We had rather a strange call this week at JCK Marketing from one of our clients. The conversation went something like this:

“Please take a look at this website the URL is …….

Now take a look at our website, what do you see??”

The truth of the matter is I saw two pretty much identical websites, the only thing that had been altered on the first one were the contact details and logo. The owners had yet to change all the references to my client in the text and they even had the balls to keep all the client testimonials and showcases as if they were their own.

Everything and I mean everything had been stolen….. Welcome to the world of copyright theft.

My client then asked how had they done it, “its not a WordPress site,” he said, “so how can they get access to our website?”

Well actually its quite simple, there are clever tools readily available on the internet that enables you to literally ‘scrape’ a site. So whilst you don’t get the administration side of the website what you do get is an HTML website that is perfectly use-able, and if you know HTML you can launch the site and then make the relevant changes you need.

So how do you stop copyright theft?

Well the truth of the matter is that like any thief you won’t stop someone taking whats not theirs to take, all you can do is try to stay alert so that you know if it has happened (hat’s off to my client who was really on the ball). So periodically you need to check to see if your content appears anywhere else on the web. The most popular service to help you achieve this is from the guys at Copyscape, they offer a free service so you can check individual urls or a service that continually monitors for you (at £5 a month) so if you’ve got a large website its really worth subscribing too.

Of course, you can just ‘copy and paste’ a chunk of your text and throw it into a Google search, that will also alert you to any content that is duplicate or very similar to yours, and you can do the same with images using the Google image search.

What can you do if you find out someone has stolen your stuff?

Well the first course of action is actually simply call them. Quite often the owner of the business may not be aware that the person responsible for putting the website together has taken it from you, he or she might be as shocked as you are. Give them a time frame that’s acceptable to you to remove the site from the internet (48 hours is plenty!). Follow this request up with an email so you have it in writing that you have asked politely for them to remove the site.

If you find the website is hosted in the States (you can use a service called Who.is to find out) You can actually write a complaint to the host company about copyright infringement, they have a copyright act that they follow so will remove sites if they see a site has been stolen. Unfortunately in the UK we have no equivalent law at this stage (to my knowledge anyway) so this course of action is no good if the host company is UK based.

9 times out of 10 though all you need to do is contact the company and request removal…

However, if you come up against a brick wall, then its time to call in legal help, this of course comes with a price ticket, but to preserve your content and reputation its probably worth it!