Caughty Doing a McNaughty: Lin Shuideng steals my entire website

When I wrote my post rounding up all of the people who’ve been caught imitating me, or otherwise rippping me off online, I honestly thought that would be the last post I’d write on the subject. Surely there’s a limit to how often one person can be relentlessly copied, I thought, and surely – SURELY – that limit has been well and truly reached in my case?

Apparently not.

This morning the trusty Google Alert I set up a couple of weeks ago for the express purpose of catching people in acts of McNaughtiness threw up this site:


As you can see, the site is called ‘Discount Shoes’. It has nothing to do with me. Oh, other than the fact that I wrote every single one of the almost 500 posts on it. And even appear on it in person multiple times: that’s my little head you can see in the photo there.

This is me too:


This
is TWO of me:


Not even my dog managed to avoid having his image plastered over the ‘Discount Shoes’ website:

Not only have all of these personal photos of me (and many, many more) been used illegally, all of the text on the site was written by me. There are almost 500 posts, and I wrote every single one of them. In fact, there isn’t a single post on ‘Discount Shoes’ that WASN’T written by me. As well as my own photos, some of them contain celebrity images which I paid my image agency for, and which are licensed for my use only: they have also been reproduced illegally. This is quite apart from the fact that, as a professional writer who makes a living out of blogging, I do NOT spend my time writing these posts so that other people can use them for free.

Quite apart from being staggeringly cheeky and very annoying, this does have potential implications for my business, too. As many of you know, Google likes websites to contain only original content, and it can and does impose penalties for duplicate content. Unfortunately those penalties don’t always apply only to the site doing the copying, either, so the fact that there is now a duplicate of around 500 of my posts on another website is cause for concern. It also means that people who search Google for the information I’ve written about have a chance (albeit a slim one) of finding the impostor site rather than mine, thus losing me traffic. (This is the reason I use partial feeds on most of my blogs. I know readers hate me for it, but it does stop content scrapers from doing this kind of thing, as they normally use the RSS feed to steal the content. In this case they’ve obviously gone about it some other way, because Shoeperwoman doesn’t publish full feeds, and these people have still managed to comprehensively rip me off.) To be honest, I’m actually wondering if this is the reason it’s been done: there are no adverts or anything on the copycat site, so there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to the thief, unless it is purely malicious. Someone also suggested on Twitter that the person could be doing it for SEO reasons, if they intend to set up a discount shoe store at some point: I guess that could also be a possibility.

As you can see from the “Shoeperwoman.com” watermarks on the images, they’ve all been taken directly from there. This is why every time someone tells me that all I need to do to prevent this kind of thing happening is to watermark my images, I just laugh and wish it was that simple. Watermarking images doesn’t stop people stealing them, as you can see. Right-click disable doesn’t stop it either (and also has a lot of negative implications for your site in general). Placing copyright and trademark notices on your site (Shoeperwoman.com has both) doesn’t stop it. If people want to rip you off, they will do it, and your only option will be to fight them.

I’m now at the point where I’m absolutely exhausted by this, and sick to my stomach about it. I feel like no sooner do I manage to get rid of one copycat, another one pops up. Both Terry and I are spending more and more of our time now just  fighting people who want to copy me. That’s just ridiculous, not to mention time-consuming and expensive. When I mentioned this latest issue on Twitter, lots of people suggested suing the person responsible, or sending a lawyer’s letter. Having just engaged a lawyer to deal with the last issue we had with copyright/trademarks, I now know exactly how expensive both of these options are, and it is a cost that we  just can’t afford to keep incurring. At the rate this is happening right now, I would be suing people or sending cease and desist letters every single month, and I would be bankrupt by the end of the summer.

To answer the questions that always come up about this:

1. Shoeperwoman.com has copyright and trademark notices on every page of the site – the copyright and trademark symbols also appear in the header. Our experience is that these don’t make the slightest difference to people who want to copy the site.

