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Make it Tougher for Content Thieves

By Sameer Hasan
Posted Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I suppose it's a form of flattery. After all, they're admitting that we are better than them. Better writers, better thinkers and better communicators.

Of course, we don't really need them to admit it, we're quite aware we're better than them. So it's small consolation for those of us who slave day and night to develop crisp new content for our readers to consume only to have it stolen. It's a little like having a stranger take your children and claim them.

Is there nothing we can claim as our own on the Internet? Is nothing sacred? Are we doomed to be copied and pirated for as long as we surf the electronic waves? Sadly, no, no and yes. If someone really wants to rip your content, they can do it, there are many ways to get around safeguards.

Do I see a silver lining? You betchersweetbippy I do. Why do copiers copy and rippers rip? Because they follow the time-honoured tradition of work-avoidance. Slacking, laziness, sloth, whatever you want to call it, we can use it to our advantage by making it difficult enough for them to copy in the hopes that they will move on looking for quicker prey.

Gosh darn it, we ain't lettin' up without a fight.

Look But Don't Touch

One way to keep these lazy looters from copying your content is by preventing them from selecting or highligthing any text on your page.

Highlighting is a main ingredient of copy and paste operations. And by disabling this you can greatly reduce the amount of pirated content.

Do this simply by adding the following code to your BODY tag:

onSelectStart="return false;"

or more completely:

<body onSelectStart="return false;">

This will restrict anyone from highlighting anything on your web page.

The Disappearing Act

Another nifty way to deter piracy is to start your code about 60 or 70 lines down. When the Paragraph Pirates try to view your source, they will be greeted with a blank page.

This may keep the less savvy swashbucklers at bay but those who know what they're doing will be aware of this little trick. They will laugh in the face of your puny efforts as they hack and slash at your code and content. Such injustice!
I've Been Framed!

In My Humble Opinion, frames serve to complicate web design rather than make things easier, but I concede that there is a time and place for them.

This may be one of those times and places. Actually, it's a combination of frames and javascript that will accomplish this goal.

By calling your content pages in a frame, you taking away the browser's ability to view the source of the content pages from the 'View-Source' menu in the standard menubar (it can only see the main page which creates the frames).

However, it is still possible for the CyberCulprit to right click on the desired framed page and click on view source in the context menu (or right-click menu) that pops up.

The good news (AND the bad news) is that you can disable the right-click option. It is considered very bad form by many to disable the right click because it actually makes it tougher for legitimate surfers to surf your website by cutting them off from a lot of functions that are availabe in the right click menu.

True that any of these functions can be accessed throught the main browser menu at the top, but you don't want to frustrate any potential customer do you? No. But if you really do think you need to implement this, this is how:

First, in the <head> of your document, type in the following:

<script language = "javascript">
function NoRightClick() {
if (Button.Event == 2)
alert("No Right Clicks Allowed!")

and then just like the anti-highlight, call the function in your body tag in the following manner:

<body onLoad="NoRightClick()">

And voila, no right click.

Use this one at your own risk, personally I recommend not using it.

Final Thoughts

These are only a few ways of deterring content theft, but make no mistake; there's really nothing you can do if someone wants to steal your content. Mainly because of the fundamental way that the Internet works. To view a file, the browser first downloads it onto your system. So you have the file somewhere on your system, with all the related files included. All you have to do is find them. Same goes for the pirate.

So it's really up to you to weigh the benefits (less people stealing your stuff) agains the costs (potential lost surfers) and make the decision. Choose wisely.

About the Author
Sameer Hasan of ( is dedicated to making Web design affordable and accessible to all those who need it. Sameer has a degree in both Marketing and Management Information Systems and has been working with the Web since 1996.


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