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Theft of Links

Somebody stole our entire site!!



8:33 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

Our site is a directory consisting of links to pictures of different places in the world. We have worked for months and months searching for very particular types of sites to place in our directory, which must follow a specific format. Each country in our site has its own page, and some of our pages have over 50 links to picture pages on them.

Today, while I was searching for pictures of Albania, I came upon a directory of 'search engines and other things'. I noticed in their picture category they had links to the same sites to which we had links.

I went to their main page and found that the links to pictures they had in every country in their directory were the exact same links as the links in our directory, with not a mention of our site at all.

This means that someone from their directory had to have come to our site and meticulously taken each of our links and placed it on their page.

I'm so angry I can hardly speak!!!

Their directory is listed in Yahoo as well. We are not.

What is my next recourse? This site is based in France. I don't know who to contact first.


8:48 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Sorry to hear that.

It is common for a directory to mine another directory.

If, on the otherhand, they copied your code you may have something to say to them about that.


9:22 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

Thanks Mike...

Don't worry, I've got plenty to say to them. I'm getting my voice back.

Isn't there any protection for our particular selection of sites? Also, is there anyone at Yahoo or some other directory who would consider this outrageous behavior?

I checked their site again. They haven't got all of our pages yet. Their directory has only been filled up to Lithuania in Europe, and they've started with Europe. But the pictures they're using on each page are only our links. Obviously they're eating our site page by page. It's like watching a monster at work!

Other than talking to the site in question, which I imagine will do no good at all, is there a chance someone at Yahoo will take offense at what they are doing? But what would Yahoo do about it anyway?

My greatest concern is that the other site is going to take credit for finding all those picture pages. Where should we go? Any ideas, or was what you said about all you can say? If it was, no problem. I'll just have to start thinking harder when my head clears.

Thanks again Mike.


9:43 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Can you isolate which IP(s) they are using when they visit your site? If so, you could block them.


9:50 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

there ya go :)


9:50 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

Actually there is a reason to talk with them directly and the threat of a lawyer may pull weight. Whether they believe you will follow through or not is another matter. Iím sure your site is littered with copyright this and that, correct?

I believe there comes a point where you have to decide whether you call in a lawyer who knows and understands the biz to write a letter or you give it up. Itís a murky landscape this web.

The uniqueness of this may be that they are only taking links. Theyíve not walked off with content, images, etc? If thatís the case then such is the nature of so many spiders out there we canít begin to count. Sounds like professional representation may be in order if you feel you have a case. Link theft, I would call that a very fuzzy line.


9:59 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

thanks oilman...

They probably have a copy of our site by now, and I'm sure they would just move to another IP if they wanted more. We're too valuable to them.

One of the best quaiities of our site is its easy navigation, which also makes it an easy target for copying by unscrupulous people. I just can't get over the fact that somebody consciously took all of our links like that. I'm talking about thousands.

We just started getting press a few weeks ago. I guess that's what that brings.

I just submitted our site to Yahoo. I was holding off because our site is only about 60% complete, but even at 60& it is still loaded. Not a commercial site. I hope whoever looks at it will appreciate the quality.

We're going to have to get our name out as fast as possible. If I've found one directory using our links, there are probably others out there doing the same thing.


10:30 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

thanks Paynt

Yes, our site comes with copyright violation notices and all. Even covering the selection and order of the links, which are showing up in the same order on this other site.

You're correct, this is a fuzzy area - legally, not morally. Morally, it can't be justified, as I understand morals anyway.

An international legal battle is probably out of the question. If other sites do the same as this one, we might be in a battle every week.

I'd be better off if I had a place to report something like this that would carry some weight. Just the thought of one site coming in and taking every single link out of another directory should raise bristles on anybody who has any idea what it's like to do work and then have someone else claim credit for it.

I just want to know where the most effective place is to begin.


