What To Do When Your Website Gets Copied


What to do when your website gets copied
Photo: Kunchainub, BS

So, someone has stolen an image, article, blog or other content from your website? Don’t worry! I will show you exactly step by step what you need to do – to take their website down.

This is based on my personal experience (see an example at the bottom of this article). But before I will tell you what you need to do if you notice that some just copied your content, it is important to understand a few things:

Why people still your content?

People still your website’s content because:

  • they are stupid – they have no idea how to write and what to write
  • they are naive – they think that by plagiarizing the content, their website will look nice and high quality
  • they are uneducated – most of them even don’t know what the copied articles mean (they are too stupid to understand them)
  • they are jealous – it is obvious that your website looks 100% better than theirs
  • they are lazy – they don’t want to do anything
  • they are foolish – they don’t have the brains to be creative
  • they have personal issues – or want to impress other people
Strict businessman in casual gesturing stop. Young man raising hand and showing palm in prohibited sign. Prohibition concept
Photo: Mangostar, BS

Why people should avoid plagiarizing someone else’s content?

There are many reasons why it is not a good idea, here are the main reasons:

  • legal issues – the owner can sue the person who copied their work and demand for money (based on my example, see below)
  • liability – the person who copied the stuff is liable for the content. It is easy to find out the owner of the website (even if they try to hide their details in WHOIS, see below)
  • negative reputation – you wouldn’t like to visit a website that is only plagiarizing stuff and has nothing original
  • search engines ban or penalty – Google and other search engines penalizes websites that publish already published content on the internet. Google also will know who is the original owner of the content.

Firs of all learn the basic of the law:

What is DMCA?

The DMCA or Digital Milennium Copyright Act is a piece of legislation that helps protect the work and information included on your website. For those honest people out there, it can be very frustrating to put in a lot of resources into your website and the content on it, only to find out someone else has stolen it.

Google penalty
Photo: Dragon Images, BS

It is important for you to understand the DMCA process because having another website copying your content can result in you receiving a penalty for duplicate content from Google. It can sometimes be difficult for Google to determine which website had the original content and therefore the wrong site can receive the penalty.

Over the past couple of years this process has become more important and more common practice. This is because there is an increase in people who want to reap the benefits of having high quality content, but do not want to put the effort in.

Protecting your content is important and it is protected by law. One of the biggest issues you are likely to face when writing and sending off a takedown notice is the fact that there are different laws and systems in place in different countries. In the internationally connected web world you should understand the systems that are in place in your country.

The DMCA takedown system is confined to that of the US and impacts web hosts and search engine that are located there. But there is good news, because the European Union, other countries, including Australia have a very similar process in place.

One of the most difficult things about plagiarism is that it is hard to even know where to start, and it is certainly important that you are proactive. When looking to be proactive, try out a free online tool for checking plagiarism, Copyscape.com.

This tool is great to use as support for your takedown request, be sure to take screenshots to help prove that your URL and the offenders URL contain the same content. This makes the process of actually confirming plagiarism a lot easier.

Prepare a takedown request letter

Businessman reading documents
Photo: Yastremska, BS

I will make it easy for you. I will write a draft letter below that you can use it.

DMCA takedown draft letter

You just need to copy and edit it, add all details and send it (below I will tell you where to).

************ draft DMCA letter ****************

DMCA-CASE# (add your file number) – Notice of unauthorized use of (add your website name and address) content.

(add your date)

Dear Sir or Madam,

I, (your name), of the physical address below, swear under penalty of perjury that I have detected infringements of my copyright interests as detailed in the report below.

I have reasonable good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of in the report below is not authorized by myself, my agents, or the law. The information provided herein is accurate to the best of my knowledge.

Therefore, this letter is an official notification to effect removal of the detected infringement listed in the report below. The report below specifies the exact location of the infringement.

I hereby request that you immediately remove or block access to the infringing material, as specified under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the “Act”) lease insure the user refrains from using or sharing with others the unauthorized materials in the future.

Please send a prompt response indicating the actions you have taken to resolve this matter, making sure to reference DMCA-CASE# (add your file number) in your response.

Nothing in this letter shall serve as a waiver of any rights or remedies of (your name) with respect to the alleged infringement, all of which are expressly reserved. If you need to contact me, my contact information is located at the bottom of this letter.

