Archive of ‘Caughty Doing a McNaughty’ category
So, it’s been a long time since someone ripped off my brand, copied my posts, tried to trademark my blog name, impersonated me online, or simply decided to set up a blog and not bother coming up with their own ideas for content and regular features when it’s so much easier to just copy mine instead.
(The full list of all of the times I’ve been copied online can be found here, for the benefit of anyone just joining us. I warn you, though: it’s a long ‘un.)
Well, actually, no, it hasn’t been a long time at all. All of those things have been continuing to happen (right down to yet another person deciding that hey, wouldn’t it be a great idea to start a shoe blog and call it “Shoeperwoman”?) with roughly the same frequency they always have: I just got sick of writing about them all, and I’m pretty sure you would’ve gotten sick of reading about them too, if I’d taken it upon myself to record every last incident. In fact, maybe you’re sick of hearing about this already, in which case, this post isn’t for you, sorry.
Lately, though, I’ve come across a new development in the world of Ripping Amber Off Online, and it’s a fairly worrying one, too, so without further ado, let me show you this screenshot from a website I was alerted to by a Facebook friend this summer:
It’s been a while since I last caught(y) someone doing “a McNaughty”, so for the benefit of those just joining us, hi, I’m Amber and I’m the most-imitated woman on the Internet! You can find a full list of all the people who have impersonated or ripped me off here: read it and weep, folks! (God knows, I sometimes do.)
Anyway, as I was saying, it’s been a long time since I last wrote about my copycats, so you’ve probably been thinking, “Gosh, people must have finally given up on relentlessly copying Amber: that’s nice!” Or, I mean, you probably HAVEN’T been thinking that at all, but if you had, you’d be wrong: people have, indeed, been continuing to steal my images and text (mostly on eBay), it’s just that it happens so often that it’s not really worth mentioning most of the time. Until now, that is.
Sunday night, as you probably all know, was Oscars night, a.k.a The Worst Night of Amber’s Year. Because I have a website about fashion, I am obliged to write about the Oscars red carpet, and because I’m not a filthy rotten image thief, I buy all of the images I require to do this from an image agency. With money. Money that I work for, and which I can’t spend on shoes and green dresses once I’ve spent it on image licences for my website. Boo hoo, woe is me!
On Oscar night, however, my image agency messed up. I sat up late, waiting for the images to come in, and, when they didn’t, I set my alarm and got up early the next morning. And the images still weren’t available. So I freaked out, and then Gemma told me I could get (legal) images from the PR Section of the Academy Awards website, so I did that, then my own agency coughed up the goods too, and I spent basically the entire day editing photos and writing text to accompany them.
Then I got up the next morning and discovered that some other website had just stolen all the posts and republished them, so all of those hours of work, all of those images, and all of the money I had spent purchasing them, had not, as I had imagined, been done to benefit my own business and website, but had been done to benefit someone ELSE’S.
Which was… yeah.
It’s OK, though: I mean, they didn’t actually COPY me. Oh no. I mean, compare this, from my site:
With this, from the plagiarist, I mean “person who just happened to write exactly the same thing, but in Pidgin English, because that totally makes it OK”:
Occasional actress. My Few Days With Marilyn. Your woman. The night-time.
Let’s just admit it: this is funnier than what I wrote, isn’t it? Only I don’t think that was the intention somehow.
Oh yah, totally: thus boom about trend! I SO know what you mean! Except, not really. I don’t think ANYONE would know what this meant, if it weren’t for my helpful translation above, which has obviously been run through some kind of software designed to replace certain words with other ones.
(In other news, I think my next tagline will be “One ruffle lacking any seventies bedspread.” Catchy, no? Orange can make it!)
There’s even more, too: this company has copied lots of my posts – I actually don’t know the full extent of it yet, because I had to stop counting in order to come here and take the crap out of them – and posts from other bloggers, too. My guess is that they think the fact that they’re re-writing the text makes it OK, so here is a newsflash for them, and for anyone else thinking, “You know what: I’d like to make money from blogging, but I can’t be assed doing any work or investing any money in it, so I think what I’ll do is, I’ll let AMBER do the work and spend the money, and then I’ll just steal it!”:
NEWSFLASH: RE-WRITING MY CONTENT IN THE MANNER OF AN (ADMITTEDLY HILARIOUS) NON-ENGLISH SPEAKER DOES NOT MAKE IT OK TO COPY ME. Or anyone else, for that matter.