10:41 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

Well, our very own oilman gives you a very good first step (so smart yet so simple). Then I suggest that you consider this a very good form of flattery (not compensating and probably doesn't make you feel very good but when you are looking for the good side............)

Next, use every bullet you have in your arsenal to make yours the best site within the confines of your topic that surely canít be beat. That means content. When someone starts stealing content the lines become less fuzzy real fast. There is a lot of advice around here that can help with that, the content and building a better mousetrap.

Good luck!


11:02 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

>Yes, our site comes with copyright violation notices and all.

Having been through this before, I will tell you what my lawyer told me when I had to go after a Big Jerk who stole my content:

"You have notices? Good start. And when did you file for copyright?"

At the time, my answer was, "I haven't."

When he stopped bellowing at me, he told me I legally had 90 days to apply for it. I did that. The Big Jerk took down the stolen content.

If you have not yet filed for a copyright, I suggest you do so now. It will help you with this problem, and it will likely stave off others. Copyright is cheap and simple.

You might also want to apply for a trademark...


11:04 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

thanks paynt, and everybody else

Okay, I've let off enough steam here. I'll think it over for a couple of days before I send any emails anywhere.

I'm sure I'll be in contact with the owners of the offending website. I know the French style, so I'll be as indignant as possible. :)

I mentioned to my partner a long time ago that our site was vulnerable to this kind of theft. It's just sad to see it actually happen, and in this fashion.

Good idea about making our site the best in its niche. In a case like this, that is one of the best protections. Besides, I always consider it is people with little imagination that just plainly steal other people's ideas. So we have them beat there.

Thanks again all, and have a great day!


11:15 pm on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)


Thanks for the extra bit about copyright, Laisha. I assume that copyright protection is automatically extended to original works, but I suppose we should formally register. That might do for us what it did for you.


9:36 am on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

My basic understanding of copyright (which could easily be very wrong) is that in the US you apply for it. In the EU it is automatically given even without the little ©. Elsewhere ???

Where are you and your site-jacker based? Could have some significant bearing on this.

What I don't understand is if one or the other party is based in one or the other region which law applies?


10:13 am on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Was it just links? No comments of your own next to them? If you had comments that they copied you can nail them.


11:17 am on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Laisha, not sure how it works in the US, but in the UK and Europe, to get a copyright you need only announce it. However, the Copyright (c) blah, blah, blah, must be written in a certain way. I know this because I write novels and publish them on the web. I made my own site and asked a lawyer about copyright, and he said you need only show that the copyright is yours by writing it there.


11:48 am on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Gethan, I also have copyrighted material (am in Spain), and as far as I recall once you've registered for a Copyright it is valid most anywhere in the world. But you're covered in at least a hundred countries if I'm not mistaken (including major European). I have the list somewhere if you'd like to review it.


1:52 pm on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

Thanks all for your suggestions.


They only took our links, not our descriptions, the descriptions being one of the the main strengths of our directory.

I've had a chance to think about it overnight. The copyright claim would be a nightmare to prove seeing how they're just taking our links and not our text. Also, their site is based in France, ours is based in the US.

I recalled last night seeing another directory use our site for picture coverage of different countries. But they used a link to each of our pages for each specific country. I consider that to be a very acceptable arrangement.

So this will be my strategy.

1) Suggest to the other site that they link to our pages rather than take our links and place them on their site. Point out that this will save them the trouble of monitoring the picture pages for dead links and other problems, since we have an ongoing program of checking our links. Also mention to them that other directories do the same thing with our pages.

2) Remind them that the success of a website ultimately depends on the goodwill of its users, and that if their users found they had taken all of their picture links from another company's directory, their reputation might suffer severely. Emphasize that once lost, reputation is a difficult thing to recover.

My approach to the people who run this other website will be helpful and encouraging. Basically, I'm a nice guy, and I want the world to run smoothly. I'll give them the best of my charm and see what comes of it.

Thanks again everyone for your concern and ideas.


