Someone Stole My Website Content: Copyright Implications.

Someone Stole My Website Content: Copyright Implications.

The first thing you need to understand when answering the question, “What can I do if someone steals my website content?” is you need to understand that these are copyright infringement issues that are governed by United States Copyright Law. If someone takes your website content and reposts it on their web pages, that can be for several reasons. What we see, as copyright law attorneys who see this kind of website scraping going on every day, there are a variety of different approaches that can be used in order to deal with the copyright problem. However, it really depends on who you’re dealing with.

Welcome to Copyright Law Radio. We bring you the best in copyright news, legal advice and information.  From copyright infringement claims and defenses to threat letter issues, DMCA takedown notice letters, copyright licensing, and legal analysis of the latest copyright law cases, we have a copyright attorney who can answer your copyright questions.

You developed original website content. Your website is an incredibly important asset to you. I am Copyright Law Attorney Enrico Schaefer and today we’re going to be talking a little bit about copyright infringement and what you can do if someone steals your website content. An original work of authorship can be many things. It can be a photograph. It can be a painting. It can be a book. But it also can be a web page. If you developed original content for your website, and someone comes along and copies that content from your website and publishes it on their web pages, then you may have a copyright infringement claim.

The first thing you need to understand when answering the question, “What can I do if someone steals my website content?” is you need to understand that these are copyright infringement issues that are governed by United States Copyright Law. If someone takes your website content and reposts it on their web pages, that can be for several reasons. What we see, as copyright law attorneys who see this kind of website scraping going on every day, there are a variety of different approaches that can be used in order to deal with the copyright problem. However, it really depends on who you’re dealing with.

So, was it a competitor that stole your website content and placed it onto their website, or was it one of these content scrapers, these unknown people on these nefarious websites where there’s very little indication as to who owns the website or who owns the domain name? Oftentimes, those domain names are privacy or proxy protected, so you can’t even see who the owner is. It looks like it’s just a template WordPress site in many instances, and all of a sudden your content is being reposted on that site.

If it is a competitor who has stolen your website content, then you really need to understand that there’s probably going to be more of a potential fight. They are going to potentially fight the issue of whether or not your content was original authorship, that is to say, that you created that content. They’re going to fight as to whether or not the content is substantial enough to meet the definition of copyrightable work under the Copyright Act under United States Copyright Law. However, if they are doing something that makes it look like their web page is very similar to your web page, you may also have a trade dress claim under trademark law. That is to say that someone looking at their web page may think they’re actually at your website, because the design elements as well as the content are similar.

Competitor copying is often much more problematic, because essentially what your competitor is doing is they’re trying to shortcut the work required in order to create their website. You spent time and effort trying to figure out what the correct verbiage was, the correct design elements were to your web page, and they’re simply cutting and pasting your website and placing it on their website. Typically, what a good copyright law attorney who understands Internet law is going to do in this situation is to send a threat letter, not only to the person who’s running the website – in this case, we’re saying, hypothetically, a competitor – but also to the website host company, and potentially also to the registrar of the domain name.

The letters that go to the hosting company are going to be under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, and what those letters are going to say is that you’re demanding that those web pages or website be taken down because of copyright infringement. So, even if the website owner doesn’t want to comply, the threat that their whole website might come down if they don’t comply, provides you the copyright leverage you’re going to need in order to have that duplicate content from your website removed from their website. Typically, the return on investment proposition here is clear. You don’t want to give your competitor any sort of competitive advantage. You certainly don’t want your small business startup or growing business to be at a competitive disadvantage, so it makes sense for you to deal with these problems as they arise.

If it is a scraper who has taken your copyright protected content from your website and placed it on one of these nefarious generalized sites that perhaps a return by a Google alert has alerted you that your company name has appeared on this website, and from there you’ve seen that, in fact, your content actually appears on this website. Then what you’re going to want to do is take a step back and say, OK, how important is this? Is this becoming rampant? Is this a website that looks nefarious, that is going to potentially divert your traffic?

You certainly can send a DMCA notice to the web hosting company in order to have that website removed. If you have great A+ content, and there are many people copying your website, you may need to take some action in order to stop the bleeding, because if you don’t do something, it’ll keep occurring. A lot of times, these are automated systems on the back end that are looking to generate websites on domain names. They don’t want to do their own content, so they plug into their software your website for scraping. You want them to pull that out.

My name is Copyright Law Attorney, Enrico Schaefer. Today, we’ve been talking about, “Hey, someone is stealing my website, my web pages, my content, and placing it on their website. What do I do?” Hope you learned something today. We’ll see you next time.

You’ve been listening to Copyright Law Radio, where copyright infringement, licensing, litigation, and news are always the topic of the day.  Whether you are a copyright attorney or a client, we are the number one resource for all your copyright questions.

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