(The following 3 part article series is also available in a single format.
Contact us is you would like it in one entire article)
Theft - Part 2 of 3
How do I know if my website material has
been stolen and what do I do if it has?
by Janice D. Byer CCVA, MVA
Docu-Type Administrative & Web Design Services
(Please note that some of the
information included in this article has been quoted from various
locations while other information is simply my personal opinion and you
will probably feel my passion in my words.)
In the first
instalment in our series on Website Theft, we looked at the definition
of Copyright and what Copyright Law covers. In this instalment, we will
look at how to find out if someone else is using your material and how it
can be damaging.
How do you know if your material is
The first way is by word of mouth from
others. Hopefully they will inform you if they have seen or suspect your
content is being used by someone else. You can then investigate further to
be sure before you go any further.
However, if you want to check yourself, try
plugging in some of your unique content into the search field of Google.
Be sure to use quotation marks around the text and don’t make the search
too long. Use one sentence or part of a sentence because those who do use
other’s content sometimes change a little of the wording to suit their
needs. Of course, there are those that have copied information word for
If you have unique graphics on your website
and want to find out if anyone else is using them, enter the file name of
your graphic into http://images.google.com.
What are the downfalls of having your
content on too many sites?
Not only does it tick you off when someone
else uses your material, it can also be damaging to both parties’
standings in search engines. Search engines take a dim view of content
that is used in numerous websites. They can consider is spamming so they
tend to drop the placement of such websites or completely eliminate them
from the search engine.
Your reputation can also be damaged if the
duplicate material is spotted on more than one website. Although you know
that the material is yours, others that see it do not.
What should you do when
you find out your material has been the victim of copyright theft?
This is usually a personal choice but no
matter what you do, remember to project your professionalism and not let
the culprit get the better of you.
The first thing you need to do is to
investigate as deep as possible and keep records of what you find. Keep a
record of which pages you found your content on and take a screenshot or
print the page, if possible. Also, you may want to consider printing the
HTML code as well. Call upon the trust of others and ask them to take a
look at the offending pages and how it is a duplicate of yours and see if
they agree with your perception of the situation.
Also, check throughout the website to be
sure that there isn’t a reference somewhere about where the owner used
the material from.
Then you need to find the owner of the
site. Most websites will have a contact page or will have contact info at
the bottom of each page. Record this information for future reference as
this will be the person you will contact about and to rectify the
You can also find out who owns the website
by searching a WhoIs directory. All WhoIs search functions pull their
information from a main database of all domain registrations. If you
simply type ‘whois’ into Google’s search engine, you will find a
list of various WhoIs directories that you can try. Each will pull up the
administrative and technical contact for the domain in question. The
administrative contact is usually the owner of the website. Again, record
this information, including the date the domain was registered.
Be sure you can prove that your content is
original and that you have owned it for a longer period of time than the
timeframe that the offending website has been using it. You need to have
undisputed evidence that the material is yours. If you visit http://www.archive.org,
you can input your website address and see the evolution of your site over
many years and thus prove you have been the owner of material in question
and the time period since you produced it.
Once you have the contact information, it
is then recommended that you send a professional ‘cease & desist’
email to the owner. Be stern yet nice and point out where the infringed
material can be found on their website and how it is duplicate of yours.
As mentioned above, show that you can prove ownership. Ask the culprit to
remove your material and point out how duplicates on various websites can
hurt your overall standing in search engines, not to mention everyone’s
From my own personal experience, the above
will generally work and the offending site owner will apologize for the
unintentional (usually) plagiarism of your information. Most really
didn’t mean to blatantly steal your material.
In our next and
final instalment in our series on Website Theft, we will look at more
ways to handle the problem of someone stealing your material and some
ideas for preventing it from occurring again.