Copyright Infringement, Web Site Content Theft , Website Plagiarism. What to do?
Copyright infringement and stolen text content, photos or graphics from websites is a common occurrence these days. There are all kinds of unscrupulous individuals in cyberspace, using material others have created, illegally.
Important for you to know is that anything you have written is copyrighted. You can register a copyright with the Library of Congress, but you don't need to. Any written text content, photos or graphics, musical compositions or even computer programs, be they published or not is protected by copyright law. Unfortunately, that does not mean it is safe. Copyright laws apply to the internet, as much as it does anywhere else.
With millions of websites out there, it's difficult to know if your website has been targeted by thieves. There is a free tool you can use in the protection of your website content at copyscape.com. Enter your website URL and it will scan the web for you. If you have been a frequent victim of copyright infringement, you might want to consider their paid service, which automatically scans the web regularly for any duplicates of your content.
What do you do if you are one of the unfortunate victims of copyright infringement?
How can you deal with the offender and avoid the high cost of litigation?
Here are some simple steps that you can practice to ensure that the infringer removes your material from their website.
You can usually visit the "contact" page of the offender's website to obtain their contact information. If for some reason you can't find their contact that way, perform a search for "who is" to find many sites that can provide information about the website owner by simply entering their URL. The website owner's contact information should be posted here, but if not, their website host will be and you should contact them.
Keep your first contact professional but straight to the point. Calling or emailing them in a professional demeanor will be much more effective than yelling or name calling. I would also show more sincerity, if you ever have to present these attempts to contact them later on in court, if it even gets to that point. Remember, giving the benefit of a doubt, the owner of the site isn't necessarily the writer or might not even know of this situation, and if they are, emotional expressions may not have the desired effect, in fact may create more resistance for you in the long run. Just be cool!
If your initial contact can't get the desired results, your next step would be to send a cease and desist order. You do not need to hire a lawyer to create one for you, a search for "cease and desist order templates" on Google should give you a template that can be altered to meet your needs. Send one copy by email and one copy by registered snail mail, make it look as official as possible. Include a date by which the material should be removed. You want the offender to know that you mean business so take a serious approach.
If you still do not get a response with these attempts, you can send a cease and desist order to the offending party's web hosting company. The hosting companies information is available by performing a search for "who is". The majority of hosts will take action by temporarily removing the offender's site until the copied material is removed or the situation has cleared otherwise.
The situation should be resolved at step 3, but, one more step that can be taken is to notify search engines of the infringement. Performing a search for the "DMCA" or "Digital Millennium Copyright Act" policies for each search engines will provide the information you need to contact each of them in order to request that the offender's website be removed. This can really hurt, especially somebody who is depending on search engines. There is a possibility that their site might be blocked form search engines indexes.
Finally, it's always advisable to protect yourself by keeping records of the dates your content was placed on your site. This ensures that the other party can be proven wrong it they claim to have posted their content first.
There are also websites that keep track of websites history and can show you cached pages from even years ago. Check here: www.archive.org
If you are serious enough to spend a little money that can become very effective, see the "Web Sheriff'. This company represents such people as "Prince" and other high profile personalities, chasing down illegal or unsolicited material on the internet.
Web Sheriff has closed-down illegal web-sites from locations all over the globe, including China, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil and, obviously, the US and the UK. Web Sheriff also has a proven track-record of being able to significantly suppress illegal peer-to-peer activity (in some cases by as much as 90%).
Visit their website at: www.websheriff.com