Evidentiary Information:

Infringing IP Address(es): (write IP address of the thief’s website)

Infringed Work(s):  (write a URL to your page where is the original work)

Infringing URL(s):

(write the URL of the thief’s page where is located the stolen work)

Explanation:

The following site (write the thief’s website address) has taken content from our company’s website (write your website address)

I am requesting the following infringements be removed immediately.

Regards,

(add your full name, address, contact details)

******************* end of the draft letter ****************

When can a lawyer represent you without you being physically in court
Photo: PRImageFactory, BS

When you need to send DMCA take-down letter?

It is a good idea for you to understand in which situations you would expect a takedown request to be approved. There are four main conditions that you should be aware of:

  1. When plagiarised work is taken down from a site by its owner after receiving a DMCA notice from the hosting company. This is usually generated when a site illegally uses content from another site.
  2. Or after receiving a DMCA notice from the content owner themselves.
  3. Or when then content is taken down by the hosting company that has published the illegal content. This usually occurs when the owners of the website do not comply with the notice.
  4. Or when the site is removed and taken down altogether by the hosting company. This is another action that occurs with the owners of the website do not comply.

Before starting the drawn out and stressful process of submitting a takedown notice, it could be in your best interest to actually talk to the owners of the website and ask if they could remove the plagiarised content. You never know, you could be saving yourself a mountain of time and energy!

If your initial contact with the offender doesn’t work, then it is important that you understand the DMCA process and get it right the first time when submitting a takedown notice, to ensure the process is as quick and smooth as possible.

So, have a look below at the process you should follow to ensure your DMCA takedown notice is submitted correctly:

Step #1: Find the offender’s hosting provider

Find The Offender’s Hosting Provider
Photo: Dan Grytsku, BS

After you have used an online tool to help you identify if there are other sites copying your content (as explained above), you’ll then need to find out more information about their owner and hosting provider.

In order to find who is the website owner go to whois.com for most websites with the extension *.com, *.net, *org. If the website has a different extension (eg. .com.au in Australia) search in Google “whois + extension of the website. For example, whois.com won’t work for domains *.com.au. You need to search in google “whois lookup .com.au”

whois lookup .com.au
Photo: Screenshot from Google

Here is a useful list of all domain extensions: www.iana.org/domains/root/db

Once you check WHOIS data, you can send an email to the website owner. You should also contact the hosting company where the website is located. How?

There is good news because there is a tool for this as well! Try using this tool www.whoishostingthis.com and they will give you information such as the actual hosting provider as well as the offenders IP address, which is useful information when submitting a takedown application.

All this information is public and you don’t need to pay to gain access. Once you know who is hosting the site, and which country the company is based in, you can then work out further country specific requirements for the takedown. Remember that each country has slightly different processes.

Step #2: File the takedown request to the hosting provider

takedown request to the hosting provider
Photo: Svershinsky, BS

The next step is to actually file the takedown. A draft of the letter is above in this article!

Basically after reaching out to the owners yourself and not receiving the answer you deserve, you need to go over their heads and to the hosting provider.

When filing your takedown request, there are a few essential components you need to include. Firstly, you’ll need to include a signature (it can be handwritten or electronic) for another individual who is to be acting on your behalf (like a lawyer).

You will also need to include the content or work that you believe to be plagiarised from your site, as well as the your own work to show the similarities. Importantly, you also need to provide information on the best contact methods to the hosting provider.

You should also look to state that you understand the content to be included under copyright and another statement explaining that all the information is accurate (to the best of your ability).

As well as lodging your complaint online, it is also beneficial to mail the letter to the given hosting provider. This postal information should be found on their website. But remember, each hosting provider has a different method, so make sure you find out this information first.

Once the hosting provide validates your takedown request they have the ability to either disable or completely remove user access to that plagiarised content. The hosting provider should understand that if they do not obey then legal action can be taken against them.

Step #3: File the takedown request to Google

google dmca
Photo: Screenshot from Google

As well as getting in touch with the hosting provider, you should also let Google know what is going on. After all, they would be the ones to give out the penalty if they saw two different sites with duplicate content.

Google doesn’t take this kind of stuff lightly, so if they approve your takedown request, the will immediately remove that content from the search results. This will certainly have an impact the page with the removed content, but also, depending on how popular that page is, it could also have a dramatic impact on the overall website’s SEO.

Where to submit DMCA takedown notice in Google?

Below are two ways to submit your request:

It is important to read the information provided at the top of the page before jumping in and filling out all the information.

You will need to fill out basic information such as your name, email address, country and business name, as well as more detailed information such as identifying and describing the copyrighted work and where Google will be able to find this, i.e. the URL.

