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Old 01-21-2009
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Exclamation What can you do when someone steals your original website content and images?
It's conduct unbecoming, plain and simple, and it happens all too often in our industry. I cannot count the number of stories I've read on VAF of other VAs finding that the content they worked hours and days at writing for their website has been unceremoniously STOLEN by someone else. Other stories tell of VAs who have been 'sold' content for their sites that has turned out to have been stolen by the supposed 'writer'.

Until now, this hasn't affected me directly - but tonight I received a very upsetting email from a VA who is also a member of this site. I not only designed and built her site for her but I fine-tuned and edited her content until it was impeccable. That VA found entire pages (plus images AND image tags bearing HER name and company name) on another VAs website.

I thought I'd post a thread about this so that we can all share ideas as to what we might do about this kind of thing.

So - what CAN you do when you find YOUR website or it's content has been stolen right out from under you? Here are a few things you can try (this is NOT legal advice):

1) First, use Screenhunter5 or similar to take screenshots of the stolen content on the offending website.

2) Send an email to the owner of the site requesting immediate cooperation in having the content taken down. Reference the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Give them 24 hours to comply. If they don't - follow up immediately.

3) If your email goes ignored CALL them. Find their phone number on the site itself and check the WhoIs information for registrar contact info.

4) Email the hosting company of the website and explain the situation. SOME webhosts will assist you. To find out who is hosting the site run a WhoIs search. Also mention the Digital Millennium Copyright Act if need be.

5) Report it to Google as duplicated content. This can be effective if you're able to get the site removed from the search index. Here's a link to Google's report form [select duplicate site or pages from the list]. Other search engines have similar processes.

6) Report it [privately] to the owners of Virtual Assistant groups, networks, forums and similar that you are a member of. Especially if the thief is a fellow member.

Read more on what you can do from CopyScape.

----

Have you had to follow up on a case of stolen content? How did you handle it and what was the outcome?
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Old 01-21-2009
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Default Re: What can you do when someone steals your original website content and images?
Thank you Tess for posting this very helpful information.
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Old 01-21-2009
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Default Re: What can you do when someone steals your original website content and images?
Thanks so much for this information Tess. I am starting to hear more and more about this type of behavior. Very unprofessional.

Sincerely,

Sheila
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Old 01-21-2009
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Default Re: What can you do when someone steals your original website content and images?
Thanks for posting this really important information; I'm going to bookmark it so I can refer back to it.

When my husband and I were in the process of adopting our son, we created what is called a "Dear Birthmother" letter -- it told prospective mothers-to-be about us, how we met, why we wanted to become parents, what we could offer a child, etc. It was very personal and very "us." Imagine my dismay when about six months later, I found that someone had hijacked our ENTIRE website content -- changing minor details like our favorite restaurant -- but every single word was ours. I was so mad! Whenever you pour your heart and soul into something, whether it's a letter like ours or a website about YOUR services, it leaves such an unsettling feeling. I'm so sorry for the VA who got hijacked!
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Old 01-21-2009
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Default Re: What can you do when someone steals your original website content and images?
That's a serious one Tess! A few months ago one of the VAs on another forum found Copyscape and reignited my interest. I tend to forget about it once I've checked but then I received an email saying that my text was coming up on another site. When I checked I was very disappointed to find it was a lady I had mentored when she started! I gave her advice and links etc. I didn't do anything at the time because I was so gutted. I should check again because she is on the same forum and may have realized I would check. I didn't know what to do because in an industry like ours there are only so many ways to describe what we do. I didn't want to sound like I was overdoing it. In your case and Karen's it's just blatant disregard and showing no respect for the work put in by the author. How did your issues work out? Did you approach the offending party and have things changed? It's motivated me to go and check this other lady's site again and this time I just might drop her a message so she knows that I AM keeping an eye on her. I put a lot of hours into teaching myself how to build a site and had input from marketers etc on wording, so I don't want someone else to benefit from it.

Thanks for giving us the steps we can follow as I didn't know what to do if she ignored me.

Cheers,
Marie
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Old 01-21-2009
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Default Re: What can you do when someone steals your original website content and images?
update! Bonus!! I checked Copyscape and guess what?? The site in question doesn't show up anymore Obviously because she was on the forum she realised she would be found out. What a relief! Now I can go shopping with a clear mind and focus on what really matters -spending my hard earned money!! Thanks heaps Tess for prompting me to follow this up - you're an angel!

Marie
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Old 01-22-2009
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Default Re: What can you do when someone steals your original website content and images?
Thanks for a great post Tess, this is the kind of thing you tend to let slide because you just don't know where to start! Great plan of action.
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Old 01-22-2009
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Default Re: What can you do when someone steals your original website content and images?
Thanks for the post Tess, it is a reminder to check copyscape often. There are alot of new VA's starting and some many not be aware that this is not acceptable.
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Old 01-22-2009
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Default Re: What can you do when someone steals your original website content and images?
One thing I did for content was searched articles written by attorneys, as I primarily work with legal entities. I found a couple articles and emailed the attorney directly for written permission to use their content. The both gladly obliged as long as their content was kept original and their name was included. It is a shame that someone feels the need to just steal content without permission. 9 times out of 10, if you just ask, they will allow the use. I even asked permission on the this forum to use certain content. Always ask. That is safer than thinking it is just "ok" to use any content out on the web. It would be nice to think that this VA didn't intentionally do this. But you never know.
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Old 01-22-2009
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Default Re: What can you do when someone steals your original website content and images?
I am presuming that your websites have copyright or the symbol with a date on each page? Or, you have some notice stating to seek permission from the owner to reproduce, etc.? If there's no notice or symbol, you have given a green light to copy your material. For some, I would recommend that you become familiar with "trademark" and you might need to register your logos, photos, etc. under that rather than "copyright". Every country has different rules for copyright and trademark and not everyone recognizes the rules the USA goes by.
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