Beating the Content Thieves – stolen website content

You toil over a hot keyboard fry your brain to get the words ‘just right’ and announce your writings to the world. Only to find that within a short period of time someone has stolen your hard work! What can you do about it?

Firstly I have to say that the instant you create anything, YOU own copyright to that material. Technically you own intellectual property rights on it. These are legally enforceable rights that YOU as the owner can enforce.

Anyone concerned about content being stolen should use this will throw up any duplicate content issues. Then you will know the site that has stolen your content.

You now need to track them down. find out
1. their domain name
2. the owner of the domain and admin contact
3. the name-servers and hosting companies name
all the above are public record from a web search at any registrar. will provide info on top level domains will give you UK domain information. The information however is available across the web from many domain resellers also.

Armed with this you send the owner and registered technical contact a polite but firm email telling them the content is stolen, and that you want it removed within 7 days (polite) . It is important here that you are absolutely specific about urls, text etc, and go into specifics.

I.E. uses the following text that was taken from 
“insert text here”

Continue listing until you have detailed every infringement, including images (use file-names etc) This is important, because unless you are specific they will not know where the dispute starts and ends, and this will be a good enough defence for not taking action.

Tell them politely that as the copyright of the content is yours, you intend to enforce your legal rights should they not take the requested action within the agreed time. The action will begin with the following, and will also result in a legal claim for damages.

1. file an action with Google and other search engines to remove the illegally promoted material under a DMCA report . Explain that the outcome of this will be that likely ANY AND ALL potentially stolen content will be removed. however, that said that Google normally just remove the entire site if it is carrying illegally used copyrighted material.

2. File an action with their hosting company (name them here from the information above) explaining that they are jointly liable for illegally distributing copyrighted material. Point out to the individual who is using your material that this is no different to the cases involving Napster etc, and is big news, as a result of these cases, hosting companies are unwilling to get drawn into legal disputes, and will simply close accounts. This would mean that not just THIS site would go offline, but ALL their sites hosted by that company will possibly go offline.

CC the email to & the hosting companies involved. this gives them advance notice of your intentions, as well as a point in time for action to begin. Although Google will likely take no notice of your email, it will show your intent to the thief, and also count as a time referenced correspondence.

In most cases the material will be removed. On thing one must keep in mind is that the owner of the site may be 100% innocent (or at least innocently unaware) that anything underhand has been done. I had a case last year where we were getting traffic to our site from an odd domain. I checked it through, and it turns out that someone had stolen my clients website. It was not a particularly good piece of theft, as the thieves has left hard-coded elements there (hence the referencing of our files).

I contacted the owners (as it was UK I telephoned them) At first the owner was a little aggressive telling me that the site was 100% his, he had paid damn good money for this site etc. When I explained to him the situation, showed him the original website, and pointed out the references to the original site in the code, he went into orbit. Not at me, but at the design company he used. It turned out that he had given the job to a local designer, who in turn had farmed it out to a company in India, who had simply carried out a search and stolen the site.

The owner of the site was innocent, the local designer was guilty of some flanneling, and the company in India were the guilty party. In law of course they were ALL guilty, but the site was taken down, and redesigned, and the outcome was good. The ironic thing in all this was that the company who stole the site, actually paid more for the stolen site than my client had paid to have the site designed in the first place.

Not all cases resolve like this however, and many will just tell you to get lost. In this case, file the DMCA action, notify the hosts, and send out a follow up letter. Apart from that, keep focused on building your own business, as far too many people waste time and effort chasing down minor problems like this at the cost to their core business.

16 Responses to “Beating the Content Thieves – stolen website content”

  1. Great article, OWG. I especially like the part where you point out that the owner of the site where stolen content is found may not be the one who actually did the pilfering. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience.

  2. Yeah, really interesting read OWG.

    It’s handy for someone to have outlined the exact procedure in case of copyright infringement.


  3. What’s the position with forums?

    I have a number of forums where obviously much of the content comes from user submissions.

    It has been known for duplicate versions of our boards to spring up… surely I can’t insist on removal since the content isn’t strictly-speaking mine?

    Would the onus fall on all the individual posters?


  4. I have this pain in the backside who keeps copying my website. I have approached him about it, several times and his response is to change the text very slightly. It is a commercail website, and I earn money from it, and by stealing my ideas so does my plaigerist.

    Can I still enfore copyright if the words have been altered a little?

    my site:
    copy site:

    look at the FAQ pages

  5. John, The sites are nothing like each other, you would not have a claim.

  6. Great info OWG

    I normally get bored of reading long articles but I loved every bit of this one. Great stuff

  7. Brilliant Article – one of the best I’ve read recently.

    We have a problem with the same person copying a customer site – we fight to have it taken down and he just pops it up under a different name. The host (HostExcellence) doesn’t want to know – says we need a court order before they’ll act. (Any ideas on how we can force the issue?) The ‘copycat’ has registered the current domain name with ‘Domains by Proxy’ so we can’t contact him directly.

  8. Great article – this kind of thing happens all too often. Feel free to post the article over at UK Business Labs. 🙂

  9. My friend is part of a Agricultural Society committee for this small town in Ontario Canada. (Marmora) They had a web site created by a former member who resigned. …Long story short; the domain name ( was bought up by someone in Turkey who maintains the site including the files.

    I volunteered my services and recreated the site with a more appropriate name; ( and updated the files for them.

    Does this gentleman in Turkey have the right to keep these files with the ownership of the old domain name? I would think he is violating the copyrights of the org.

    Any thoughts?

  10. Old Welsh Guy

    Hi Rob,

    this guy bought a domain name and not the website (presumably) so he is breaching your Intellectually property (or rather whoever owns the IP) he shouldn’t be using it unless he has written permission.

  11. Edward Fragnoli

    Outstanding! Now please explain that to all those clients that want to buy the services from the kid who lives next door and bills only $15/hr LOL

  12. Thanks very much! I’ll be doing as you say… This week I had a email requesting link exchange before deleting it I had a nose to find out they’ve stolen lots of my content & another sites! Why would they draw attention to themselves by emailing me! DUH!