Someone copied my online business. Here’s what I did.
Ever come across a website where someone has copied the content from your online business website word-for-word? This recently happened to Vanessa Emilio. Here’s what she did.
I recently discovered another legal website had copied my own. Not just the business model either. No, entire passages of text had been lifted from my website and reproduced, word-for-word, on theirs.
I was shocked! How could another lawyer do this? They’d essentially stole my website and labeled it as their own.
I felt sick to my stomach
Seven years of blood, sweat and tears have gone into my online business and I’m very proud of what I’ve built. I couldn’t believe another lawyer, someone who should have a high level of personal ethics than the average man on the street, had done this.
"Does everyone feel internet content is ‘fair game’ to plagiarise these days? Copyright infringement is a serious offence! "
I was upset, disgusted and very, very angry.
What did I do about it?
After a lot of stomping around, too much coffee, I called them up to see what they had to say.
I then drafted a Copyright Infringement Notice and cover letter. This demanded that they remove my content within 48 hours.
They responded immediately asking for more time as they had ‘family issues’, were busy working and did not have time to investigate the plagiarism and remove it.
Um, really? No time to remove stolen material?
I asked them to take the site down pending their ‘investigation’. They’ve since done so and it remains closed at the time of writing this.
Copyright infringement is serious business
First of all, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to do anything special to claim copyright on something. The simple act of you creating something (words, artwork, music) means you have copyright over it.
When is your copyright infringed? When all or a ‘substantial part’ of copyright material is used without the express or implied permission of the copyright owner. If it is ‘similar’ only, it is not an infringement.
If your copyright has been infringed, here is what you need to do. Your actions do not have to be aggressive, or nasty but they must be formal, strong and should contain the required facts of the breach and action to be taken.
The first thing you need to do is put together a Copyright Infringement Notice. This is a statement that you are the copyright owner of the material. It should contain:
- A clear indication of what was plagiarised, copied, reproduced or ‘stolen’ (eg your image was reproduced on a website without your permission).
- The steps to be taken by the infringer (eg remove image from website).
- Time frame for compliance with your demand.
- Compensation or licensing fee request (if it is a commercial site or they have made any money from your copyrighted work).
- An indication of the further action you will take if your requests are not met within the timeframe.
Make sure you send the copyright notice by traceable mail. (ie.Via email, serve it formally, or send via registered post.)
You will then need to follow up to ensure your Copyright Notice has been complied with.
If the matter is not settled after your Copyright Notice has been sent, you can then decide if you want to take it to court. Alternatively, if the site is breaching a substantial part of your material, you can contact their host and ask them to take the site down.
How can you find out if this has happened to you?
Copyright infringement and blatant stealing of content on the internet is becoming a growing problem but there are checks you can do and alerts you can set up to know if someone has copied your content, images or any part of your business:
- You can set up a Google Alert to see if your content is being used without your permission.
- You can use a premium scanners services such as Copyscape to search the internet and know who has reposted your content.
- And protect your work.
Have you ever had someone steal your content? Were you able to resolve it quickly?