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?
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.