Recently, one of the members of the PlanMySite team discovered that the design and content of the company website had been completely stolen by a Web development company based in Dubai (dude.ir). Every part of the site, right down to the services provided and even the smallest of graphics was copied. While we are certainly flattered that another company would find out website to be so great that it would want to duplicate every detail, it also raised a number of concerns. Would people mistake that company for ours? Is that company misrepresenting itself? Will that company take away from our business? Will that company tarnish our company’s name in some way? And, of course, after putting so much time and effort into creating a website for our company and our message, it stung a little to see someone else steal it all.
Out of concern for what we discovered, we decided to contact a few lawyers to find out what we could do about the situation. To our shock and dismay, we learned that there wasn’t too much we could do about it. While we could file a lawsuit and attempt to sue the company, the lawyers we talked to basically said it wouldn’t be worth our while because we likely wouldn’t recover much money. In fact, we might not recover anything at all because we would have to prove all of the following:
- The company have a presence in the United States
- The company is directly advertising in the United States in an attempt to gain clients
- Our copyrights were infringed (and we needed to have our copyrights registered with the U.S. Copyright Office prior to the infringement in order to pursue statutory damages)
- Our business lost money due to the infringement
We also learned that every country has its own laws in regard to copyright laws and how they are applied to websites. While most countries reciprocate the protections that are in place with the user’s home country, these protections are provided under the Berne Convention. Unfortunately, Dubai is not a member of that treaty, so it doesn’t apply to our situation.
In the end, the lawyers we spoke to felt our only real options were to send out a cease and desist letter, which would demand that they change their site so it is not “substantially similar” to ours. We could also contact major search engines to have the site removed from their archived pages so it is not returned with natural search engine searches and we could contact the hosting company to request that the site be blocked. We did send out a request to the hosting company, but we are still waiting to hear back from them.
While our situation is still unresolved, we thought it was worthwhile to share our story with others. Although there appears to be relatively little that can be done when the design and content of a website is stolen, you can protect yourself by ensuring you have filed for all of your copyrights before your site goes live. Also, while you may not be able to sue for damages, contacting the major search engines and the hosting company are both options that are worth pursuing in an effort to get the site taken down. Hopefully, by putting these barricades in the way of achieving search engine traffic, our Dubai competitor will decide it is just better to create an original design rather than stealing it from someone else.