Easy answer: YOU DO. From the moment you write and publish an original article, it is copyrighted and protected as your intellectual property.
The copy and paste feature along with loads of content all over the internet makes it very easy for sploggers to steal work and publish it as their own. Even the RSS feeds that are meant to make it easier for your readers to keep up with your blog can work against you if a splogger syndicates your feed as his own. This is more common than you might think. (Happened to a bunch of us here on Active Rain recently!)
How can you protect yourself? There are a couple easy ways. One is setting up Google Alerts. These are free and will search for the key words of your choice, such as the name of your blog or phrases you might use often in your blog, such as “real estate” with the name of your city or area. (Some people use quirky words or phrases in their blogs to set off Google Alerts as an added protection.) It’s a good idea to also have a Google search of your name.
Copyscape is a low cost service that reads your entire site and keeps searching the internet for work that is similar to yours. They’ll alert you if they find a page that has a suspicious amount of similar words. Changing around little bits of your work won’t hide it if you’re protected by Copyscape. I use it and love it, and it has already alerted me to plagiarizers and thieves. I feel like my blog has a guard dog. Even using their banners on your site may protect you from someone who might have thought you looked like a nice target. (This works in much the same way that a security system sign can protect your home.)
If you are plagiarized, act quickly. Send a cease and desist letter to every contact you can find on the offending site. You ARE protected under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and you CAN have their site removed from search engine results, effectively making them invisible.
I should note that not everyone who uses bits of your posts is using you. A site that uses a few lines of your post as a teaser, then gives a link to your blog to finish reading is doing you a favor. Digg, Stumbleupon or Technorati are valuable services that can send people to your site. Blogroll links are fabulous. If a reader likes what you write about, they'll probably be interested to know what you like to read as well. Tell 'em, pass on some link love.
Any site that uses your entire post is not your friend. Hiding links, not using your name or the name of your blog or changing the author information to look like they’ve written the post is stealing, plain and simple. Publishing your entire post leaves no reason at all to visit your site. They have effectively jumped in between you and your reader.
*** IMPORTANT UPDATE!!! Tricia Jumonville shares the following with us, and I didn't want it to disappear in the comments:
One quick correction - from the moment you write and fix the article (or any other writing) in permanent form (on your computer counts, per the U.S. Copyright Office), it is copyrighted. You don't have to publish it, register it, put a copyright symbol on it, or anything else - it's automatic from the moment of creation.
Thank you, Tricia. We needed to hear that.