3:07 pm on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The only ones who always win in copyright l itigation are the lawyers. Unless you can prove actual monetary damages you'll spend a lot of time, energy and retainer money just getting a cease and desist. These cases can be protracted for years at which time the directory information your're suing over is stale and the case becomes academic.

Some time ago we had someone jack pages and images from us. We "dressed up" those pages and images (porn) for the pleasure of their visitors but replaced them on our own site.


5:00 pm on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


I think you've come up with the best strategy.

Try and make them feel guilty and then forget about it. If you've got a quality site, this is only the first of many issues of content theft you'll end up coming across. Save your legal budget for those that will simply steal your complete site.

The reality of the situation is that you really don't have much legal recourse when it comes to someone reproducing a set of links.

Copyright protection would only come into play if they had stole your descriptions. If links alone were enough grounds for a copyright infringement suit, I'm pretty sure Yahoo would have sued the ODP along time ago. :)

Regarding U.S. Copyright Laws,

I'm not sure what Laisha's attorney was referring to when he mentioned a 90 day time limit, but you do not need to file in order to seek damages for infringement.

From the U.S. Copyright Office:[loc.gov ]

Copyright Secured Automatically upon Creation

The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood. No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright.

Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is "created" when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time. "Copies" are material objects from which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly or with the aid of a machine or device, such as books, manuscripts, sheet music, film, videotape, or microfilm. "Phonorecords" are material objects embodying fixations of sounds (excluding, by statutory definition, motion picture soundtracks), such as cassette tapes, CDs, or LPs. Thus, for example, a song (the "work") can be fixed in sheet music (" copies") or in phonograph disks (" phonorecords"), or both.

(edited by: WebGuerrilla at 6:25 pm (gmt) on Dec. 5, 2001)


5:15 pm on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator skibum is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Seems like if you could copyright a list of links all the major directories would do nothing but sue each other all day long. If they haven't copied the text descriptions or copied any content other than the links is that any kind of violation of anything?


5:51 pm on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If it's the exact same set of links in the same order, I think it's protected under copyright law as a compilation. See [bitlaw.com...]

selected text quote:

"An example of a protectable grouping of facts would be a database of Internet locations for selected legal
articles. Each location consists merely of factual information,
namely that a particular article can be found at a particular URL location on the Internet. There is no copyright protection for
each location. Therefore, while the individual locations can be
copied by others, if an entire database of locations (or a substantial portion of the database) were copied, the copyright in the compilation would be infringed. The creative, original expression that is being protected is the selection of locations for the database. If the locations were divided by topic in the database, the organization of the database would also be protected."


6:16 pm on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


a small, minor thing you might do is to test Google's new spam reporting tool.

Whilst technically the other site is not strictly spamming the directory, someone at Google might see this image-stealing or bandwidth-piracy as a sign of lower quality content. Or GoogleGuy might even get a pang of morals starvation and act ;). Therefore the site gets it's page rank dropped a few notches. It may not solve your problem directly, but would discourage the bandwidth pirate and other pirates in the future.



6:23 pm on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


That's a good link. But if you read all the way through it, you'll get to the part about original creativity. It mentions a Supreme Court ruling against a phone company that attempted to claim copyright protection on its white pages.

The Court said that the info (name, address, phone number)wasn't original enough to be protected.

With a web directory, the part that makes each directories content covered by U.S. copyright law is the annotations included with the link.

If you copy & paste a category page from Yahoo onto your site, you would be infringing. Simply having a page that has links to the same sites listed on a Yahoo category page would not be infringing.


8:39 pm on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Clearly the entire page has to be read since it's a discussion of what might be protectable under copyright law and what might not be. My reading says that the original poster's collection of links to images is protectable, but I'm not saying that it's black and white.

Anyway, sending the quote and URL to the offender might move them in the direction of correcting the problem, which I assume is the goal.


11:30 pm on Dec 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

In the U.S. copyright protection is automatic without notice (the little (C) mark), however if you wish to litigate in relation to your copyright, you must register it. Registering a copyright is so easy, cheap and quick I can't understand why everybody doesn't just do it as a matter of course.