This is plagiarism, pure and simple. I’ve done the work, now this company is profiting from it. (And I found the copycat site because I was Googling for info on Oscars fashion, and it came up in the search results before mine. So this site is stealing my work AND my traffic, just in case you were thinking this kind of thing doesn’t matter, or that it’s an essentially victimless crime.)
I’m not really concerned about the images on this particular post, because they’re ones I got from the Oscars’ press section, and anyone who is registered there would have access to them. They’ve also stolen images which I paid my agency for, though, and that REALLY rankles with me – as it does when any blogger takes images I’ve paid for – because images aren’t cheap, and I hate feeling like I’m paying for something just so other bloggers can use it for free. I’m willing to pay for my OWN images, but I don’t see why I should pay for yours too.
(Incidentally, this is another reason why it’s not nice to steal images. Someone had to pay for them. They didn’t pay for them FOR YOU. And some photographer DIDN’T get paid for your use of them. Not cool.)
We will probably be able to get Google to remove our content from this site (we always have before), once we’ve worked out exactly how much of it they’ve used. I’m not going to link to them because I don’t want to send them the traffic, but if you’re thinking it might be called “Fashion Trends for 2012″, then you are thinking right: please don’t reward it with clicks! And if you wrote any coverage of The Oscars this week, or celebrity fashion in general, there’s a good chance your re-written content is on it too.
I leave you with one of my favourite automatic re-writes of my text:
I said I liked Flower Byrne’s “bob”. They said they liked her “frank”. And I said her dress was black, but what was I thinking? That dress is AFRICAN AMERICAN, people. I hang my head in shame.
(Is it wrong that I want to ask them which program they’re using to do this? I’m thinking my blog would be MUCH funnier if I ran my posts through it too…)
I have no news about Albert Martino, he of Hot Igloo Internet Markeing/NEPA Web Design/TheTHINKHouse.com/Astorian Stigmata. I thought I’d just post a quick update anyway, because we’ve had such a lot of support from you guys, and I know some of you have been wondering where things stand at the moment: I’ll try to get back to my usual talk about … whatever it is I usually talk about … next week, but for now this is really taking up all of my headspace, so I hope you’ll forgive another update, even although there isn’t really much to update you about.
So far Albert Martino has ignored:
- Facebook messages
- Twitter messages
He’s also blocked the entire world, with the exception of the United States, from viewing his Facebook page. (I’m not sure what this was supposed to achieve, by the way, because he’d already blocked everyone from commenting on the page, and it’s not like we don’t have any friends or clients in America who can tell us what he posts on it, anyway.) I would imagine his next step will be to take his Twitter account private, which would be another odd move for a business, especially one “specialising” in search engine optimisation and social media management. It’s pretty hard to do business with your head in the sand, your phone on silent and the whole world blocked from viewing your websites, but these are the lengths Albert Martino is prepared to go to to avoid speaking to me. I had no idea I was so frightening!
Actually, just on the subject of Albert Martino and his social media management, I had to laugh when I read this paragraph on his website:
“SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT:
The way you present your brand is critical to the success of your business. Often times, we see many mismanaged social media accounts that actually have a detrimental effect on businesses. Dont [sic] be one of the profiles that gets ignored! “
(Bolding mine, punctuation Albert’s.)
The man speaks from experience, obviously. We can only hope that he wouldn’t mismanage his clients’ social media accounts in the same way he has mismanaged his own, although given that this is someone who thinks it’s OK to rip off someone else’s brand, I have my doubts. He is right about one thing, though: the way you present your brand IS critical to the success of your business. This is why we’re so worried about the fact that Albert is doing “business” under OUR name: it is OUR brand he will ruin with his complete lack of professionalism and ethics. This is someone, after all, who states on one of his public profiles that his hobbies are “smoking dope and loading guns”. You can see why we wouldn’t want our brand to be associated with this person.
