I’m a bit outraged right now. Let me rephrase that. I’m more than a bit … I’m totally and absolutely outraged. I found that two other designers have stolen entire pages of my web site content and put it on their sites. You’d think I’d be flattered, after all someone thought enough of my content to literally steal it word for word. They didn’t even bother to try to rewrite it so that their words come from their own hearts and minds.
Well, I’m not flattered. Stealing content from another web site is not only morally wrong but illegal. Respectable designers just don’t violate the unwritten trust and respect of other designers, period. If you do, in my opinion you are definitely not a respectable designer. Stealing from another designer is no different than stealing from your best friend!
It’s not bad enough to have one’s content stolen but to have another designer steal it is totally unacceptable. No respectable designer would appreciate it and certainly would never do it.
It’s not all that uncommon for a web designer to get the occasional client who sends us content that we find is being used on another site. Even though the contract they’ve signed with their designer plainly states that all content must be original (and content includes images, folks!) we still get people who don’t read the contract, don’t understand that just because it’s on the web doesn’t mean you can just take it for your own use, are to lazy to write their own content or simply don’t care.
You SHOULD Care!
Duplicate content can cause some serious negative SEO effects, is a huge no-no and theft is definitely not something a respectable designer would do. By copying someone else’s content, you are not only being disrespectful and a thief, you are legally jeopardizing yourself, your business and your designer’s reputation. Keep this in mind when hiring a web designer. If they will knowingly use stolen content, you must question their morals and respectability. Keyword here is “knowingly.” There is so much content on the web these days that it’s very easy to receive content from a client and put it on their site not realizing it’s been stolen from another site.
This alone does not put the designer in the wrong. What does is when they knowingly allow it. If it’s brought to light that you are using content from another site and your designer is made aware of this and subsequently refuses to take any action … then you need to take some action of your own. If you as a designer find that your client is using stolen content, you need to bring this to their attention and discuss the best course of action to remedy the situation. If they refuse to cooperate, get a new client! If you don’t, you could wind up not only destroying your own good business name, but inviting legal hassles as well. I’ve worked long and hard for my good name, I am not going to let someone else mess that up for me.
Designers generally have a feel for their client’s writing abilities. If you send them content that doesn’t quite fit your “profile” you can bet they’ll doubt its credibility and do some checking. If you don’t feel capable of writing your own content, your designer can bring in a content copywriter for you. No, it’s not a free service but it sure beats legal fees and the hassles that go along with copying another’s work.
It’s the Law, Folks!
Don’t believe me? Check out the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which will tell you that should you copy another’s work, you are in violation of Copyright Infringement as authorized in § 512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Law. You have the law on your side.
FREE and Simple Ways to Help Protect Your Content
You can help protect yourself from content thieves by signing up for an account at CopyScape. These folks provide a tremendously valuable service by monitoring your web site content and send you notifications when duplicate content is found. You can do a free scan on their web site, but if you want to have your site monitored you can sign up for an account. This is not a free service but the cost is more than reasonable especially when you think of the protection they help to provide.
If you find that someone has copied your content, the first thing you should do is to send the offender a Cease and Desist letter which requires them to remove the duplicate content or pages. This usually works, but if it doesn’t, there are other options which include things like contacting the site owners web site host. A respectable website host will require that the content be modified or removed and if it’s not, they have the power to shut down the offending web site.
Are either of these 100% effective? No. As we all know, not everyone running a business of any kind of the web is legit nor do they care if they violate someone’s rights. There is no guarantee you won’t have to get a lawyer involved, but you can and should first try to do this on your own. I’ve had this happen a couple of times and the C&D letter or contacting the website host has to date, quickly and effectivly taken care of each violation.