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Competitor stuffs his forum pages with my web copy!

What will the ISP do if I complain?

     
5:19 pm on Nov 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I am dealing with an extremely nasty competitor. To be blunt, his site doesn't come up to the ankles of my website.

But he does have a forum, and he posts (at least, I assume it's him) extremely large chunks of the copy or code of my website in order to steal my search engine traffic and/or rankings.

I have screenshots, I am considering complaining to his ISP, however, I think it might only escalate the "war" and I fear retaliation.

Any advice?

hunderdown

5:51 pm on Nov 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Do a search here for DMCA violations. Under the DMCA, you may well be able to shut down his site via his ISP. But he will probably know who did it.

But you may be able to just ignore what he's doing. If I understand the "duplicate content" penalty that Google uses, his copy of your content will be detected as a copy, and will not even show up in a search.

Do you have any evidence that this copying is actually affecting your traffic? I know it's annoying to see someone doing this, but if he's not successfully stealing traffic then his may be a case of "ignore him and he'll go away."

5:59 pm on Nov 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Yes, his malicious forum posts do come up in searches, one in particular comes up at the bottom of page 1 for my site name!

Is it affecting my traffic? Perhaps not now, but maybe in the future? He is doing it A LOT.

hunderdown

2:44 am on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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If you think it could be a problem in the future, then I'd look into a DMCA complaint. Research it carefully and put some thought into his possible reactions and how you would counter them.

Since the material is showing up in a forum, he may be able to claim that he's not responsible, unless of course his name is on the post! But if it's not responsible, I think all he would have to do is take it down....

12:30 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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A few months ago, he actually inserted, in invisible text, the entire contents of my site's index page, into his index page.

He took it down after I complained, but after that he engaged in a smear campaign.

I have 3 craft websites. One is quite prominent in the SEPRs, and 2 aren't. He is targetting all 3. Because his forum posts come up so high in the SERPs, and these 2 websites so low, I am beginning to suspect that I am the victim of a duplicate content penalty, indeed.

But yes, the tought of his reaction is something that is preventing me for complaining.

It's like high school, and a bully is stealing my lunch money everyday. I can't complain to the teacher, because he might beat me up.

2:58 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hey, we should all take a few licks for what is right once in a while.

Or...don't tell the teacher. Take him head on, or take him out on the sly.

This could be as simple as doing something that forces the engines to take a good hard manual look at his site (obviously not white hat) and hope for a manual and permanent ban.

Freq---

3:02 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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On another note, what is it that makes the search engines rank forum posts so highly? One of my sites has an infrequently used forum (maybe a post or two a month) but the forum posts almost always outrank the rest of my site .

Just curious if anyone else has experienced this.

Freq---

hunderdown

3:15 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What a weirdo. Is there anything you can do to build those sites up so that they will consistently outrank that bozo? Get more inbound links, for example?

Does he run AdSense? Then you could complain -- anonymously, or ask a friend to do it -- via the "Ads by Google" link on each AdSense block. You'd have to do it on a page where stolen content appeared. Basically say "the page where this ad appeared is content taken from another web site."

hunderdown

3:18 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Another thought--document everything. Then if you do decide to take additional action, you've got the information.

Consider registering your sites with the Copyright Office. You get some protection now, but if you are officially copyrighted, you can sue for statutory damages, rather than just asking for something to come down. Put the site on a CD, pay a $35 fee, fill out the paperwork, you're good. There is info. about how to do it at the Copyright Office's site.

Which gives me another idea. Once you've registered the sites, have an attorney write him a cease-and-desist letter. Many a loose cannon, when confronted with something like that, will back down.

4:26 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What makes the forum posts rank highly?

He is using an old forum program that automatically creates a hard html page for every post. The type that hardly exists anymore, because every gambling and weiner enhancement site webmaster want to put his/her link on it, and when word gets around, is flooded with dodgy link spam posts. Because the links in these posts are highly effective, search engines lap them up.

I am not sure what I could do to get search engines to look at his site, though he does violate the AdSense TOS with a label above the ad units that say: "sponsored blue widget links" which should be, in accordance to TOS, no more than "sponsored link."

I contacted his ISP asking specifically to tell me what they could do, before taking action. Unfortunately, they pressed ahead and gave the guy MY CONTACT INFORMATION! After the threats and intidimation I received from him, I blocked off his email address.

I'm am trying my best to build up the sites. They contain 100% original artistic content for crafters. It's like running up escalators that go down, if SEs outrank my legitimate pages with his phony posts.

Thanks for the tip to copyright my efforts. $35.00 is a bargain. I will do it.

