A crowded marketplace can lead to unethical webmasters using underhand techniques to get ahead of their competitors and online plagiarism is one of the easiest.
I had worked hard on the copy for my sales page at Watch Live Football (http://www.watchlivefootball.com), ensuring the copy was relevant to potential customers and contained keyword rich phrases to assist with search engine ranking.
Understandably, I was incensed when I found not one, but two websites selling a similar service had not just pinched a few key phrases here and there from my website, but had reproduced the entire text verbatim!
I found these offending websites by using Copyscape (http://www.copyscape.com) which is an invaluable, free tool, in the battle against online plagiarism.
It highlighted that my competitors had stolen 254 words from my sales copy despite there being a clear copyright logo at the foot of each page of my website. However, this alone does not prevent an unscrupulous webmaster and CTRL & C command in full flow.
Fortunately, dealing with plagiarism on the internet can be a straightforward process and incidents resolved quickly and amicably before any real 'action' needs to be taken.
This is how I ensured my sales copy was removed from the two offending websites in less than 24 hours of discovery.
Write a polite, but firm email to the webmaster of the offending website and explain that you have found your copyrighted work has been illegally reproduced on it. If you have used Copyscape to detect plagiarism you could even include the link that highlights the illegally used copy and states an actual word count.
Inform the webmaster your material should be removed from their website within a certain time frame, I chose 48 hours, or you will take the following action:
1. Contact their web hosting company and inform them of the webmaster's abuse. A WHOIS search (e.g. http://www.whois.sc) can reveal plenty of information about a particular website, including hosting information and also contact details of the individual or company that registered the website.
A personal introduction, for example, 'Dear Mr Smith', is very effective when making the first contact to combat plagiarism, especially if this information is not readily available on the 'Contact' section of the offending website!
2. In case the offending webmaster does not take the prospect of the above action seriously then you should also clearly state you intend to file a notice of Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA) infringement with search engines such as Google and Yahoo.
This action can potentially ruin a web business as the search engines take a dim view of plagiarism and can remove an offending site from their search results should an infringement claim be justified.
You can also point out that you can prove your website is the originator of the copy by using the Internet Archive (http://web.archive.org/).
These simple procedures should be enough to persuade an offending webmaster to remove your material without the need for legal action which can be a long, drawn out and expensive process.
? 2005 David Walker
David Walker is the Managing Director of Magic Hat Ltd (http://www.magichatltd.co.uk), a company which provides webmasters with a range of brand new sports, gambling and entertainment affiliate programmes to promote.