Copyrighting a compilation of facts can be done, however the intellectual property protection does not extend to the facts themselves, only to the manner in which those facts are arranged. For example, you can copyright a database of phone numbers, but not the numbers themselves. Since hyperlinks are analagous to phone numbers, the links themselves are probably not protected under international intellectual property rights treaties, but the website you designed, as well as your method for arranging those addresses is.

I recommend contacting an attorney. A cease and desist letter could scare the copier into stopping by threatening legal action even if you do not intend to sue. Also, you could sue in the United States, forcing the defendant to defend himself in a foreign country (the U.S.), which could be quite expensive for the defendant.

Even if you do not end up going to court, you could perhaps come to an out of court settlement that could end up with you granting them a license to use our material for a fee you negotiate.

I personally have been on both ends of international copyright issues and have viewed my position as being "right" both times. Both cases were worked out amicably for both parties without resorting to the courts, although attornies were involved.


2:56 pm on Dec 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

Thx volatile and everybody else...

I'll probably go ahead with a combination of what I said I'd do earlier along with some ideas I've gotten from all you people here. I will definitely give this other directory some notice that I consider they have violated our copyright.

I find the interpretation of the nature of copyright protection for our type of link list very difficult to nail down. Originally I had just about the same understanding as dalguard. Then I leaned WebGuerilla's way after his explanation. But after reading what volatile had to say, I'm back to my original thinking.

Whatever the resolution of this situation, if any, I'll post an update in these forums.

Thanks again all


3:21 am on Dec 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Just to clarify about copyrights --although ya'll seem to have gotten it mostly right about halfway through this thread :-)

-You do not need to file with anyone anywhere in order for original material to be copyrighted. The act of publishing it copyrights it.

-Copyright notices are basically just for fun. They have absolutley no legal meaning in most countries (US included).

-Finally... here's the one that no one has mentioned yet... You do not need to file for copyright in order to litigate. You case will be equally as strong with or without a formal filing as long as you're just trying to get the infringer to stop.

If you want to go for damages, however, that's when you have to officially file.


4:47 am on Dec 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This is interesting since I just today had a lengthy discussion with my patent lawyer.
This is what they told me about our site and copyright.

To have protection in the courts you must apply for a copyright certificate. The process is cheap and easy to do but it is not necessary easy to get a certificate. They will consider your works of art very carefully and will take around 8 months to get back to you.
You can expedite the process by paying a $500 fee instead of the $30 fee. In the case of our site, which in my opinion, has a very distinct design and structure. They thought it would be difficult to certify because the structure is not seen only the visible display on the browser.

To apply that to you situation, it might be very difficult to 'certify' as original because the 'links' are not easily seen because they are really in the source code that is not visible.
Don't take this a legal advise, only that is might not be as easy as you think.


5:53 am on Dec 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

There is a site on it if you're interested.
I've had several litigation questions come up regarding intellectual property. One revolves around webhosting services that publish a 'terms and conditions' or 'terms of use' policy that gives them pretty much unfettered rights to use, edit, publish etc. anything you post on their server, and then still attribute it to you. In other words, they could put your bosses head on a donkey and say you did it, if you published both pictures on the site. This is a common policy believe it or not.

Another problem surrounds the fact that search engine spiders can publish material from your site out of the context in which it appears. For example, they may publish the first two sentences of a paragraph, or a single paragraph without it's attendant paragraphs. This can completely change the meaning of the referenced material. What I have been told is that your rights are only as good as the money you have to defend them. While that may not be entirely true, I use the postulate while considering something appropriate for litigation.


8:54 am on Dec 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Mate, the best thing to do is consult a lawyer, as I did. In most cases you do not need to register. As webgeurilla wrote. Don't take advice from people who do not know, but only guess on this subject.
This 37 message thread spans 2 pages: 37

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