2. All of the photos taken by me have watermarks on them: you can see some of them in the images above. Again, this doesn’t make any difference whatsoever. Some of the time the image thiefs crop the watermarks out, other times they just blatantly leave them there. I’m now convinced that all watermarking does is take up a few seconds of MY time creating them.

3. Right-click disable doesn’t stop people stealing. It’s almost worse than useless, and can damage your site in other ways.

The one good thing about this is that Terry and I now have so much experience in dealing with this kind of situation that we’re able to swing into action when it happens and have the sites removed, and we’re just about to begin the process with this latest copycat – a process which may be a little more difficult in this case as the person appears to be based in China. The point is, though, that we shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to YET AGAIN be having to divert my time from all of the many, many things I have to do right now, and start fighting someone who is breaking the law. I’m furious that I’m YET AGAIN being put in this position by someone else’s stupidity. I’m also furious that when it comes to theft of intellectual property, justice is something that is only available to the rich. As I said, I can’t afford to sue every single person who tries to rip me off. All I can do is keep on and on fighting them… and keep on and on blogging about it when it happens.

Finally, the domain this latest copycat site is hosted on is registered to one Lin Shuideng. Lin, there’s no way for me to contact you via your website, and you’ve closed comments, so if you happen to read this: you’ve stolen around 500 blog posts and at least 1,000 images that don’t belong to you. My contact details are on this site: I’d love to discuss this with you in person.

32 Comments

  • Panthera says:

    some people are just.. Aargh! I can’t even begin to phantom what goes through these people’s brain, if they have one at all..

    I feel so sorry for you that you have to go through all this, just because you’ve made the brave decision to live off blogging, and be totally open and feature yourself. I hope, hope you won’t be discouraged from blogging, though I have no idea how you manage to deal with this so often, it would have broken me at once, so kudos for being such a strong person.

    At least there are loads more of us that love reading your blog and are your fans than there are people who want to steal from you, and we will support you all the way! I bet if you wanted you could even start an “Amber militia”, commanding a group of your fans to guerilla tactic the evil stealers and take them down through nasty comments and snarky e-mails.. ^^

    “All for Amber! Down with evil stealy bastards!”

    • Amber says:

      Oh, it would never stop me blogging: I have to pay the bills somehow, and I’d rather deal with this kind of thing than go back to working for someone else. It’s just very disheartening, though, to have to keep dealing with the same kind of thing over and over again. And it really makes me angry, because if someone stole my car, say, at least I could phone the police and they would deal with it. But when someone steals your intellectual property, your only real option is to sue them, and that costs a fortune, and can take years: so unfair!

  • Lauren says:

    It’s making me want to rant and rave on your behalf.

    You can submit a trademark/copyright complaint on Google. If you have the time, do it. The next option is to directly contact the hosting provider – the likelihood is that the sort of plagiarism directly conflicts with their own policies, and they have the power to take the site down completely. Thirdly, don’t worry quite as much as your first instinct is re: the duplicated content thing – I have been assured that the first place the content appeared is the most relevant in the eyes of Google, minimising the SEO damage. It may be worth making sure (which you probably are, tbh) that you are set up on Google Webmaster tools with a dynamic sitemap, so that every new post is automatically introduced to Google as soon as possible.

    Can you tell I’ve been there, done that? My work blog, THEBlogAboutCars.com, has been totally duplicated three times so far – a couple of times there were contact details, but once I was in the same situation.

    So sorry this has happened again :(

    *hug*

    p.s. sorry if this is all stuff you already know!

    • Amber says:

      Yeah, I know – we’ve been there, done it too, more times than I care to think about! I don’t think you can hope to make a living on the internet without knowing these things, unfortunately, which is just depressing :( We are properly set up om Webmaster tools – that kind of thing is what Terry does for a living!

