The email caught my eye.
As I read it I couldn’t help but feel indifferent.
Another business has decided to choose the shortcut of stealing someone else’s identity rather than legitimising their business through their own creative endeavours.
Unfortunately, in our industry – digital marketing – another hit to our collective credibility and our trustworthiness is not something we can readily absorb. But that’s another issue.
How can you tell if someone has stolen your website design? And what can you do about it?
First, I want to share some of the wonderful recent ripoff merchants who have decided to lift our agency’s (distinctive) design, and make it their own.
First, here’s Bonfire’s site.
And, here is Moonlight dash digital dot biz’s website (http://moonlight-digital.biz/ – I am not linking to it).
Amazingly similar aren’t they?
Even down to the same clients (what a remarkable coincidence!)
There really aren’t any words to describe the brazen brainlessness of this. Not only did they lift the front page, but also the internal pages, barely bothering to change a word. Not 100% true, they did change the names of our staff profiles.
This sadly is not a once off.
There have been a number of other instances of our site being ripped off. Most come and go. Others persist as a stubborn beacon to their own idiocy.
Like these guys, again in the UK.
I don’t know about you but there is a strong similarity to the Bonfire website with this one too. (If you want to see full ghastly attempt its still up at strong-seo.com).
The good news is, if we want to complain, we can complain to them at one of their offices in four countries. So there’s that.
Sadly, people like this exist. They don’t care that they shamelessly steal what is not theirs in an attempt to profit from it (although their prospective clients should).
The question is: how can you find out if someone has stolen your website design and what can you do about it?
How to Find Rip Offs of Your Website:
1. Use Copyscape.
Copyscape has a limited free option and a much more extensive paid option.
If you have a problem with other plagiarising your stuff, the paid option is worth it. Just plug in your site’s URL (or sitemap for the paid option) and a list of potential thieves will appear.
2. Google Image Search.
This can take some time, particularly if your site has a number of distinctive or unique images. But it is effective.
Go to images.google.com and click on the camera icon.
An option to paste in your URL will appear, paste in the URL of the file image, and you can check to see if your images are being used where they shouldn’t be.
Whilst Google Images is pretty reliable, you may want to look at other image search tools such as Tin Eye, for a wider variety of search results.
3. Google Alerts.
Google Alerts can be set up to notify you by email if any of your content turns up in Google indexing. Go to https://www.google.com/alerts and create alerts for blog post titles, key calls to action or USPs you’ve used across your site.
BONUS: I personally use Google Alerts to track if any of my email addresses are popping up online where they shouldn’t. Doing this actually revealed my Netflix account (and password) was available at a random Blogspot. Made sure that password got binned and updated very quickly!
4. Search Your Analytics.
Another Google product, but this can be vital. I recommend you get well acquainted with your Google Analytics account. It can reveal all sorts of wonderful information. Including whether you have traffic being tracked that isn’t actually on your site. You can check out your Referring sites and (through the unfiltered spam) you can see if your images or files are being used elsewhere. This will appear as a referral.
If you want to know more about tracking images through GA, I recommend reading this.
Ok, now what?
What Can I Do About Someone Stealing My Work?
You need to understand that if you have published original work it is covered under international copyright law. I am not a lawyer, so that is as far as I will go on that. Feel free to read more here, here or here.
1. Document it
Take copies via screen shot of your work and the offending parties.
This confirms what you are seeing and provides evidence of the plagiarism.
Of course, you should make sure it is in fact plagiarism and not simple fair use. Again, I am not a lawyer but some limited use of your work is allowed. Differentiating between the two is important.
2. Contact the Offending Party
Sometimes the next step is the best. Just contact the offending party.
Submit a contact form, or use their Whois information and email them directly. Failing that, try to find them on social media.
Some people are reasonable and will recognise the error of their ways. If they do, great. Problem solved.
If they don’t, go to step 3.
3. Contact Search Engines for a takedown request.
It’s slow but its the best you can do without getting lawyers involved.