Posted Wednesday, September 29, 2004
In the first instalment in our series on Website Theft, we looked at the definition of Copyright and what Copyright Law covers. In our second instalment, we looked as how to tell if you material is being stolen, how damaging it can be, and gave you some ideas on what to do if you find out your content is being unlawfully used by others. In this instalment we will continue to give you ideas on what to do if you material is being used and also some thoughts for trying to prevent it from recurring.
Unfortunately, you may run across someone who refuses to respond to your initial email request to take your material off their website . In such a case, let an appropriate amount of time from your previous correspondence to go by before sending a secondary email. You may even want to do another check of contact information for the offending website to be sure you have tried every email address for the owner of the website.
Another step would be to send a snail mail letter to the website owner. If that still fails to generate any action, you can consider sending the letter by some form of delivery that requires a signature of receipt.
Once all efforts to contact the website owner have been exhausted, it is time to go to other sources. Your next step would be to contact the hosting company of the website and advise them of the offence and what you would like done about the situation. Again, portray your professionalism. Generally, after the hosting company has thoroughly checked out your claims, they will approach their client and request that the offending material be omitted. If the website owner does not heed the warnings of the hosting company, they will usually end up with their website being removed from the web server and thus, from the Internet.
The next (or alternative) step for some may be to slander the offender. This can involve telling others who are linked on their page about how the offender stole your material, or telling the organizations that the owner is a member of about their plagiarism. Spreading the word. You can find out who these people or companies are by delving a little further into their sites (unless, of course, they stole your entire site… word for word…). Personally, I don’t think anything good can come out of slander so I don’t recommend it.
That brings us to your last option, prosecution. As each situation will be unique, the best person to get advice from is an attorney. If possible, get a referral from any of your local associates.
How can your prevent copyright infringement?
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a sure-fire way to stop the theft of copyright material. If someone is determined to get your text or graphics, they will somehow accomplish it.
There are a few things you can try to deter would-be thieves. Give them the impression that you are not going to go down without a fight.
The first thing you should do is to include a copyright notice on all of your work. At the bottom of each page, put the © symbol, the year (ie, 2003 or 1998-2003), and who owns the material, whether it is your company or yourself. You can also include, “All Rights Reserved” or something to show your copyright ownership.
You can also try putting a transparent graphic over your entire page. The drawback to this is that it can cause your page to load slower and it is also only one of those bandage solutions that thieves can get around.
Some have tried putting their entire website in Flash format. This can have a negative affect on your search engine ranking, as there is no body text for the search engines to read and use for indexing. Also, if your Flash is not compressed and optimized, you will run into the problem of your site taking a long time to load which can turn people away. And, if your visitor does not have the latest Flash viewer installed, some aspects of your presentation could cause problems.
Another means of proving the ownership of the content is to include your copyright information in comment tags in the HTML coding of your website. If a thief decides to steal your entire page, they may not realize that you have inserted your own information in inconspicuous places in the code and you will have a way of proving your ownership. For search engine purposes, you should have your contact information in the meta tags of your coding anyway but you should also include the comment tags deep within the coding.
Part of the freedom of having an Internet presence is that there may be others who think that everything on the Internet is free for the taking. We know this is not true but there really isn’t too much we can do to dissuade theft. You can try some of the suggestions in this article but, as was mentioned, nothing is sure-fire and if someone is determined to use your material, they will find a way to get it.
About the Author
Janice Byer is the founder of Docu-Type Administrative & Web Design Services (http://www.docutype.net), a professional Virtual Assistance and Website Design company, specializing in helping small business owners get ahead. She is a certified Canadian Virtual Assistant & Master Virtual Assistant and winner of the Most Successful Start Up 2000 and Home Based Business of the Year 2000 Awards