Publishing your website can be one of the most exciting times for a business owner. After all of your hard work and persistence, the whole world now has access to your products or services. You have either paid hundreds of dollars to have someone write your site content for you, or you have put your heart and soul (not to mention hour upon hour of hard work) into creating content of which you can be proud. In either case, you've invested time and/or money into your website copy. Now that it is out there for the whole world to see, it may be a target for all kinds of unscrupulous individuals.
Copyright infringement is a very common occurrence on the World Wide Web. How do you protect yourself? And, what can you do if someone steals your content?
It's important for you to know that anything you have written is copyrighted. You can register a copyright, but you don't need to in order for it to be illegal for someone to copy or reproduce your work without your permission. Any written text, painting, drawing, musical composition, photograph or computer program, be they published or not is protected by copyright law. Unfortunately, just because your work is copyrighted doesn't mean it is safe. Some individuals don't know that copyright laws apply to the internet, and others simply don't care.
With millions of websites out there, it's difficult to know if your website has been targeted by thieves. A great tool to use in the protection of your website content is www.copyscape.com. Simply enter your website URL and it will scan the web for you. This is a free service, but if you have been a frequent victim of copyright infringement, you might want to consider their paid service, which automatically scans the web regularly for any duplicates of your content.
What do you do if you are one of the unfortunate victims of copyright infringement? How can you deal with the offender and avoid the high cost of litigation? The following are some simple steps that you can take to ensure that the infringer removes your material from their website.
1. Contact the offender. You can usually visit the "contact" page of the offender's website to obtain their contact information. If for some reason you can't find their coordinates that way, you can perform a search for "who is" to find many sites that can provide information about the website owner by simply entering their URL. The website owner's contact information should be posted here, but if not, their website host will be and you should contact them. Keep your first contact civil. Calling or emailing the responsible individual with a stern, yet professional demeanor will be much more effective than yelling or name calling. Remember that the owner of the site isn't necessarily the writer, and if they are, then being nasty may not have the desired effect and in fact may create more problems for you in the long run.
2. Send a cease and desist order. If your initial contact didn't get the desired results, your next step should be to send a cease and desist order. You do not need to hire a lawyer to create one for you. A simple search for "cease and desist order templates" should give you an order that can be altered to meet your needs. Send one copy by email and one copy by registered mail and make it look as official as possible. Include a date by which the material should be removed. You want the offender to know that you mean business.
3. If action is still not taken, send a cease and desist order to the offending party's web host. Again, the host information is available by performing a search for "who is". The majority of hosts will take action by temporarily removing the offender's site until the copied material is removed.
4. The situation should be resolved at step 3, but one more step that can be taken is to notify search engines of the infringement. Performing a search for the "DMCA" or "Digital Millennium Copyright Act" policies for each search engine will provide the information you need to contact each of them in order to request that the offender's website be removed.
Finally, it's always advisable to protect yourself by keeping records of the dates your content was placed on your site. This ensures that the other party can be proven wrong it they claim to have posted their content first.
Placing your website and it's content on the internet for the world to see is a proud moment. It's nearly impossible for you to be able to prevent the theft of its content, but the next best thing is knowing what to do if it does happen.