      • Lauren says:

        I thought that would be the case, just didn’t know if you have direct site duplication before :) Thought I’d better pop it all down though, just in case anything was of help :(

        • Amber says:

          I don’t think there’s anything we haven’t had happen now, although I probably shouldn’t tempt fate! The site duplication was why I moved to partial feeds a few years ago – the posts were just popping up everywhere, and basically as soon as we got one site removed, another one would pop up and scrape the content. We’ve had a lot less of it in recent years because the full feeds aren’t published (Now I just get occasional angry emails from people complaining that I don’t publish full feeds!), so I was honestly quite surprised that this site has managed to copy me to such an extent. I mean, they obviously know that they’re doing something wrong, and they’re not gaining anything from it, which makes me wonder if it’s malicious in some way :(

        • Terry says:

          Suggestions are always appreciated :)

          Should be able to get rid of this site pretty quickly. If it’s not gone in 24 hours I will be surprised.

  • How can this just KEEP happening to you?! Fingers crossed this is the last (although I do doubt it).

  • Tanvi B says:

    Oh god, I’m really sorry for that! That miserable excuse of a fellow. I’ve just recently started blogging and I’ve come across many people who write about similar situations. It makes me sad that I’m entering another world that has its fair share of idiots.

  • Sandy says:

    Wow! Again??!

    I did try and click the first link and it’s now not available so hopefully you’ve managed to get rid!!

    So who’s getting you the new shoes? Terry or yourself?!? LOL!

  • Moni says:

    Well, if you can’t afford to sue them (Which I don’t really understand, because it’s THEIR fault, so THEY should be made to pay your lawyer. But I guess that’s the usual difference between what’s morally right and what the law says, right? *sigh*), couldn’t you send them an invoice instead? (In the cases in which you have contact details that is.)
    After all they use your copyrighted material, so it’s only right to have them pay properly for using it. That way you either get more money out of your work or make them stop because they can’t afford it.
    But I guess my thinking is too naive…

    Anyway hugs and good thoughts to both of you! I’m truly sorry that you have to go through this again!

    • Amber says:

      Well, you could if you had their contact details (which we don’t in this case), but you couldn’t force them to pay it… you’d have to take legal action to get any money out of them, so we’re back at the whole “can’t afford to sue” thing. It also wouldn’t address the issue of there being duplicates of 500 of my posts on someone else’s website.

      It is really unfair – it shouldn’t be the case that you can only get justice if you’re rich enough to sue people, but that’s the world for you!

  • OMG just OMG this beggars belief.
    Amber, we love you so much and it really saddens us so much that this happens to you. I may have to cheer myself up by buying some shoes via a link on your website sometime soon.

    It is weird though. They must be planning to sell from this site in the future and are testing the water maybe?

    I don’t know the difference between a full feed or a partial feed, but am staggered that anyone complain you only publish partial, isn’t that like knocking on someone’s door and insisting they cut their hedge lower so you can see more of their garden or something.

    I send you heaps of love. xxxx

    • Amber says:

      ” isn’t that like knocking on someone’s door and insisting they cut their hedge lower so you can see more of their garden or something.”

      Lol! To be honest, I do understand that people don’t like partial feeds: I use Google reader myself, and yes, it’s definitely easier to be able to read the post there rather than having to click through to the site. But yeah, I always think it’s a *tiny* bit cheeky of people to complain about having to actually VISIT my site in order to read my (free!) content – especially when it’s phrased in an angry way. Still, I think most people realise that it’s done for a good reason: or I hope so, anyway!

  • Penny says:

    Oh Amber, you poor thing, this is what comes of being a talented blogger like yourself, everyone wants to be you! Big hugs, it will be okay!xx

  • Nina says:

    Oh boy :/ I’m sorry you have to deal with this again. As Napoleon already said: “Il y a une espèce de voleur que les lois ne recherchent pas, et qui dérobe ce que les hommes ont de plus précieux: le temps.” (There’s a kind of thief the law doesn’t pursue, who robs people of the most precious thing they have: time)
    Hugs!

  • myra says:

    Another nightmare – at least you have protective measures set up so you are warned. This is a big risk in the internet world – anyone’s work can be taken easily. It is why I have taken all my photos off Facebook cos their contract now says they own my copyright.

    • Amber says:

      Yes, one of the positive things about all of this is that every time it happens, it leaves us a little more prepared for the next time! And you’re right, it’s always going to be a risk: the only way you can REALLY protect yourself from being copied is by never publishing anything online in the first place!

