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 www.copyscape.com. 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.
http://whois.com/ will provide info on top level domains http://www.nominet.org.uk/ 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.
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 http://www.google.com/dmca.html . 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 email@example.com & 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.