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Competitor have stolen our entire website content!
What can we do to protect our business?
yopiyop




msg:379117
 4:52 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hello,

We find out that one of our "future" competitor has stolen all our informations:
All our text contents, pictures, etc.

They are under construction now and by chance we notice that before they get known.

Basically, they design a new website with our content.

As our business is mainly focused on the traffic coming from Google we do not want to be penalized and loose some business (ie: banned for duplicate content).

I would like to know if it happened to someone and what can I do to solve this problem.

Thank you very much for your help.

 

fathom




msg:379118
 4:58 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

From Google page bottom [google.com...]

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit: [ftc.gov...] and click on "File a Complaint Online", call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to:

Highly recommend calling here.

rfgdxm1




msg:379119
 4:58 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Look into the specifics of filing a DMCA complaint.

diddlydazz




msg:379120
 4:59 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi Yopiyop,

The first thing I would do would be to send them a cease and desist letter/email informing them that they are infringing on your copyrighted material (this is usually enough to stop them), if this doesn't help then seek legal advice (obviously only if you do own the copyright).

As for google, IMO *normally* google would penalise the newest content for being duplicate although some other members have a different idea.

hope this helps.

Dazz

<edit>Typo</edit>

[edited by: diddlydazz at 7:04 am (utc) on Mar. 5, 2003]

fathom




msg:379121
 5:00 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Talk about timing rfgdxm1!

I click submit... and you where there! :)

diddlydazz




msg:379122
 5:03 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

You both beat me ;o)

Dazz

seanetal




msg:379123
 5:07 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Yop,

I would also send notices to the Attorney Generals of your state and the state your competitor is in (assuming you are both in the US).

Proving a copyright claim is fairly simple - if your site was up before theirs, then you own the copyright to original material contained on your site that you created. If you have any old backups that can establish early dates then you have some protection. If not, try using the "Way Back Machine" to grab and print copies of your old pages.

[web.archive.org...]

Sean

fathom




msg:379124
 5:15 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

15 minutes and we covered all the basics... that's a wrap folks, it's Miller time! :)

cherryo




msg:379125
 5:35 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

I had the exact same thing happen to me about a week ago. Just like you, they stole not just the site but the whole business model. The solution was very fast and effective. I contacted their ISP and told them that their client was using copyrighted material on their site and should I not be able to settle the matter with them personally I would like them to take further action. I then emailed this information to the webmaster and his business associate and within 30 minutes they had taken their site down, apologized profusely and vowed to never let it happen again.

I've also had people steal portions of my site and the same solution worked then, too.

Once they take their information down, however, be sure to write the ISP back and tell them to disregard the message.

Hope that works for you. It's horrible to see all your hard work go to build someone else's site. Sadly, I'm finding that Internet ethics are seriously lacking!

soapystar




msg:379126
 5:42 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

any advice for someone in the UK?

stickledene




msg:379127
 5:52 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Now, call me old-fashioned (and unable to spell (man, how *do* you spell disckerperleksic ;) )) but I would send them a "warm and friendly" e-mail to start with.

Something with a theme that you have noticed they are in the same market as you and that you welcome their competition. Briefly mention that you have also noticed that on their website there is a striking resemblance to the pages that you have on your own website.

Maybe, go as far as making a small joke of it - "it's a small world isn't it?" or something to that effect. If you phrase it correctly the offending web site owners will know they have been caught out and should decist immediately. If they don't then begin collecting 'evidence' that you had your content on the internet first. Use archive.org as seanetal mentioned above. If they still persist in using *your* content then send them a cease and decist e-mail and obtain legal advice at the same time.

Google will almost definitely *not* penalise your web site for them copying your content but it can't harm to send google a small e-mail outlineing the situation. You may not get a response, but every little helps.

Another point regarding sending that first friendly e-mail is that if it does come down to a legal battle it will 'look' good as part of your defense by saying that you didn't immediately go for the jugular and initially asked politely! I hope it doesn't come to this though.

Good luck and don't hesitate to ask more questions as the guys here at WebmasterWorld are the best you'll find on the net! Now, I'm not a lawyer so don't quote me on any of this, but there are lawyers on WebmasterWorld ... any advice guys?

Good luck!

HTH

Sticky

[edited by: stickledene at 5:54 am (utc) on Mar. 5, 2003]

yopiyop




msg:379128
 5:53 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Actually they have also stolen our business model ...

I'm so disgusted, it took us more than 2 years to develop and finilize this business model / website and now it can be gone because of cheaters.

Thanks again to all webmasterworld community, I really thank you for your help

aspdesigner




msg:379129
 5:57 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

All good advice.

The most effective fast solution would be to find out who they are hosting with and send their hosting company a DMCA complaint asking for the offending site to be taken down.

If some of these stolen pages do manage to get listed in Google, you can also ask Google to pull the infringing listings from the index, see -

[google.com...]

leskent




msg:379130
 7:00 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Here is a sample cease and desist letter. It has worked for me a number of times:

DATE

BY E-MAIL: xxx@xxxx.com
AND FIRST CLASS MAIL

COMPANY NAME
PERSON NAME
ADDRESS
CITY, STATE ZIP
PHONE

Re: Unauthorized Use of Intellectual Property

Dear Mr. XXX:

It has come to the attention of YYYYY Corporation that you are operating a website found at the following URLs:
[xxxx.xxxxx.com...]

We have reviewed your website and have concluded that it incorporates the use copyrighted textual and/or graphical content taken directly from YYYYYYY Corporation’s website without permission from YYYYYY Corporation.

