HEY! Someone Copied My Website! (Copyright Infringement)

I had a website that was getting well over a 1,000 visitors a day.

One page alone on this site was ranked in the top 5 for its Google keyword search; delivering around 500 visitors a day alone. Over the year of running that website I did a copyright search using Copyscape to see if anyone had copied the content I wrote for that site.

I discovered another webmaster had copied my top ranking content to about 75% of what I had written, making the other 25% new content of an offensive sexual nature. It was a dating site I was running and I was very offended that they would take my content an copy it on a mature themed website.

So what would you do?

In this content you’re going to learn the following:

  • How do you get them to remove the copied content?
  • How do you copyright your website so this does not happen again?
  • What legal action do you/can you take?

How to get them to remove copied content

Step 1: ASK

Much the same with with people stealing pictures and thinking it’s no big deal, sometimes people do this with content. We all know plagiarism is wrong, but we like to rationalize bad behavior because we’re just copying a little bit, it’s not like we’re copying the whole thing.

Wrong! Never steal content or pictures.

The first step is to simply send a polite but firm email asking them to remove the copied content.

Sometimes people have a “whatever no big deal” mentality towards infringement and will copy something you created thinking you will be none the wiser, or that it’s not hurting anyone.

Once you simply ask, they will be embarrassed about what they did and will usually send you a quick “opps sorry!” email (and that will be that).

Example email:

Hello,

This article (name article) was lifted from a website I own and run (name website and the page the content is taken from). My site is copyrighted unfortunately so I would kindly ask you to remove the article within the next 3 days. Thank you.

How do you copyright your website?

Anything you create and publish on your website is automatically copyrighted. Unless a website says “uncopyright”, assume the website is copyrighted.  That means if you wish to republish an article, a picture or a video from another website you need permission first.

So, there is nothing specifically you have to do to copyright a website. It’s automatically copyrighted unless you state otherwise.

What legal action can you take against a thief?

If you have made a good faith effort to contact a webmaster who has copied your content but they either did not comply with your request or never responded to your email (or to told you to F off) you need to file a DMCA complaint with their web host.

  • Do a whois search for the offending website.
  • Look to see who their host is.
  • Once you know who their host is, do a Google search “DMCA + name of web hosting company” or contact the web host and ask how to file a copyright infringement.
  • Provide the necessary information for the complaint.

The web host company will process your complaint and you should have everything resolved within 3-5 days. They will notify you via email as to the outcome. If they determine that you were indeed infringed upon they will remove the offending content.

Want to see an example of the form you submit? This is the form you would fill out for Host Gator.

More Copyright Basics!

With the concept of copyright, your first issue will revolve around content. That is, people stealing your content or you stealing other peoples content without consent.

The second issue is domain names, and infringing upon someone else’s domain name which you can’t do (or someone infringing upon your domain name).

A great example of why you want to avoid infringement is this website called greenacademyexam.com. It used to be called “In the Leed”, but the name “leed” infringed upon the name of the architecture test the website provided study guides for.

So it had to be changed. Not fun.

When it comes to domain names, you put yourself at risk when using a copyrighted word like “monopoly”, “Facebook”, “Sony”, “Ipad”, and so forth.

The best advice is to not use a copyrighted name because the holder of the copyright is within their legal rights to shut you down.

Don’t  “the” in a domain name too. Most people make the mistake of not checking to see if the core domain name words are already use, if they are you’re infringing. An example would be digitalphotographyschool.com, that is copywrited. Just because you put THEDigitalPhotographySchool.com does not make it a different domain name. It’s still infringing.

What about .com, .net, .org, .com.au etc?

So there is a popular site “whatever.com”. You register the .org for the same domain.

You are allowed to register the domain, but are not allowed to produce similar content as to the other site. If you decide to create similar content you are infringing upon the other website especially if they have copyrighted the name.

So an example would getting the .org of a popular website and creating content similar to the first website. You can only use the domain name IF the content is totally different.

Another example:

Let’s say there is hypothetical business called halfbrick.com.au that operates as a local web design firm in Australia. You register halfbrick.com.

Are you infringing?

No – UNLESS you make halfbrick.com into a website for a web design firm. You can have the same abstract business name so long as you’re not a competitor.

But again, it depends on a few factors like how unique and established the domain name is, what they do and where they operate.

This is why it’s always best to have your own unique name that you can fully own, enforce and protect.

Wrap up

  • Don’t use someone else’s picture without permission unless it’s in the public domain.
  • Don’t copy someone else’s content (a few sentences as a quote is fine, but paragraphs are a no no).
  • Don’t use someone else’s video in your video.
  • Don’t use someone else’s music in your video or podcast without permission.
  • Don’t use someone else’s domain name, (i.e. facebook.com and you register face-book.net).
  • Your content is automatically copyrighted.
  • When your website starts earning a significant income and becomes established consider formally copyrighting your domain name with your government.

 When in doubt, don’t do it. Ask first.