Lastly, you’ll have to make a sworn statement online that confirms the above information is believed to be true, as well as providing an electronic signature.

Once it’s done, your aplication will land in the global data base at: https://www.lumendatabase.org

Example based on a true experience

So, here we go. A while ago I published this post: bestinau.com.au/what-equipment-do-you-need-to-set-up-a-home-gym/ – as you can see it has some good stuff.

One day later I noticed that the post was plagiarized and published at: https://homegymer.com/what-equipment-do-you-need-to-set-up-a-home-gym/ see below:

Screenshot of plagiarized content
Screenshot of plagiarized content

As you can see the website owner of homegymer.com copied everything! Yes, everything: the content, images, even links and published the content under a fake name “mary hall”. You can even notice that the name is written in lowercase letters which already indicates who is the person (see above paragraph “Why people still your content?”).

Action taken:

As a respectful writer I wanted the plagiarized article to be removed. So, I wrote a simple letter, here is a copy:

Hi there,
We noticed that you have stolen our content.
We request that you will remove it immediately otherwise we will take some legal actions.
Our original article:
https:// bestinau.com.au / what-equipment-do-you-need-to-set-up-a-home-gym/
Plagiarized URL:
https://homegymer.com / what-equipment-do-you-need-to-set-up-a-home-gym/
If the content is not removed within 24 hours, I will proceed with legal actions.
Kind regards,
Mike Smith

I received a response from Stephen Henbie (@stephenhenbie.com, by they way I also noticed that the person is using not his own content at stephenhenbie.com), a copy of the email below:
response to DMCAAs you can see the web owner just ignored my request. He was thinking that I will ignore this, but it’s not this case! What I did:

Step 1. Do research who is the owner of the website

I went to to www.whois.com/whois and searched for the domain

whois

You can see from the data above that the owner’s details are hidden. Don’t worry! Even if the person uses privacy setting there are still ways to check his/her personal details. One of them is go to whois of the provider (in this case GoDaddy) or/and request for details directly from the provider for legit reasons.

Next step, I went to GoDaddy and searched for Whois data at: www.godaddy.com/whois

whois godaddy
Screenshot from godaddy.com/whois/

Remember: Whois is public! This data is available to anyone.

You can see the owner of the website from the above screenshot.

Step 2. Contact the hosting company

From the name servers, you can see where the website is located

name servers
Screenshot from godaddy.com/whois/

The name servers can tell you a bit who is the hosting company (the owner of the server). Sometimes it is easy but sometimes it requires an additional step (like in my case).

Firs I went to 125sites.com but at the contact page I noticed that this is the same person who sent me the ignorant email (Stephen Henbie), so I investigated even more.

At this link you can find who owns the server: www.dnsstuff.com/tools in my case the owner of the hosting (providing proxies for IP was quadranet.com). I sent an email to them with our DMCA request. I received a fast response:

response

It is normal that the hosting company has to notify the website owner and have some time to verify my request. So, in the meantime, I submitted another DMCA to Google.

Step 3. Submit DMCA to Google

Create a notice at www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-dashboard

The notice was created and approved by Google, see below:

google dmca notice

Google gives a time-frame around 3 weeks to decide if they agree with your notice. However, sometimes it might take just 48 hours and all complaint are registered at Lumen Database – everyone can see them.

Step 4. Legal action

I contacted a law firm in Florida to take some legal actions against this person who stolen my content. You probably are thinking it is too expensive… Don’t worry! Many law firm will bill the person who will loose the case in the court. So, it is important to clarify this with your lawyer.

The results

The website was removed by the hosting company and Google registered the complaint (the website will have bad reputation for ever). The legal case is still processing, it will take some time for the law firm to investigate.

website down DMCA
Screenshot of homegymer.com

 

Final thoughts

Finding out that another website has simply copied your work can be extremely frustrating, especially when you think about all the hard work and effort you put into it to make your site amazing. Therefore, it is great to know that there is something you can do about it when you find someone duplicated your content.

A DMCA takedown notice will ensure that if the offending website did indeed copy your content, it will be removed. The process of writing and submitting a takedown notice isn’t actually that hard, but you need to be aware that different countries have varying method when dealing this this sort of situation.

Also, if you find yourself on the receiving end of a takedown notice, it is important not to panic and follow the steps listed above if you believe the notice to be sent by mistake or maliciously. Remember that Google takes duplicate content seriously, so you will need to as well.

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