Your actions constitute direct copyright infringement, and make you subject to injunction and liable to YYYYY Corporation for its damages, costs and attorneys' fees. Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 501(a), "anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided by sections 106 through 118, or of the author as provided in 106(a), is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author." YYYYYYYY Corporation hereby demands that you immediately cease and desist from reproducing, distributing, displaying, or in any other way infringing upon YYYYYYYY Corporation's copyrights.

YYYYYY Corporation is prepared to pursue all available remedies to protect its intellectual property rights. However, YYYYYYYY Corporation will refrain from taking immediate legal action upon condition that you provide written assurances by DATE, that you have ceased and desisted from reproducing, distributing, or displaying the copyrighted text or images from the Progent Corporation website. Your written assurances must also state that you have removed all web page content relating to the unlawful use of the YYYYYYY Corporation copyrights.

We await an immediate response from you or your counsel.

Sincerely,

xxx x. xxxxx
TITLE
YYYYYY Corporation
ADDRESS
CITY, STATE ZIP
PHONE

cc: Your lawyer

Bio4ce




msg:379131
 7:11 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

That's a good letter. Should make them think twice about copying the site content.

rfgdxm1




msg:379132
 7:31 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

However, best short term strategy is the DMCA route.

colintho




msg:379133
 7:38 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

I had something similar - see this post

[webmasterworld.com...]

was not sure if it was cloaking or something like

[webmasterworld.com...]

and the resulting DMCA - post

[webmasterworld.com...]

The person concerned, offered to put things right (before google were able to do anything - then google removed his page from the listing) he kindly redirected traffic back to my site (saved my small business from disaster) so don't forget to TALK / EMAIL this person / company

TinkyWinky




msg:379134
 8:18 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

UK - side:

It's a tricky one - we've had someone nick all our ideas and content and despite contacting them through lawyers they refused to take it down - the best way IMHO:

1. Contact all relevant companies and networked contacts you have and inform them of the 'pretender'. Explain what you are doing i.e. seeking legals as well as Nominet and ISP advice and find out whether you can secure their loyalty - if it's an affiliate thing - it does work because they are already makijng money out of you!

2. If you have a trademark and copyright for any of the content - contact Nominet through nominet.org.uk and file a complaint

3. Get a lawyer to write a formal letter - do this through a lawyer mate if you have one to save cash!

Short of that - and I do not do this myself but know a few people who have - sign them up to hundreds of spam email newsletters so that they get deluged with junkmail - snide but very satisfying so I am told!

TW

aspdesigner




msg:379135
 8:37 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)


However, best short term strategy is the DMCA route.

I agree. When a hosting company receives a DMCA complaint, they are required by law to take the infringing materials down ASAP.

No "please Mr. spammer stop stealing my content" or threatening legal action, and then waiting to see when/if the thief does as you ask.

I'm sure he'll get the message when he discovers his site has been taken down by his hosting company!

DMCA complaints to Google can also be useful in certain unusual situations like colintho, or if you want to get existing listings and cached copies of the stolen materials removed from Google. But normally the best way is to go right to his hosting company.

WindSun




msg:379136
 9:10 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Actually they have also stolen our business model ..

Hmm. And how did they do that without access to your office files etc.?

andreasfriedrich




msg:379137
 9:36 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>required by law to take the infringing materials down ASAP

I was under the impression that taking down the allegedly infringing materials was not required but that by doing so they would be exempt from any claims to damages. Anything else would be quite strange, since just claiming that something infringes on your copyright does not say it really does. That´s for the courts to decide. If the hosting company does not take the material down and the courts later find that it was indeed infringing on somebody´s ip rights then they will be subject to claims for damages as well. If they took the material down when receiving the complaint then they will not have to pay any damages themselves.

Andreas

JudgeJeffries




msg:379138
 10:25 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

I am a lawyer in the UK although not in this field.
I personally would always go in hard on the first letter and make it look like a formal letter of claim intimating legal action without further notice if they dont desist within a specific number of days. ie damages, injunction etc.
Having a knife at the jugular concentrates the mind wonderfully.
Lots of lawyers will work on a conditional fee basis ie no win no fee, so it need not be an empty threat even if you are impecunious.

aspdesigner




msg:379139
 11:44 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

It is a legal requirement if they wish to maintain their status under the safe harbor provisions of the Act.

As stated in the DMCA FAQ at chillingeffects -


Once notice is given to the service provider...it is required to expeditiously remove the material from its network.

The ISP industry fought long and hard to get the safe harbor protections including in the DMCA. While it is technically true that a hosting company could violate the legal requirements of the safe harbor provisions and thus remove themselves from it's protections, I am unaware of any ISP that would be so foolish as to do so.

the_bfb




msg:379140
 11:54 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Good point from Judge Jeffries - however...

We have a product that was formulated for use in pubs and club quizzes. Our competitor took our idea, rejigged the form we produced and then came out with their own version of the product and form. We went in hard on the first letter as you suggest but they just ignored it, revamped the form slightly and continue to sell the product.

Now what?

Getting a lawyer for intellectual property theft is expensive c £300 per hour plus we'll need a barrister specialising in same if it goes to court. We can't find a specialist who'll do no win no fee especially as we're delaling with a small company, who let's face it, if they lost in court would wind itself up, then begin trading the next day under a different name withn the same directors.

Threatening letters are OK, but the cuckoo just moves its nest......

Yours cynically!

colintho




msg:379141
 11:56 am on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

with my DMCA case, Google obliged and removed the "other site's page" from their listings.

The hosting company refused to remove the site, they continued to host the site even after all my ptestations

Perhaps I should have served a DMCA notice on them?

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