I’ve always believed that,while anyone can make a mistake, it’s what you do about it that matters. That’s why, every time something like this has happened to us, we’ve made every possible attempt to speak to the person privately, and give them the opportunity to explain themselves, and put it right, before taking the issue further. I’m not naive enough to think that I’m the only person in the world capable of coming up with a particular business name, and I’m not cruel enough to call someone out in public without first of all giving them ample opportunity to talk to me about what they’ve done and why. If the person who is using my name, or my images, or my text, or whatever, genuinely believes that they have done nothing wrong, and that they they have every right to be doing what they’re doing, then they should have absolutely no problem with speaking to me about it. In fact, they should WANT to speak to me about it, so they can explain to me why I’m wrong to be upset about it, and why they believe they have every right to keep on doing it.
What do you do, though, when someone appropriates your brand, uses your name in public, refuses to answer your emails or phone calls, deletes your posts (and everyone else’s) from their wall, and, finally, blocks almost the entire world from their page in order to try and hide from you? That’s what Albert Martino of Hot Igloo Internet Marketing – also trading as TheTHINKHouse.com and NEPA Web Designers – has done to us. And really, I guess Albert Martino HAS answered us, in a way. He hasn’t spoken to us directly – not even once – but his actions speak louder than words, and what his actions say is, “Screw you. I don’t care about your business, I don’t care that I’m ripping you off, and potentially damaging your livelihood: I’m going to just keep on doing it, and I’m also going to HIDE so you can’t catch me.” And that makes Albert seem malicious, as opposed to simply misguided.
Honestly, I think it’s important that anyone considering doing business with Albert Martino knows that this is the kind of man he is: not just a thief, who is desperately trying to profit from someone else’s hard work and established brand, but also a coward, who is so frightened of speaking to one woman, that he will go so far as to block most of the world from his site. Clearly Albert Martino Martino is not a professional, and if this is how he does business, then he doesn’t have much of a chance of success, regardless of what I have to say about it. Unfortunately for us, though, Albert may be an amateur, but he is an amateur who is passing himself off as being associated with my brand, and anything he says of does under the name of “Hot Igloo” has the opportunity to reflect badly on us, because he is using our name.
(He’s also a so-called Search Engine Optimzation specialist who has apparently failed to realise that ignoring my attempts to contact him privately just forces me to address him publicly instead, and that these posts will appear on Google any time someone searches for him or his business name. )
At this point, I have to admit that I’m rapidly running out of patience with the people who persist in copying me and my various brands. As I said in the comments section of my last post, in the past three months alone, I’ve had two brands duplicated by competitors, I’ve had large chunks of my sites plagiarised by multiple websites, I’ve had someone set up a Facebook page impersonating me (and using my business logo and personal photo to do so), I’ve had someone steal my intellectual property and try to extort money from me in order to make them stop, I’ve had someone cyber-squat on domains associated with my business, and I’ve had numerous other people steal photos of me for various reasons.
I think that if you don’t make a living online, or if you’ve never been in this, admittedly bizarre, position, it’s probably quite difficult to understand why any of this matters. But it DOES matter. There IS a cost to all of this, and while I know I will always have my critics, who want to insist that I’m the bad guy for not just allowing these people to profit from my name and work (I was told in the comments section of my last post that it would be terrible if people lost jobs because I won’t allow Albert Martino to use my brand: perhaps I should just send Albert my client list too?), I hope that most reasonable people will be able to see that I cannot just sit back and allow people to constantly do this to me. If I allowed lots of people to set up shoe blogs called “Shoeperwoman”, for instance, my OWN blog called Shoeperwoman would suffer because of that. And if we allow lots of people to set up website design firms called “Hot Igloo”, then OUR website design firm called Hot Igloo will no longer be able to distinguish itself from all of these other sites, with their identical names, and it will struggle too. (And just to quickly address another misapprehension: yes, we DO have clients in the United States. We are an online business, and actually, the majority of our clients are NOT based in the same town as us: they are all over the world. This is why it’s called the world wide web.)
Lately, though, I feel that this is the way the Internet is going. It is no longer a place where creativity is valued, where people try to stand out from the crowd, and where unique content is created. Instead, it has become a place where everyone just copies everyone else, and everything is the same. All of those Tumblr sites, with their endless reblogs of images which are being published without credit; all of the content scrapers; all of the sites which encourage users to upload images and content from OTHER sites, and not to worry about asking permission or giving credit. This is the internet now? How utterly depressing.
