5 Ways to Stop Someone from Stealing Your Website Content
Guest Post by Billy Pinilis, Partner, PinilisHalpern, LLP
These days, “cut and paste” is an all-too-easy command that more and more people are using to take others’ content and pass it off as their own online.
I currently represent a New Jersey-based lawyer named Thomas Blauvelt, who discovered his website content had been plagiarized by a competitor. Everything, from biographical information to a photograph of my client had been copied, resulting in decreased visibility on Google and subsequently fewer clients.
If you have an internet presence, it’s increasingly important to protect yourself. Here are some simple steps to help safeguard your intellectual property:
1. Register with the DMCA
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) created a service that specializes in fast copyright infringement takedowns. You can use its website plugin and display a badge to deter would-be plagiarizers. Get the badge here: http://www.dmca.com/ProtectionPro.aspx#DMCAbadges
2. Use the Plagiarisma search tool
Plagiarisma is a quick and proactive way to check whether your original content has been used elsewhere on the web.
3. Track down your content thief with Whois
If you have discovered duplicate content on another site use Whois.net to find the registered owner’s contact details. If a direct ‘cease and desist’ email is ineffectual, you can also find the site’s hosting company, which has the power to remove the user.
4. File a copyright infringement complaint with Google
Google is a great steward of copyright protection. Contact Google and file a copyright or trademark violation, and they can take the necessary steps to remove the misused content/website from their results. Here’s where to report your copyright issue: https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/2853570?hl=en
5. Hire an experienced consumer protection lawyer
These cases can often be complex and sometimes hard to prove ownership, but a law firm experienced in these types of suits, like PinilisHalpern, can help you resolve the matter and prove that true damages have been incurred. Below are excerpts from a report on Law.com law.com regarding the aforementioned case and my role in helping my client recover the damages they have incurred due to copyright infringement.
Two New Jersey law firms have been named in a suit in federal court in Newark, N.J., accusing them of lifting content from the website of another firm and posting it on their own sites.
Thomas Blauvelt, a solo practitioner in Old Bridge, claims in the suit that content from his website turned up on the sites of Prince & Portnoi and Tobin, Kessler, Greenstein, Caruso, Wiener & Conray, both of Clark. The items copied included computer code, editorial content and the name, biographical information and photo of Blauvelt himself, the suit alleges.
The copied material was taken down when the act was brought to the defendants’ attention, according to the suit, but the plaintiff claims the damage done by the defendants’ actions will take longer to repair.
Blauvelt is a municipal court practitioner who relies on his website to bring in clients, but he has seen a decline in the number of contacts from new clients, and he attributes that to the defendants’ actions, said his attorney in the case, William Pinilis of PinilisHalpern in Morristown.
Thanks to the inner workings of Google and other search engines, Blauvelt’s firm comes up lower in search results as a result of the defendants’ actions, said Pinilis.
A would-be client seeking a lawyer online is less likely to see Blauvelt’s firm because Google’s algorithms rank newer versions of the same content higher than older versions, according to Pinilis.
“What they did was they took from the advantage he had gained from lots of hard work and lots of time and lots of money creating this online resource,” said Pinilis.
Blauvelt brought claims of conversion, misappropriation of likeness, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage and identity theft against the two firms and the principals of Prince & Portnoi, Andrew Prince and Mitchell Portnoi. Prince & Portnoi is now defunct, with Prince joining Tobin Kessler and Portnoi establishing his own firm in Clark.
Blauvelt filed the suit in Middlesex County Superior Court on March 21 and filed an amended complaint June 5, adding a count for copyright infringement. The lawyer for Prince, Portnoi and their former firm, Gregg Paradise of Lerner, David, Littenberg, Krumholz & Mentlik of Westfield, removed it to federal court on June 24.
Pinilis said when Prince joined Tobin Kessler, some of the same information from Blauvelt’s website that turned up on the Prince & Portnoi site also appeared on Tobin Kessler’s site. Pinilis said he’s not sure if the defendants acted intentionally or negligently but he hoped to get to the bottom of what happened.
Paradise, the lawyer for Prince, Portnoi and their former firm, said an employee of a website consultant took the items from Blauvelt’s site and put them on the Prince & Portnoi site. Paradise said his clients knew nothing of any improper use of content from Blauvelt’s site until it was brought to their attention, and the content in question was taken down as soon as they learned what happened.