Thou shalt not steal

Illustration by Roman Sotola

Illustration by Roman Sotola.

 

On January 8, I discovered that usdriving.net, a website that also offers free practice tests for your driver’s license exam, was using material from https://driversprep.com.

It actually turned out that a major part of the content on this website was collected from our site under a long period of time. It included exact copies of questions, answers, and images. Many of these images are created with exclusive rights for driversprep.com. From my investigation, usdriving.net had little, or no, original content on their site.

We immediately informed the website owner and later sent a Cease and Desist Letter. When the owner did not respond we continued with a Notice of Infringement, a.k.a. Take-Down Notice, to the webhosting company in Singapore.

For anyone in the same situation I strongly recommend reading the following blog post on lorelle.wordpress.com: What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content. As the title suggests, it is not a question of IF your content will be stolen, it is a question of WHEN.

With services like tumblr.com, pinterest.com, facebook.com and other sites, your intellectual property can spread to numerous web pages in a very short time, and unless this is what you want, you really need to prepare for that situation.

If you are a professional photographer or writer, I strongly urge you to consider what you would do when your material is used by somebody who may profit from your work.

Driversprep.com has always had a copyright notice at the bottom of each page. This is not necessary to protect your rights, but it is informative and somewhat strengthens your protection in case of a suit.

An explanation of this copyright has also always been offered on our “About” page. After this infringement, we decide to also update and strengthen the wording in our terms and conditions.

The content of driversprep.com is basically stored in a local database. Since the site started in 2007, this content has been under version control.

Initially CVS was used as the version control tool. In the last two years we have used git. Both give you a way to control changes over time. There are several other tools like CVS and git available.

Having our database under version control means that we can recreate the contents of our site from any point in time.

If you have a similar site, and do not use version control, I think it is a good idea to learn a bit about this.

I addition, I suggest that every web site owner take regular snapshots of his or her web site and make sure the snapshots have a correct date stamp. Save these over time.

In copyright suits, it is usually about which side and set of evidence the judge or jury accepts or believes more. Meaning, the better you can document your case, the better chance of winning.

I do NOT recommend using DMCA.com.

In fact, this site makes me think more of a huge scam. After signing up as a Pro member, I found that this site offers extremely little features or help. I mean, there is no need to pay for letter templates that are actually better elsewhere (see lorelle.wordpress.com).

Their offer to scan your website did not work at all for driversprep.com. When we filed a support case it was stored as a “Take down Case” and not answered.

After a third support case, a refund request, and two days waiting, I still have not got an answer from these people. In fact, I cannot remember that I have ever seen such poor support.

Above all, I seriously doubt that DMCA.com will be able to help if you have some real problem with a violating website.

My two cents? Follow the advice on lorelle.wordpress.com and you will be much better off!

In cases of large amounts of phrases based on facts, like in our case, and when the violating website claims both ownership and rights, I suggest legal counseling.

Facts and ideas cannot be copyrighted, but how they are expressed, used and structured can. With good documentation, you have a very good case.

On January 11, usdriving.net removed the material.

If you want more reading on copyright, I can recommend this article: 10 Big Myths about copyright explained

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s