Cleaning Up When your Stolen Infographic Goes Viral

It’s awesome when your infographic goes viral. It’s not so awesome when it goes viral but it’s not credited to your company.

That’s what happened at WebpageFX, the Internet marketing company I work with. We created a very cool infographic that began racking up thousands of views. The only problem was, someone had hijacked it and slapped their own credit onto it, removing our logo and substituting their own.

Alas, this isn’t a singular incident. It happens all the time on the web, so you have to be vigilant to protect your intellectual property. Here’s a detailed look at how we reclaimed our work, which can serve as a primer if you ever find your company in the same tough spot.

The Science of Happiness

The Happiness Project

The infographic in question was a description of the science of happiness, which details the biological factors behind why we feel happy. In December of 2013, the infographic was posted on the WebpageFX blog. Soon after, we noticed that the infographic was going viral.

The problem? It no longer had our name on it. Someone had stolen the infographic, slapping their logo on top of ours so that it no longer said “brought to you by WebpageFX.” We began to see this new form of our infographic popping up on different websites such as Psych Central and Mother Nature Network, some great places that we’d usually be happy to see our work land on… if it was properly credited.

It would have been easy to stew over the hijacking. But like Harrison Ford in “Air Force One,” we decided to fight back.


Tracking Down the Infographic

We began to track down everywhere that the infographic had been published to make sure we were being given proper credit. We used several different tools to do this:

  • Google reverse image search: By grabbing the image URL of the graphic you’re searching for, you can run a reverse image search. Go to Google Images, and instead of typing in the subject of your search, hit the little camera icon that appears on the right side, which lets you search by image. Paste in the image URL and hit return. If you get too many results, adding a keyword may help to narrow it down.
  • Search the first sentence of the description: Some people are too lazy to change anything about your post and will copy the exact same sentence of your post to introduce theirs. Run a Google search to track them down.
  • Search for the infographic title: An obvious one, but an easy way to track down your hijacked infographic.

Google Results

Getting the Proper Credit

Once we had a list of places that had run the infographic with the wrong attribution, we began to contact them. We sent emails to the writers who had written pieces that included the hijacked infographic and explained what had happened. We asked them to change the attribution.

We were very pleased with the results. Almost every site we contacted agreed to make the switch, and many did so immediately, after only one email request. They had no idea that they were running the incorrect credit.

Unfortunately, WebpageFX still missed out on most of the viral excitement over the infographic. But we did take care of the problem quickly and efficiently, and we were reminded of the importance of keeping a sharp watch on our work. It’s great when something you craft resonates so deeply with readers that it goes viral. But it stinks to watch someone else get the credit for it.

In the future, we’ll be able to remedy and prevent infographic theft problems like that all the more quickly now that we’ve got this experience under our collective belts. Has something similar happened to you? Share your experiences and frustrations in the comments below!