How to protect your digital content

How-to-protect-your-digital-contentIf you’ve ever had to deal with digital content theft, it’s a frustrating feeling knowing that your hard work and creativity has been stolen, copied or distributed – often without attribution to you as the author and content creator.

After noticing unusual download activity of my eBook opt-in and seeing a few innocent and not-so-innocent content ‘borrowing’ examples surface in my blogging community, and more broadly on the Internet, it felt timely to put together a few basic tips to help you protect your digital content.

Branded content
If you’re a blogger and regular content creator, one of the simplest things you can do to retain ownership of your content is to brand it. Every single piece of content you create and distribute online can be easily branded in the design. The bonus of branded content is it also promotes you while you showcase your work or share your message.

Sharing your branded content on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter means your content is less likely to be ripped off because branded content is harder to copy. An unbranded or non-watermarked image or photograph you want to retain the rights to is ripe for the picking (aka nicking).

A quick way to brand your content is by overlaying or including a watermarked logo and/or website URL in the design. Adopting this practice as part of your content development has several benefits;

  • it showcases your brand
  • promotes your website or blog URL
  • drives people back to your website or blog
  • it helps you to build a library of branded digital content with a consistent, recognisable element

Creating a watermark
If you do a lot of mobile content creation using an iPhone, try popular IOS apps like WordSwag and Flipagram where you can add a logo or watermark (either text or image). A bonus of using WordSwag is you get free for personal and commercial use of Pixabay’s massive image library.

Set up your watermark by saving a PNG version of your logo/website URL with a transparent background to your phone’s camera roll. Mark that image with your logo as a ‘favourite’ so it’s easy to find and next time you need to add your watermark to an image, it’ll be fast and simple to overlay the watermark as part of the content creation process.

You can also create the same watermark effect online using free design tools: Canva or PicMonkey.

Also, if you’re looking for free content to use, get familiar with the Creative Commons search portal to help you find content under a CC license that you can share, use or remix. Just remember to verify the source! Pexels is another great website for free, high quality photos images.

Protecting website content and digital products
Once information is published online unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do to protect it. If people really want to copy it, they will.

Try these content protection and deterrence tips:

  • Include a copyright symbol and legal disclaimer on your website and on any downloadable digital products including eBooks and eCourses.
  • If you self-publish on WordPress consider using a plugin like WP Copy Protect that prevents users from right-clicking and copying your website content. If you copy and paste a lot from your own site, don’t be put off from using this plugin because you’ll still be able to copy and paste your own content provided you are logged into your WordPress admin.
  • Make your digital products available via a download services like E-junkie or SendOwl
  • If you offer eBook downloads via your website, use an URL shortening service like Bitly on your download links for tracking and metrics.

This last point is particularly useful if you offer a digital product as a bonus when someone signs up to your email list because Bitly can show unusual traffic spikes on the shortened URLs.

Recently, a new subscriber signed up to receive my newsletter and free eBook, The A-Z Guide to Soulful Blogging and on the same day the clicks on my eBook skyrocketed – way more than the standard one click download. I was able to track the eBook Bitly link to a particular country which coincidentally happened to be the same country of the new subscriber.

While there could be a perfectly logical explanation for what occurred and I can’t prove anything mean-spirited happened, it is fair to assume that unusually large amounts of downloads on a link with limited distribution is not typical behaviour.

It pays to keep an eye on your download statistics to avoid any extreme situations of content theft. You can also use the free online plagiarism service like Copyscape to check if your content has been replicated online elsewhere.


The Internet is an incredible resource and I can’t help but feel we are so fortunate to have access to all the content that’s widely available and often free. However if someone asks you for an email address in exchange for that content, then give it. That’s the energy exchange. If you really want to use another person’s content, contact them first and ask for permission.

When it comes to blogging and content creation, it’s highly likely you’ll find yourself inspired to write about an idea that someone else has already covered. Be open to inspiration whenever and wherever it strikes (see my latest vlog on making the most out of daily inspiration) and embracing those inspirational ideas by putting your own authentic stamp on it. Remember there are plenty of people in the world talking about similar ideas so you have to make it your own by contributing to the conversation with your own, personal insights on the topic.

Tyra Banks recently said: Steal from the best and make it your own.

As annoying as it is to experience digital content theft and see it happen to others, don’t let it put you off your content creation journey. Remember, your message is important and so are the people you’re connecting with and inspiring through your beautiful ideas, words, designs and artistry. Keep creating and be vigilant about protecting your content!

Got any digital content protection tips or resources to add to this list? Share them in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Janelle xo

4 thoughts on “How to protect your digital content

  1. Great blog Janelle. Your work is amazing and I’m not surprised people are stealing it. It’s very disheartening to think people feel they can take what is not theres and tell the world they did it. Shame on them!

    1. Thank you so much Anne, appreciate your kind words. Sadly a lot of people think published online equals free to use. Digital content theft is a difficult thing to prove unless there is direct republishing online and really the only way to track is to try and put preventative measures in place and monitor. Even then….

  2. How frustrating Janelle. I feel for you. So disappointing when your work is stolen and reused without your permission. Thank you for these tips though. I had never considered the bitly link before xx

    1. Thanks Carla, it’s difficult to prove. Just make sure you sign up for the Bitly service if you’re not already then you can track the clicks of all your links in one place. There is also a Bitly app for iPhone which is handy for monitoring on the go. Xx

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