I Caught Someone Copying My Website. Now What?


You just discovered that a new entrant to your existing market copied your website FAQs, but changed them a little.  Your site has “© ABC Corporation 2009-2014? on the bottom.  What do you do now.

First off, this is probably copyright infringement.  An author or artist gets copyright protections as soon as the work is written or recorded.  Although registration gives some significant benefits, the owner has rights immediately without doing anything.

© is the copyright symbol in a copyright noticeCopyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.

There are three basic approaches a business owner can take to copyright infringement.

  • You can send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice to the website;
  • You can send a “Starbucks” letter; or
  • You can send a “Jack Daniels” letter.

The Starbucks letter and the Jack Daniels letter are both trademark infringement cease and desist letters which identify a trademark that is being used improperly used and ask the infringer to stop.  But the lessons they teach can be applied to copyright infringement, too.

Starbucks received significant ridicule and bad PR for sending the letter in the first place (a customer of a pub website compared a particular beer to a FRAPPUCHINO in the comments), and for its overly lawyerly, stilted, threatening and formulaic language.

Jack Daniels received significant kudos and good PR for using common sense and a “neighborly” writing style to protect its intellectual property.

In determining which approach to take, analyze the infringer and the use of the infringing work.  Is it a new business that was trying to cut corners and copied your FAQs?  If so, a friendly, “welcome to the wonderful world of widgets but please write your own marketing copy” letter might be all you need.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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