What to do when your website is stolen

What to do when your website is stolen

Can someone steal my website?

Yes they can! There are a number of ways it can be done. The most common is through software or cutting and pasting.

The digital industry thrives on sharing ideas and innovation but this open nature has its downsides: people can rip your code and use your companies website design easily. However, there is a difference between using an idea for inspiration and stealing it.

How do I stop my website from being stolen?

Unfortunately it is hard to prevent this from happening.

If you believe your website has unique features and design, then you should consult a copyright or IP lawyer before you launch the website.

How do I know if my website has been copied?

Normally you will come across these through your own searches or it will be reported to you. You can use a website such as copyscape.com regularly to check if anyone is stealing your content.

A common way of discovering a copy is through keywords as the thief has normally copied and not bothered to change the content, including the metadata. This is how MintTwist discovered that our website design was being copied.

Case study: MintTwist

We have experienced both content and design theft. Our home page content has been copied by several companies. Recently our design has been stolen by another company.

   

Other than breaking the law and risking legal action, this company is showing:

  • Lack of imagination – selling web services and not doing your own design will not inspire confidence in potential customers.
  • Lack of ability to plan and visualise – our companies have different propositions and audiences. We spent hours creating a design that would attract and appeal to our audience. Taking a design and shoehorning it as your website will not deliver the desired results, i.e. more traffic and work.
  • Laziness – would you want to hire a web agency that takes shortcuts like this on their own website?

I’ve found a company that has copied my website. What should I do?

Your initial reaction is probably to fire off an angry email or make an abusive phone call (at least, that was mine). Consider doing the following:

  1. Write a polite email explaining that their website is similar in content/design/code. Ask them to prove they have created or purchased the design. Bear in mind that the website owner may not be aware that their website is a copy. You should always ask for proof they bought it. Depending on the response, you can then converse with the other side and work out an agreement. (This is the stage MintTwist is at.)
  2. If you don’t receive a response, then you can report content theft to Google. You can also complain to the company’s ISP but this is not always successful.
  3. Take legal action. This is an extreme measure and expensive. You should always consult with a reputable copyright or IP lawyer before deciding this.
  4. Write a blog article sharing your experience and raising awareness of the issue (also therapeutic).

Update – February 2013

The website that stole our design has now removed it and replaced it with another design, however some elements and content are similar. It is always worth trying a simple, polite message first.

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