And YES, he does run AdSense on these pages, and hasn't taken them down yet. I will contact AdSense immediately.

4:35 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Would you say he is particularly web savy?

Could something as simple as serving up an error page to any request from his ISP block stump him or at least make him look for an easier target?

Freq---

4:52 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I am not too sure what you mean, Frequent.

I am blocking him in htaccess with his IP, his ISP, AND his computer type/browser combination with some fancy code kindly provided to me by the nice helpful folk that haunt this forum.

He must have access to some other computer in order to carry out his shenanigans.

5:04 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Only to illustrate what a nut I am dealing with...

Last year, he was trolling my message board to harass some fellow he doesn't like.

At that time, my site was not competition to him, and he didn't care about me. He was after that other fellow who is in fact a really nice, helpful and intelligent guy. Then he started to harass other members of my forum with nasty PMs.

He was using proxies. But his computer is an oddball combo, and very distinctive. I eventually figured out is was all him.

That's when I started to block him in htaccess.

Ignoring his increasingly threatening link requests, blocking him in htaccess, and the increasing prominence of my websites turned me into some arch-enemy.

So here's what he did, and it's kinda funny.

He found 6 boards where people with strange interests find each other through adverts. Like people that love animals enough to propose marriage, if you get my drift. He create profiles with my email address, and wrote up some adverts he felt would generate maximum interest.

My mailbox was flooded with requests from individuals that find romance in barns and sties.

I managed to remove all such adverts, and one very nice webmaster was kind enough to confirm that it was his IP.

A few months later, he created a bunch of links with anchor text for my websites, that lead instead to sites that specialize in featuring flesh tones.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
That's who I am dealing with. ;-)

5:15 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I feel for you. My guess is that you will just need to wait until this guy finds another target. Every time you react he will likely escalate the situation. Some people are just sad that way. If only they could use that wasted time and energy for good.

Freq---

5:26 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Are you volunteering as the next target?

I just got an email that his web host went ahead and contacted him (despite my asking them to wait and discuss options with me) WITH MY CONTACT INFO!

ARGH!

5:33 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I'm afraid I'd be an awfully boring target. My personal sites are too dull to bother with and the corporate sites I work with have attorneys on speed dial if not on staff.

Freq---

5:35 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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BTW- any chance he IS the host? Unless it's a big name I'd be leary of that. Just one more avenue to torture you.

Freq---

5:56 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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No, thank god for small mercies, he's not the host... but when dealing with such a nasty fellow, it's only a very small consolation.

hunderdown

8:21 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The harassment you describe seems to me to border on the criminal, if not to actually cross the line. "Malicious mischief" or defamation or something of the sort.

I am not a lawyer, but maybe it's time you consulted one.

8:34 pm on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Well... I am keeping screenshots. Now that he knows I complained, thanks to the amateurish ISP, I am bound to have more evidence.

I will collect it all, and yes, will contact authorities if need be.

2:07 pm on Nov 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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UPDATE:

It gets better and better.

The webhost has given the clown 72 hours to respond.

But they've admitted that because his copyright offenses are in forum posts, basically, they CANNOT FIND HIM GUILTY.

I know he is guilty, because he's been stealing my content in forum posts AND directly on his website, as invisible text, for some time now.

But the webhost cannot, of course, take my word for it.

They will only suspend his account if he refuses to remove the DMCA-violating posts.

TIP OF THE DAY:

Install an antiquated message board program that creates hard html files with each post.

Impose a duplicate-content penalty on your competition by posting large expanses of your competitor's copy in posts.

If caught, play innocent, and remove the post.

Repeat if necessary.

No one, it seems, can do anything.

2:26 pm on Nov 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Please, give him a taste of his own medicine and name and shame him and his forum here!
2:33 pm on Nov 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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There is nothing I would love more than if his stupid forum got death by link spam flooding. Links on this type of hard html forum pages are highly effective, spammers love them.

However, WebmasterWorld, has a no-name policy. Fortunately ;-)

It's for my own protection, haha.

hunderdown

7:05 pm on Nov 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Keep after him. After repeated violations, his ISP may get tired of dealing with him. Be very courteous but persistent with them--for all you know, they've had to put up with something outrageous from him and are happy to help you out....
7:13 pm on Nov 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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hunderdown,

I will. Now that the webhost has revealed my identity, I might as well make a complaint for every violation, screenshot attached.

I am keeping the screenshots in a big fat folder on my hard drive!~

1:47 am on Nov 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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LATEST UPDATE:

The bully webmaster has removed the DMCA violations.

I am hunkering down. I have flashlights, batteries, can openers... I am ready for a long siege!

;-)