Content theft and how to deal with it
I was reminded today of a time last year when I was checking rankings for one of my Logo Design related sites on MSN and I ran across a hacked together logo design company site advertising itself on the MSN PPC Ads, when I checked out the site I was shocked to see custom graphics that one of my companies had designed being proudly displayed in their portfolio – alongside images and chunks of portfolios that had been ripped from about 5 other large logo design company websites (in fact, I don’t think there was a single original thing on the site, except for possibly their phone number).
I called the toll-free number listed on the site and got voicemail, so I ended up sending a firmly worded Cease and Desist order to the contact email associated with the site, I included my contact details.
The next day I received a panicky call from a guy that sounded like he was still in his teens, he was extremely apologetic, terrified that I was going to sue him, and adamant that the pirated images were his website designers fault and he had no idea that they were not original. He was, however, unable to explain why every example in the site portfolio of “his design work” had been lifted from other sites. We ended the call with him promising to take the site down and stop his advertising campaign. The site was down within the next 6 hours and has not been up again since.
Now the happy ending (for me at least) to that story is not typical. I have had my content stolen repeatedly and many times there isn’t an awful lot you can do about it without hiring a lawyer (you can try contacting the company hosting the offending site but that doesn’t always work).
And in case any one is wondering what a “cease and desist” is, you can find a good template here. If you are now itchin’ to try sending one out you can use Copyscape to find out if anyone has stolen your content.