Here is Associated Content’s official policy on pursuing plagiarism:
Here’s some clarification that we hope will help any CP who finds their content has been posted/published/reprinted/etc. on a third-party site that isn’t a partner site of AC’s:FACT: If we grant reprint permission for a piece of content to ANY other site, AC will always notify the CP.
For EXCLUSIVE content:
Associated Content is the copyright owner of all exclusive content. While a CP may be the original author, Associated Content is the only entity that can act legally on behalf of the content in question. If you find an exclusive article on an inappropriate site, please contact AC’s Designated Agent at email@example.com. Include the link to the offending website, as well as a link to your content on AC. Only Associated Content has the legal right to send an effective DMCA takedown notice to an offending company/website. We handle these types of cases multiple times every week, so the Designated Agent will be your best step. Any DMCA complaint that you send to a third-party will be defective, as you are no longer the copyright owner.
For NON-EXCLUSIVE content:
Unfortunately, because the content in question was licensed to AC on a non-exclusive basis, we have no way of knowing whether the offending site published the content before or after it was published on AC. Accordingly, we will not necessarily take any action against the site. (At our discretion, AC may send a Cease and Desist order, but we are not required to.) However, since you [the CP] retained the rights to the content, you are free to enforce your rights against the inappropriate third-party for copyright infringement. Depending on where you find your content reprinted, there should always be a contact or link that every company supplies for copyright infringement complaints that looks similar to our “Copyright Infringement?” link at the bottom of each page.
What I get from this is if you submitted your article as an AC exclusive, AC owns the rights and will pursue the matter for you. You only need to report it to their Designated Agent and they’ll take if from there. If you submitted the article as non-exclusive, you still own the rights and AC is under no obligation to help you. You should take action to rectify the situation.
Doing this yourself can be difficult especially if the thief is a blogger. My recent experience is pretty typical when a blogger steals your article. With no other way to contact them, I was reduced to leaving comments on their blog. After receiving no response for a couple of days, I resorted to reporting them to their host. The host, which happened to be WordPress, took swift action to suspend the blog.
It is important to note, I used all the magic DMCA words when I contacted WordPress. If you are going to pursue copyright infringement on your own, you will need to be very specific with URLs, publishing dates, and use the right language. Under the law, if you follow the DMCA legalese, the responsible party must follow up.
Because of my recent saga, I found a great resource, Plagiarism Today. It has lots of information on how to deal with plagiarists. There is also a very helpful Stock Letter section. Simply fill in the blanks and you have an officially worded DMCA cease and desist letter.
The really hard part about enforcing your copyright is finding out that you’ve been plagiarized. You could pay for a service like Copyscape if that is worth your money, but there is a cheesy free way to follow your work. Set up a Google alert for a key phrase or two from your article. This will notify you if the phrase shows up elsewhere on the web.
The goal is to find wholesale plagiarism. Finding just a except falls under the fair use rules. Don’t freak out if you find one paragraph which cites you as the source or links back to your original article. That’s a good thing. However, if you do find a paragraph or two which someone incorporated into their own work and they didn’t cite you, that is plagiarism.
Good Luck and happy hunting.