In today’s ‘WeChat Essential Tip’, brought to you by China Channel, we will analyse the controversial topic of content theft on WeChat. Chinese companies sadly have a global reputation for not respecting copyright or IP. In China businesses often play dirty and use any advantage they can to gain market share at the expense of their competitors. This is especially true on WeChat, a critical battleground for all Chinese businesses. We will cover:
- How to find people stealing your content on WeChat
- How to get stolen content removed from WeChat
- Why WeChat takes content theft from other Official Accounts seriously
- Why WeChat doesn’t give a hoot about content theft from general websites
The Harsh Reality: Content theft is rife on WeChat
As a reader of news and articles on WeChat, most of us don’t give too much thought about where the article comes from. However, the sad reality is that it’s often standard practice for many popular WeChat official accounts to rip all their content from other people’s websites or WeChat accounts and then re-post under their own name with minimal or no references to the original content creator. It’s not difficult to find Chinese platforms offering services such as easy removal of Watermarks from other account’s pictures or a daily updated database of other people’s articles for you to copy over to your account.
Ripping other people’s content is far easier and cheaper than creating original content. Why would anybody bother spending hours writing an interesting article if they know it will immediately be ripped and published by other accounts. They may even end up benefiting their competitors more.
The multiple watermarks on this picture above reveal the extent of times the picture has been ripped. Ironically this article was about two foreigners being caught for stealing.
How to check that you content has been ripped
Technique 1: Follow and keep track of the accounts posting similar content.
The simplest technique and something content creators should be doing anyway, is keeping track of similar accounts. This can be time consuming however. Attractive content with high views can often be ripped by accounts desperate for views, even though the articles has little to do with their normal content.
Technique 2: Sogou Search
Use your desktop and go to http://weixin.sogou.com/ and use the WeChat Sogou search engine. Articles published through WeChat are blocked from being searched on Baidu or Google. Unsurprisingly, Tencent want you to use their own exclusive WeChat search service: Sogou (Tencent acquired a 36.5% stake in Sogou.com for US$448 million in 2013).
Type in the search term and all the related articles will come up. Simply click 分享 (Share) and scan the QR Code on your phone to check out the article on your WeChat.
By typing in the name of your article or key words from your articles you will be able to see who has re-posted your content.
Okay, I found someone ripping my content, what now?
We would suggest contacting the account first. Message them asking for the person who runs the account to add your personal WeChat ID and discuss the situation. Many account owners will apologize for stealing your content and promise to ask for permission in the future. You may even be able to turn the situation into a win for both sides by agreeing terms for promoting your content in a way that works for both of you.
Yesterday, China Channel found that another one of our articles (above) had been ripped by a popular English language account on WeChat so we contacted them. This time to no avail, despite attempts in English and Chinese from several team members we could only reach an automatic reply generated by the system.
In this case we decided to test out the WeChat official reporting system for dealing with content theft. WeChat has made it easy to report articles for a variety of reasons. To report an article select the options from the top right corner.
You must copy the link to the original article in WeChat and there is an option to write a note.
There a notice below will appear. It seems only the person in charge of the account can report plagiarism.
Once submitted you will immediately receive a notice from the WeChat Team informing you that the report is being processed. As you can see from below, the entire process took less than half an hour before the article was deleted.
Those who try to read the deleted article will now see this message.
Not so Easy for Normal Websites However
If you run a standard website and find your content has been ripped, the process is quite different. You will be asked to log into the desktop official account platform and report from there. This seems strange as only people running official accounts use this platform. For those who don’t the registration process involves several detailed steps.
If you do manage to register, you will need to find a small link at the side of the page. The picture WeChat currently provides to locate the link is actually incorrect. You will then have to submit a long, detailed report with accompanying evidence of the plagiarism.
A cynical person might jump to the conclusion that WeChat has made it deliberately difficult to report ripping from sites outside of WeChat. They have little incentive to be pro-active, as they benefit also from others ripping high quality attractive content from sites and bringing it into their ecosystem.
What can sites do to stop this?
The answer is simple. Open your own official WeChat account and copy your content over as it’s produced. An example of this is the very excellent site TechNode which produces a lot of high quality content on the Chinese tech scene. By co-publishing their content on both WeChat and their site they can now much protect their content much more easily from being ripped (and build followers on WeChat).
WeChat has recently taken several big steps in the fight against plagiarizm. They now take seriously copying of articles between Official Accounts and have systems in place to report this easily. They also have a Copyright protection (保护原创) system which established accounts can apply for if they meet certain conditions. (We will cover this system in complete detail in a future post).
For those regular websites that are having their content stolen on a regular basis on WeChat, the message is clear: Want to stop your content being copied on WeChat? Great, join WeChat!
Join us tomorrow for our next article from the China Channel ‘WeChat Essential Tips’ series. Follow us on WeChat by scanning the QR code to follow our official account.