You suck in your breath! Your heart starts pounding! Your adrenaline skyrockets! You know your blood pressure is in trouble.
No, you’re not in love. You’ve just discovered that someone has copied your website and it appears under a domain name that you’ve never heard of. You click on the “about us” page and see your face smiling back at you and your name telling the world how great your business is. The blood pressure rises higher as you click on the “Contact us” page. There you find an address and phone number that definitely isn’t yours.
You pick up the phone and dial the number. The number doesn’t exist. You take a deep breath. What can you do now?
This experience has happened to me twice–most recently last week. And it could happen to you. And it’s much more serious than someone who copies one of your photos. If you discover website pirates, this is what you need to do.
First check the whois for the domain. You can do this easily by going to any company that registers domain names and type in the domain name that you’ve found. I used godaddy.com. The registration for the domain shows who it is registerd to and what company is hosting the domain.
The first step is to contact the domain registrar and the hosting company. If you’re lucky as I was last week (I wasn’t so lucky the first time), they are both with the same company. Most hosting companies have a page on their website that explains exactly what you have to do to file a copyright complaint. In my case, I had to submit an email to godaddy that stated the following:
- An electronic signature of the copyright owner, or a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of an exclusive copyright that has allegedly been infringed.
- Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works on that site.
- Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit Go Daddy to locate the material.
- Information reasonably sufficient to permit Go Daddy to contact the Complaining Party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the Complaining Party may be contacted.
- A statement that the Complaining Party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
- A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the Complaining Party is the owner, or is authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
Once I did this, godaddy’s copyright department removed the offending site and notified the offender that it had been removed.
Sounds fairly simple but it’s not always easy. If the hosting company is located in another country, it’s a whole different ball game.
How could someone copy a whole website consisting of hundreds of pages? It’s easy with software that now exists.
Who does this sort of piracy? It’s usually someone located in China or Russia who wants to use the copied website as a means of distributing a virus or worse.
How can you find out if your website has been copied? Since the website is copied exactly as is with the exception of contact information, the copied site is going to rank very similar to your own in the search engines. I know what keywords I’m ranking for and check them frequently. This is how I discovered the second offense. The copied site ranked two places below mine.
Another way to check is to pick out some text on your homepage that is unique to your site. Put that text in google search and you may be surprised to find another site showing the same text.
You can also file a complaint with google to have the listings removed from their search engine. But you will have to address each page that is copied. And with over 300 pages, that’s a big job. It’s much easier to get the site removed by the hosting company and then it will just gradually fade from google.