How I Make Money from Blatant Copyright Infringement

Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver BC,
Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver BC,

We live about 15 minutes from the suspension bridge above.  It’s a great outing.  Tourists flock to it.  It’s definitely quite an experience.

Now to the topic du jour.  Capitalizing on copyright infringement.

There are several ways to capitalize on copyright infringement. The include:

  1. Become a copyright troll,
  2. Infringe and profit from copyrighted materials, and/or
  3. Leverage rampant copyright infringement for your benefit.

Read on to learn what I do and that you can do.

I’m not a copyright troll

I’m not getting into the copyright trolling business.  It’s big business for attorneys, but it’s not for me.

I’m not ripping off content

I admit the title of this post may have suggested I’m infringing copyright for profit.

I take copyright seriously.  I prefer getting permission to use images and graphics.  I find most site owners and bloggers are happy to let me use their images when I ask as long as I give attribution.  Yes, it’s more work getting permission, but it’s good having permission in writing.  I don’t need the headache of paying infringement fees (license plus penalties… whatever the attorney demands) or worse.

Interestingly, I had a lawyer for a large e-commerce store send me a cease and desist letter for, get this, embedding their client’s YouTube video.

What am I doing to make money from copyright infringement?

I’m creating and publishing content that I know will have a better than average chance of being ripped off by other website publishers and bloggers who think it’s okay to do as long as they provide an attribution link.

In fact, I often publish articles because I can include charts I create from the data I collect which I know will get ripped off and result in backlinks.

Where does the money come in?

The money arrives indirectly via the SEO benefit of all the links.  As I get natural links from other websites who use my work, my search traffic grows.

What kind of content?

I publish data charts in my content.

How do I create the charts?

I create polls and put them on my sites to collect data from visitors.  I then create informative charts as a graphic (jpg or png).  Actually, the polling software I use generates charts from the results, so I just get screenshots.  I usually add a text title and my site name into the screenshot via Canva or the built-in free image editor on my Mac.  It really couldn’t be easier.

Graphical charts get ripped off like clockwork by other website publishers and bloggers who then give me a link.

I’m silent about permission

I don’t offer an embed code for the charts, and in most cases, I don’t say anything about permission to use or not use them. Copyright infringement is rampant; website publishers and bloggers will just grab, give a link and carry on.  In fact, many bloggers believe it’s perfectly legal to use images and other media as long as they provide a link for attribution.

I don’t do outreach

I don’t contact hundreds of websites or bloggers offering my charts and data.  While I could get a few more links doing so, I choose not to do this for three reasons:

First, it’s boring, time-consuming work that doesn’t yield very good results.  I tried outreach by having a VA contact hundreds of potential sites offering graphics and charts for their site.  The response was terrible.

Second, I’m not a Google employee, but my take on Google’s link building position is that doing outreach offering something in return for a link is not a natural link. Chances of getting caught are slim, but it is a risk.  At the end of the day, I don’t need to take the risk because people just take the graphics anyway and link back to my sites.

Third, Google search and social media is all the outreach I need.  Bloggers and publishers looking for what I have is the way works just fine.  I don’t have to find them, they find my work.


Do I ever go after people who don’t provide a source link?

I probably should do this, but I don’t.  No doubt there are some publishers and bloggers who use my various media and don’t provide a link.  The question is whether it’s worth my time finding these culprits and then making demands.

Most people give a source link as a hedge.  They figure that links are so valuable that it’s sufficient consideration.  In my case it is sufficient consideration.  I’m delighted.  I’m not going to threaten a lawsuit or ask for fees.  The link, as far as I’m concerned, is good enough.

Please note that just because I have no problem with someone using my charts without permission as long as they provide a link does not mean that all copyright holders hold the same view.  Some do hire copyright trolls to go after copyright infringers.

Is this scalable?

This is the most scalable “link building” approach I’ve ever used since pre-Google penguin algo update in 2012.  Before then, software could build thousands of links with a click of a button.  Since the penguin update, “safe” link building has been difficult to scale.

Ironically, creating content that people want to use and link to is scalable.  I have individual graphics that have resulted in multiple links to my sites and will continue attracting links without any further effort on my part.

Does every chart graphic I publish attract links?

I wish, but sadly no.  Not even close.  Like many aspects of blogging, it’s a numbers game.  You put enough cool stats, charts and graphics out there, eventually, one or some will be in demand and attract links.

Is there any specific angle or concept that works best?

If there is, I haven’t figured it out.  It’s pretty random.  There have been some I thought would be big winners and were duds.  Then some that aren’t all that great, attract links.  It’s trial and error, but one or a few winners make all the losers worthwhile.

Does it work in every niche?

Yes.  There are interesting statistics and data you can collect via polls and surveys in every niche.  Once you have sufficient data, you have a unique chart at your disposal.

Other publishers love including stats and data in their content, especially accompanied with a great chart.

Moreover, getting this data costs nothing.  You just get your current website visitors to take the poll.  You don’t need a professional graphic designer to create a great chart.  If your poll software doesn’t create charts in the reports, create a chart in Google Sheets and screenshot it.  It’s as simple as that.

How to get started?

I suggest starting with collecting poll data and creating charts.  This costs very little or nothing (depending on the poll software).  Depending on how much traffic you have, you can get data quickly.

Don’t expect overnight success

This is not a fast link building process.  It takes time to create the charts.  It takes time for those charts to be discovered.

But if you create enough of them and put them in your content and perhaps post them to other outlets such as Pinterest, in time, other sites will take them and link to you.  Some may link to you without using the chart.

13 thoughts on “How I Make Money from Blatant Copyright Infringement”

  1. I think I recall you saying this before. I liked this idea then. I like it now. I wonder whether it is more likely to go viral if the site where you collect the data is a big traffic site?

    1. Hey Riley,

      the important thing is getting sufficient data from the polls so you have good data. More traffic helps do this faster, but you can always invest in some FB ads for poll results.

  2. I understand what you are explaining regarding your own charts and stats that are illegally used on other websites, but you get a link back to you.

    Thought i might mention about a podcast on Authority Hacker about a year ago. An internet lawyer out of San Diego gave some huge insights on how easily an affiliate site owner can be sued for defamation(negative product reviews) or legal issues with copyright infringement. He recommended we all get liability insurance relatively soon after site starts earning. The reason for such insurance is to pay legal fees to defend unfounded lawsuits. Its not the lawsuit that can wipe you out, it is the legal fees to properly defend yourself.

  3. Forgot to mention in my first comment. There is software out there called ‘Copyscape’. I guess it can help a website owner detect their content being stolen….aka plagiarism. I wonder, does Copyscape detect someone ‘copying and pasting’ from a website or somehow prevent such activity? Interesting topics you put out on your blog, Jon!

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Yes, I use Copyscape sometimes. I’m not sure it detects photos, but then there’s a software called Tineye that can search for photos. I’m sure there are many others. I don’t really bother reverse searching my custom graphs and charts, but maybe I should. I’ve read that other bloggers do this and it can result in more links very easily and quickly.

  4. ANOTHER nugget of gold. I’m having a tough time mining it all. Thanks Jon for this. My website is still waiting to be shown in Google search results but this has been saved for later.

      1. the important thing is getting sufficient data from the polls so you have good data. More traffic helps do this faster, but you can always invest in some FB ads for poll results.

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