Imitation isn’t always flattery

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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to someone copying your website, content, etc., that’s a different matter altogether.

One of my clients contacted me recently to ask for advice.

They had found out that one of their competitors had launched their new website.

On closer inspection it transpired that the vast majority of the site’s text was an exact copy of my client’s site, albeit with perhaps a small tweak here and there. In other words, it had been plagiarised.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen this kind of thing happen. Indeed, a competitor of mine launched their own new website, complete with a Terms & Conditions page that was practically word for word the same as mine.

Much time, effort and research had gone into putting these terms together and it was frustrating to see someone so blatantly disregard the copyright notice on my website.

So, what do you if you find yourself in a similar position?

Well, it’s important to point out that plagiarism can come in different forms.

For example, those new to the process may not actually realise that copying someone else’s work and not providing at least an attribution to the original content is a big no-no.

At the other end of the spectrum there are those who will not bat an eyelid at taking someone else’s work and using it as their own.

Therefore, handling the situation should be done with some care.

Before doing anything else, be sure to gather evidence of the plagiarism in case you should need it later. This can be done by taking screen grabs of the offending pages and content. Now you’re ready to start taking some action.

Drop the company that developed the offending website a polite email pointing out what you’ve found and ask for their feedback. A lot of the time, they will be supplied with copy for the site by the client and may be unaware of what’s happened.

If they value their reputation, they will not want their name associated with any form of plagiarism. However, if they don’t want to play ball, it’s time to contact the site owners.

Again, a polite email can be the way to go. If you get no joy you could perhaps go more public. If the website allows comments, a posting asking why content is being plagiarised could get a reaction.

Alternatively, you could turn to social media.

You can also contact the company hosting the offending website with details of the copyright infringement, requesting that the site be taken down until the issue is rectified.

Before embarking on any action: always give a reasonable deadline for action to be taken by each party you contact. Move on to your next step only once that deadline has passed. Also, be absolutely sure that you have a legitimate case to argue, especially if you make things public; the last thing you want to be accused of is libel.