There is nothing worse for a webmaster than finding out that your site has been copied. Every time I find out that someone has stolen my intellectual property my blood boils! Instead of just getting angry, there are steps you can take to stop the violations of your Copyright, which I’ve outlined in this article.
First, you should know that the US Government has written a law, the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), the content of which you can find on the U.S. Copyright Office‘s Web Site (http://www.copyright.gov). This law protects, amongst other things, intellectual property online.
If you are already aware that someone copied your site, you can just skip ahead to the section market “What to Do When You Discover Someone Has Violated Your Copyright and Stolen Your Website’s Content”. If you’re not sure if someone is copying your site, keep on reading.
How to Find Sites That Are Stealing Your Content
There is one tool that is essential for bloggers and webmasters called CopyScape. CopyScape allows webmasters to enter the URL of their individual pages, and will conduct a search for content from within those pages.
The site will show results indicating other websites that may have identical content. Depending on the popularity of your site, you may find that there are no copyright infringements, or you may find many (last night I found 5 sites that had stolen material from one of my sites).
Who Can Help Stop the Copyright Violators?
The first line of defense you have is the host of the site. Hosting companied do not want to be sued for letting one of the sites on their server violate your copyright. They usually act very quickly if you provide proper evidence.
Sometimes, you’ll find that the offending site is hosting on their own servers. If this is the case, you will have to go through the site’s Registrar. Registrars are also protective of copyright violations. A registrar will also be helpful in stopping the site from stealing your content.
The Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) are also helpful when it all comes down. They have the ability to remove a site from their results if it is breaking the law.
What to Do When You Discover Someone Has Violated Your Copyright and Stolen Your Website’s Content
Once you’ve discovered that someone is stealing your website’s content there are several things you can do. I’ll share what has worked for me.
Step 1: Find the Owner, Host, and Registrar of the Offending Website
You want to find out who runs the site that is stealing your content. Start by doing a WHOIS search of that site. I use whois.sc, but sometimes the site will not give you all the details you need.
There are a few key pieces of information you want to look for, that will help you deal with the situation:
1. Registrant – This is typically the owner of the site. You will need this information.
2. Registrar – This is the company that the site is registered with. You will also need this information.
3. Domain Servers – This information will give you an idea of who is the host of the site
Although you have this information, you are still not finished doing your research. If there is not a lot of information about the Registrant, you may need to check another WHOIS site. I will look at the Registrar and then use their WHOIS tool (just do a search for “registrar name whois”).
You will need to do another whois search for the information listed as “Domain Servers”. If the servers end up being a webhost, you will need to keep their information.
Step 2: Visit The Offending Site’s Host’s TOS or Legal Page
If you’ve found that this site has a host (and is not hosting their own site), you need to visit that host’s Legal Page or Terms of Service (TOS) page. Here, you will find what their requirements are for dealing with copyright violations. Keep this page handy and write down any email address for the legal department for the host.
Step 3: Visit The Offending Site’s Registrar’s TOS or Legal Page
Most registrars like Network Solutions or GoDaddy wil also have requirements for dealing with copyright infringement. You want to keep their page handy and write down any email for their legal departments.
Step 4: Find a Contact Email for the Offending Website
Using either the Registrant info from WHOIS, you want to keep the email address of the site’s owner handy. You can also look around their site for their information.
Step 5: Take Screenshot’s of All Material That Has Been Stolen
Now you want to keep all proof that they actually violated your copyright. Use your computer’s screenshot capabilities to take images of their site with your material. I will also take shots of my site, including the places where this material was taken from. Keep this information in a folder on your computer and name the files so you know what is what. This info may come in handy down the line if there is any question.
Now that you’ve done your research, it is time to put together an email.
Step 6: Email The Copyright Violator, Their Host, Their Registrar, and/or The Search Engines
The next thing I recommend doing is contacting via email the owner of the site (if you can find their info), their host (if they aren’t hosting their own site), and their registrar. I also email my lawyer (and recommend you do the same) to be sure they are in the loop and that they have all evidence.
I have an email that I adjust for all cases, but you can use it as a template:
TO: COPYRIGHT VIOLATOR
CC. YOUR ATTORNEY, THEIR HOST & REGISTRAR’s Legal department
SUBJECT: Copyright Claim DOMAIN NAME OF COPYRIGHT VIOLATOR Is Violating YOURDOMAIN’s Copyright
Dear DOMAIN NAME OF COPYRIGHT VIOLATOR Owners, (or put their name here)
It has come to my attention that you, DOMAIN NAME OF COPYRIGHT VIOLATOR.COM, have made unauthorized use of copyright protected material owned by BiggerPockets.com.
Your page, located at: URL OF THEIR PAGE , blatantly copied our page located at: URL OF THE PAGE THEY COPIED
I have reserved all rights to the domain and registered the copyright. You are in violation of your host HOST’s NAME, your registrar, REGISTRAR’s NAME’s Terms of Service, and of The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA)
You neither asked for nor received permission to use the work nor to make or distribute copies of it. Therefore, I believe you have willfully infringed my rights under 17 USC § 101, et seq. and could be liable for statutory damages as high as $100,000.
You are asked to immediately cease the use and distribution of all infringing works derived from YOURDOMAIN.com, and all copies of it, and destroy such copies immediately, and that you desist from this or any other infringement of my rights in the future.
If I have not received an affirmative response from you within 72 hours indicating that you have fully complied with these requirements, I shall consider taking the full legal remedies available to rectify this situation. Please note, your registrar information is noted in the message below.
Your prompt reply is appreciated.
Domain Owner of YOUR DOMAIN
So far, I’ve found over 10 websites who have stolen material from my site. In every case so far, this letter has worked. If either the host or registrar are not helpful, there is still hope.
In the event that it doesn’t work in the future, I plan on following up with my attorney and letting him take over, but I will not stop my efforts there . . .
Step 7: Contact the Search Engines
The search engines aren’t fond of people who violate copyright. Just follow the directions on their legal pages.
Google’s Intellectual Property Policy
It is our policy to respond to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. For directions and more information, please click here.”
By following the above steps, you should be able to deal with those scumbags who think they can just steal your intellectual property. Although this is not “legal advice”, it should be very helpful if you’re having problems.
You should check CopyScape a few times a year just to make sure that no one else is breaking the law!
Please let me know if you end up following my advice and if it helps or not!