend to be more expensive and geared toward extremely large copyright holders, such as record labels, major publishers and movie studios, that see an extremely high level of infringement and have both the means and interest in checking that often.

If you’re doing it yourself and you aren’t dealing with infringement on that level, such services are probably overkill and beyond your reach.

The week timeframe is also good because services like Copyscape and PlagSpotter both have weekly checking services that are affordable. Also, other useful services such as Google Alerts have weekly alerts as well.

The process from there is simple, if you do this for a week or two and don’t find any infringements worth targeting, then you can scale back to every two weeks or even monthly. If that’s still too often, you can scale back farther or just drop the process altogether.

Pretty soon, you should have a rhythm that works for you, no matter how frequent or infrequent it is.

3 Caveats to Remember

While finding a good rhythm is important, there are a few other issues to bear in mind.

  1. Be Mindful of External Changes: If you are protecting a work from piracy, be mindful of anything that might create additional interest in your work, such as media attention or a good review. If you are protecting your site’s materials, be aware of changes in your industry that might prompt many others to create sites and plagiarize content.
  2. Keep an Eye on Sites You’ve Handled: Just because a site goes down or removes the content doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. Though most sites that remove content don’t return with the infringing content (save in cases of pirated content), it’s still wise to keep a closer eye on the sites you’ve had to handle in the past because, as compared to the rest of the Web, they are the most likely place to find your work later.
  3. Be Aware of Your Impact: If you release a new version of a work or have a spike in popularity, you may also want to, temporarily at least, ramp up your checks.

Other than those caveats, most of the time you’ll find a pace that works well for you and doesn’t cost you too much time, money or energy and still keeps your work relatively infringement-free.

Bottom Line

In the end, how much you check for infringements, if at all, is up to you. You’re the one that knows how much time, interest, money and expertise you have in this area. This comes from your understanding of your business model, your audience and your work.

Still, the only way to really know the pattern that fits you is through trial and error as well as an understanding of your environment and being wary of changes to it.

While it’s not a difficult pattern to find, many want a firm answer as to the “correct” amount of time to wait when no such answer exists. As with so many things in life, everyone is different and the pattern that works for someone else may not work at all for you.

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