You’ve worked hard on your website. Pouring hours of work, creative thinking and money into it. But then someone saw how good it was, and copied all of your content, images, and your brand.
In the most positive light, it is quite flattering that someone out there likes your work so much they want to claim it’s their own. However, it is a down right annoyance that your hard work might not always be accredited to you.
Additionally, it could end up damaging your brand if the other company provide poor service and people see your brand but associate it with the other company.
Unfortunately, you can’t completely stop someone who has taken a fancy to your things from taking them, but there are a number of things you can do to deter, prevent, and monitor someone copying something that isn’t theirs.
Copyrighting your content
You have spent hours agonising over every single phrase. Considering what light that puts your company in. Then you stumble across someone who has just content scraped your page. Utter frustration? Yes we’ve had this too, and trust me we understand. There are a few simple steps to protecting and monitoring your content.
One of the easiest steps is to copyright your work. And that is as simple as putting ‘© Copyright [year] [your business name]. All Rights Reserved.’.
It is not actually essential to do this as your work is protected by copyright whether you register it or not. But it may put off someone from pressing ctrl + c if the legitimate copyright is made obvious on your page.
You can make it even clearer by adding a line in your website’s terms and conditions. Which states you will not accept copy infringement and will take action against anyone who copies your content without permission.
If appropriate, you can have password protected pages. Meaning only those who are authorised can view the pages. However, you must tread carefully with this. As password protected content may not show up in search results. So perhaps only consider this for customer only content.
Avoiding content scrapers
You can also adapt the RSS Feed, to a partial or short link. So if someone ‘content scrapes’ your page, they will not be able to take the full content. Or you could use a custom signature, with a copyright notice in to the footer of your website. So even if someone steals the content, it will refer readers back to the original post. Even if your content does end up on the furthest depths of the web, it can still direct people back to you.
Another way would be to disable the right click and selection function. Yes, someone may take the time to re-type your content. But it will stop happy clickers from taking what they want in a flash.
There are also a number of websites and alerts you can put in place to inform you when someone has stolen your content. There are a huge variety of websites you can use. But the most recommended are google alerts, copyscape.com, content-cop.com, plagtracker.com and tineye.com. With these, you copy your URL in. They will let you know if someone else posts the same content. Meaning you can find where your content has gone to.
What do you do when your content has been copied?
It is advised that in the first instance you contact the person who posted the content.
Explain that the content is copyrighted. And as stated in your terms and conditions, this is a breach of your work which should be removed as soon as possible. Though they might not take a blind bit of notice, they may also have not realised how serious the situation is. Hopefully being scared into removing the copy.
If they do not remove your content, you can visit “WhoIsHostingThis” (http://www.whoishostingthis.com/) to find out how hosts the website. If you get in touch with the hosting company, they are likely to take action and remove the content.
If you are still having a problem and their copy of your work is receiving more attention than your version, you can launch a Google DMCA complaint (https://support.google.com/legal/troubleshooter/1114905?hl=en-GB). It is quite an awkward process, so it not advised unless you are having a real issue. But if Google deem the content copied they will ban the offending content from any Google search engines.
The final option is to get in touch with your lawyer.
Copyrighting an Image
There are a number of ways to copyright an image, so you shouldn’t have to be afraid to put your best work out there.
As with the action you can take to protect your copy, a lot of these options are simple. But they will not stop the few determined individuals who are intent on taking praise for your pictures.
You can register any of your images or a collection of works with the UK Copyright Service. Which is a simple process, but it does cost a small amount. Please refer directly to the UK Copyright Service (https://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/) for the full details of registering your work.
Don’t want to register?
If this isn’t an option for you, or you want to take extra measure, you can also watermark your image, or attach your URL to the image. Though this does give full credit to you, it may affect the quality of your image, so this is not always the best route to go down.
You could also work with HTML tables to add a transparent image over the top of the image you want to protect. If someone was to right click and save, it would save the blank image, not the image you are protecting.
Another option is to disable hotlinking (https://css-tricks.com/techniques-for-fighting-image-theft/), which will show an image of your choice on a website if someone tries to steal it, instead of the image they tried to steal.
You could also disable the right click function. If you choose to do this, only do it on it images. As it can affect your website’s usability if you disable right click on everything.
There are also a number of third party software products available. Again, they won’t stop people copying your image, but they can monitor where your work is going. Recommended products are Artist Scope, Copysafe, DigiMarc and Picmarkr. Though these do come with cost implications.
You may not have heard of “trade dress”, but this is the legal term for the overall “look and feel” of a product or service, and means your brand can be protected under the “passing off” law, providing you follow the requirements.
What is mainly looked at is the functionality of the brand, and that the “look and feel” has a secondary meaning to customers, but no functional use. That sounds a little confusing right?
If we look at the “big four” supermarkets – Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Tesco, each are associated with a colour, though that colour in no way affects their products.
Essentially, if all of them decided to take away the colours, the quality of their home brand biscuits wouldn’t change. But, it would make their products and adverts hard to recognise. This, in essence should mean they are eligible for trade dress.
Or, look at The Marketing People. Our trade dress is very visible with the colour purple, the font we use and the layout of our branded materials.
Even if you took out the words ‘The Marketing People’ our brand is still obvious. But by the same definition, if you took away the colour and the font, it wouldn’t affect the service we offer, but if would affect how easily identified by customers we are.
What about the look and feel of my website?
Unfortunately there is no straight answer with this yet, as the law is still developing. Some courts are beginning to grant protection for the overall look and feel of a website, but it is apparent from past cases you would need to prove the distinctiveness of your website and the importance of the “non-functional” aspects.
Copyrighting an Idea or Concept
So, you have a brilliant idea of how to expand your business, or create a brand new one, but you know your competitors may be working towards something similar. How do you protect your idea, so you are free to use it as yours in the future?
The UK Copyright Service says you cannot copyright an idea or concept as it is not a physical, tangible thing.
However, it can apply if you have physical evidence of work towards that idea, as that work can then be registered and copyrighted.
Be careful though, as copyrighting might not always have the effect you desired, as it is still up to interpretation.
As the UK Copyright Service explains, a competitor would not be able to directly copy or adapt your content, as this is breach of copyright. They can however work on a similar idea, as that is the basis of fair competition.
A popular example of this is looking at TV programmes such as the soaps. Though they all work off a very similar idea. Unless they directly copied a script, they are not in breach as it is fair competition.
Looking at it in a business example; if Joe Bloggs security is the first company in Burntwood to offer monitoring systems for the elderly along with their regular house alarm, there is nothing to stop John Smith’s Burntwood alarms doing a similar deal, as this is fair competition.
However, if they were to breach any of the things we have mentioned above, or to make a claim on their marketing that they were ‘the first company in Burntwood to offer this’ there would be a claim. But you would have to prove that you had took steps towards this idea before they did.
Is this still a confusing matter? Yes it is. Will these tips help deter people, and protect you if the worst comes to the worst? Yes they will. Can you completely stop someone taking your work? Not quite.
But what you can always be sure of is if we work with you on any online content, we will do our best to help and advise you on how to stop this happening, as we will be as protective of your content, as we are of ours.