  • Ophelia says:

    I feel so sorry for you. Riping you of and putting “Copyright © discount shoes, All Rights Reserved. ” at the bottom. Seriously? This drives me mad on your behalf. I relly hope that the site will be down soon let’s say 24 hours and 15 minutes ;) Wish you all the luck in this neverending battles.

    • Amber says:

      I know! I couldn’t believe it when I saw the copyright notice! To steal my work is one thing, but to claim that THEY own the copyright to it is just plain cheeky!

      The hosting company have just contacted us to say they’re dealing with our request to have it removed. The email is in pidgin English, though, so…

  • bonita says:

    ~ * ♥ * ~

    Ohmygoodness! I can’t believe you have to deal with this again! Good luck getting rid of the impostor, Amber. I sincerely hope they go away ASAP!

    xox,
    bonita of Depict This!
    ~ * ♥ * ~

  • maz aka MallyMon says:

    On one of the pages there’s even a message signed by you. Proof that it’s not really their site. At first I did wonder if it was someone who was trying to maliciously inconvenience you as much as possible after reading on your blog about you going away, how busy you were and how much you still had to do. What would inconvenience you more than someone doing something like this? But then you said they were traced to China. It seems to be a very weird site as it doesn’t appear to actually DO anything – and the comments are ‘off’. It’s as if it’s just a dummy site – but of course with lots of postings from your archives. I hope you manage to get it all sorted really soon and are able to go away on holiday with this all behind you. xx

    • Amber says:

      Yes, at this point I’m finding it hard not to think it hasn’t been done purely to be malicious. The other site is, as you say, just a dummy, with no adverts, no comments, no links to any other site which could benefit from it. One thing I did wonder as well… I know that when I used to write here about the funny terms people type into search engines to find this site, I would always see a big increase in those terms, particularly ones including my full name: presumably people were just doing it as a joke, and in that case it was funny, because it was harmless. I wondered if maybe someone who knows how often I’ve been copied thought it might be funny to set up another one, whether as a joke, or even just to annoy me… I know I’m probably reaching here, but I honestly just can’t understand what the motive could be, other than to try to harm my site/cause me stress and hassle.

      One idea Terry came up with was that they could be planning to sell that site, and are just in the process of adding content to it with that in mind. Or I guess they could be intending to put adverts on it at some point in the future: who knows!

      • maz aka MallyMon says:

        Yes, it’s all very strange. Well, you’ve just won one battle (many congratulations!) and I have every confidence that you will do the same with this. It’s just such a shame that you have to waste time and energy on defending yourselves. As before, I’m wishing you all the best with this! :) xx

  • Nikki G says:

    I am so sorry that you have to keep going though this. I just don’t get why people have to keep ripping you off. I guess they just see how awesome your sites are and instead of being inspired to go out and do great things, they just decide to steal them.

  • Amber, all Ican suggest is keep flogging your content and yor SEOs until this carryon goes away.

    I am here for you x

  • Jennie says:

    Sorry for saying on Twitter what I realise, after reading this, you must be sick to death of hearing by now..

    I don’t know what the answer is. I will keep asking all the geeks of my acquaintance to think about this and see if they can come up with some kind of workable solution because this is the sort of problem which is going to happen to more and more people, more and more often.

    Meanwhile if there’s anything non-geeks can do to help, tweet. We can bombard sites that do allow interaction (eg the hyphenated Shoeperwoman) with protests, for example.

  • Anna says:

    I can’t believe someone else has ripped you off! This just sucks so much that you have to keep going through this. :(

  • Gingerama says:

    Amber–the gits!!!–If it’s any consolation, those URLs now open a “Site Temporarily Unavailable” page. Looks like good has triumphed over evil on this one?
    Also: had you thought of going into consultancy, helping out other people who find themselves in this horrid situation? Maybe in cooperation with a lawyer? (Might also be one way to get those letters for free/less…)
    Good luck and keep up the good fight–and the Amber fabulosity!

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