Starting a new website can be a daunting task, but for business or pleasure, it can be a necessity. But what happens if you see your newly designed website somewhere else? Word for word, your website has been copied.
What To Do When Someone Copies Your Website? You can contact the owner of the website by finding their contact information. To do this follow these steps:
- Do a WHOIS search and find their email address.
- Take a lot of screenshots of the parts of the website that were stolen.
- If it was the whole website, copy the source code that was stolen.
- Show that Google indexed your website first by grabbing the Google Cache link.
- Take screenshots of any comments left on your website posts.
- Get a copy of your website’s MySQL database.
- Use the Wayback Machine to screenshot past views of your website.
- Find the original images from your website and make sure the dates are earlier than the copier’s.
- Include earlier backups of your website.
Do not forget to be polite to the copier when you contact them! But what happens if they do not respond to your email? What do you do then?
Stop! Before you go to the authorities about it, you should gather as much information as possible from your website. This is to show that it is in fact, your website that was stolen and not the other way around.
Here are the first few steps you need to take to get your copied website taken down:
Figure out who hosts the website along with who owns it, by doing a WHOIS search.
- Doing this can give you enough information to contact both parties and file a complaint.
- Otherwise, you will have to take even more steps to get your copied website taken down.
A WHOIS search shows you all of their information for the website that was registered.
- If only part of your website has been copied, take screenshots of the website’s copied text.
- If your whole website has been stolen, copy and paste the source code instead.
- The more proof, the better, as it will help you show that it is in fact, your own work, and not the copier’s.
You can take screenshots on your Windows PC by using the Print Screen command (it will say prt sc on the keyboard, usually in the upper right-hand corner of it).
Once you take a screenshot, paste the Print Screen image into an image editing program and save it.
If you are on a Mac, you can use Shift-Command-4 together to take a screenshot.
- Grab the Google Cache link so that you can prove Google indexed your website first.
- Make sure you take plenty of screenshots too as evidence.
- If it was multiple web pages that were stolen, or in fact the whole website, make sure you get screenshots that Google indexed all of the pages that were stolen.
These screenshots will prove that your work was there first and that the copier did indeed copy your website.
- Take screenshots of the date and time comments that were left on the original post.
- If it is the whole website, take as many screenshots as possible.
- Make sure you compare it to the copied website, to show you made the post first and that they copied it.
This gives them some of the proof needed to show your posts were copied.
For your website, proof that Google indexed it before it was stolen should be enough if you do not have any comments on your posts.
- Get a copy of your MySQL database and back it up.
- This way you can show them that everything about your website is in fact, your website.
- This shows that you did create the website and the other person stole it.
This helps give them more than half of the proof they need to take their website down.
- Gather screenshots of the “past views” of the information they copied by going to the Wayback Machine website and inputting your website.
- Then you should start taking a lot of pictures for evidence.
- The Wayback Machine will only work if Google or some other search engines have indexed your website.
- Otherwise, this step will not help you, as the website needs to be indexed first before the Wayback Machine will work.
When typing in your website, the Wayback Machine, which you can find here, will show you when people viewed your website. It will also show specific posts’ views.
- Take the original images you shared on your website and make sure they have an earlier file date compared to the copier.
- This way they can see you were first, and it gives further proof that they copied you.
- Along with the images, take any files you have stored there and if possible, show that they were created and uploaded prior to the copier’s files.
This is more proof needed to show that the website, in fact, belongs to you.
- If you have ever backed up your website, which you should be doing anyway, make sure you include all the older backups as well.
- Gather all of the backups, as far back as you can go.
- If it has a prior file date, you should include it as evidence.
- Contact the owner of the website through the information gathered from doing the WHOIS search.
- Make sure you have all the information collected to show them.
- It is important to remain civil and polite when contacting the owner
- Since they copied your website in the first place, they might be a tad aggressive about the claims you make.
- Be sure to start with emailing them first, it would be better and perhaps safer that way.
- This way, you do not have to worry about them “finding” you and claiming you stole their website.
If for some reason they do end up doing this, what should you do then? Say they end up reporting you, then they send you a Cease and Desist letter or DMCA takedown notice.
Well, remember all the evidence you gathered in steps 1-8? That is the proof that you need to show that you had the website up before them.
If for some reason they do not respond to you in any way, these are the next steps to take:
- Since they were not responding to you at all, you may want to try and send them a Cease and Desist letter.
- Send a DMCA notice to them.
Cease and Desist
- The Cease and Desist letter is a notice stating they copied your website and they need to take it down.
- This could give them the push they need to take the website down, as they may fear further lawyer related issues.
Once this happens and they comply with your order, then their copied website should be gone and yours still intact. This is great!
But what happens when they do not respond to your letter? Or worse, send you a DMCA notice?
Before taking legal action, it is important to try taking care of it yourself. The next steps will help you with doing this without a lawyer.
Contact Website Host
- You can do this by contacting the website host, filing a complaint, and sending them the proof that you gathered prior.
- Also include the Cease and Desist letter as further evidence.
This should help your case, since it was your website to begin with, you will not have anything to worry about. The proof will be in the evidence itself, and they will be able to see that it was yours to begin with.
- If your stolen website ends up still being online, and the hosting company or the owner declines to take it down, you will need to contact Google
- File a DMCA complaint yourself on Google by going to Google’s DMCA complaint form and filling out the information about why you have the complaint.
- You should also contact Yahoo and file a DMCA complaint on their form there too.
- Fill out the information on why you are filing the complaint at Yahoo’s website.
You should do this for every other search engine your website has been indexed on.
Filing a Complaint
When filing a DMCA complaint, you need to provide written information to the service provider’s agent, such as the following:
- A physical or electronic signature of the person filing the complaint as proof the agent can work on their behalf.
- List of the copyrighted website and its details.
- List of what information on the website you want to be removed.
- Your address, telephone number, and email address.
- A written statement saying you did not authorize the use of this information.
- Proof they are committing fraud.
- A signed statement that all this information provided is truthful.
- Also, include all the information you saved from steps 1-8.
- Alternatively, you can also create a DMCA takedown notice yourself by going to their website and filling out the form there.
- You can find the form to fill out a complaint by going here.
- There you will input all the information needed to file the DMCA complaint.
- This should help you to get your copied website taken down.
If after all this, nothing seems to be working, it would, unfortunately, be time to get a lawyer.
However, if you follow these steps exactly, you should not have any reason to worry about getting a lawyer. If you come down to the final step of filing a DMCA complaint, afterward everything should be resolved.
This is because most places take DMCA notices seriously, and do not want to deal with getting sued. This can work in your favor if you are not on the receiving end of one yourself.