This has become a much longer diatribe than I intended. You know, you aim for “short rant”, you end up with “tl;dr”. What’s a blogger to do? And what do we do about Albert Martino?
Well, luckily – or not-so-luckily, really – Terry and I have just gone through exactly the same issue with the person who copied our “Shoeperwoman” brand, and because of that, we know exactly which options are open to us, and what we need to do to make sure that Albert Martino is prevented from using our brand. If Albert had had the courtesy to get in touch with us, or to respond to any one of our many attempts to contact him, we would’ve been happy to have shared with him what our next steps are, and he could perhaps have prevented us from taking those steps, but as it is, we’re going to let him find out the hard way. I’m sure he thinks our current silence is a sign that we’ve given up, but he take it from me: we haven’t, and we won’t.
Thanks again for everyone’s support on this: it has been the one bright spot in the past couple of weeks.
Hi, I’m Amber. I’m one of the directors of Hot Igloo Productions Ltd: we’re an internet marketing and web design business, which was incorporated in 2004 and has been trading ever since. I’m basically a silent parter (or I have been until now) so you probably won’t recognise my name, but my husband/business partner, Terry Miaoulis, has been in touch with you via email and on Facebook, so you may well know his.
Even if you don’t recognise our names, though, I’m sure you’ll recognise the name of our business: Hot Igloo. Sound familiar at all? It should do, because you launched your own rival business two months ago, using exactly the same name. You’re called Hot Igloo? So are we! You offer web design and SEO services? So do we! Here’s our logo:
And here’s yours:
Do you see the problem here? You’ve essentially duplicated our brand. Two businesses, both using exactly the same name, both using igloos as their logo, both trading in exactly the same industry, and targeting exactly the same customers? That’s going to get confusing for people, don’t you think? You may well argue that you’re based in America, while we’re in the UK, but let’s get real: we’re both running Internet-based businesses and trading online. And now we’re doing it using the same brand.
Albert, you claim to be an Internet marketing and Search Engine Optimization specialist. I assume that means you’re familiar with Google? The search engine? You can type a business name into it, and it will magically provide you with a list of any other businesses using that name? You know it? Good. As a SEO expert who is familiar with the workings of the Internet, then, I’m sure you ran a quick Google search when you were choosing your business name this June. (Did I mention we registered ours in 2004, a full seven years before you?) And when you did, I’m sure you noticed that the very first result for “Hot Igloo” was our company. Our website design and SEO company.
What did you think when you saw that, Albert? Did you think, “Oh, drat! There already IS a web design company called Hot Igloo! What a coincidence! I better come up with another name, instead, one that is truly my own!” Or did you just think, “Whatever, I’m just going to use the name anyway, who cares if there’s another company which has been using that name in the same sector as me, for the past seven years?” Because, from where I’m standing, the latter option seems to be the one you went with.
Albert, this message is currently displayed in giant letters on your homepage:
”We take great pride in delivering fresh and original internet marketing solutions.”
If you GENUINELY take pride in being fresh and original - in fact, if you have any kind of professional pride AT ALL – please reconsider your choice of business name. Please try to put yourself in our position, and imagine how you would feel if, seven years down the line, another website design firm started up using YOUR name. Please, do the right thing. And if you’re not prepared to do the right thing, please at least have the decency to speak to us about this: we are not unreasonable people, but your actions are threatening our business and livelihood, and we have to take that seriously.
Albert, you have completely ignored all of the messages we’ve sent you, including the one Terry left on your Facebook page, so you don’t seem to want to talk to us.
Our message on Albert Martino’s Facebook page: ignored
You also deleted the follow-up message Terry posted on Saturday:
Finally, you blocked our Hot Igloo ID from commenting on your page.
Albert, up until yesterday, we were trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that you perhaps hadn’t received any of our messages. But your recent actions tells us that you HAVE received our messages, and are wilfully ignoring/deleting them. This is very disappointing, because we would have much preferred to have tried to resolve this amicably, than to call you out in public. Your refusal to talk to us, however, leaves us with little option but to make this issue public, as we need to make sure that our own clients, and prospective clients, are aware of the fact that there are now two “Hot Igloo web design” companies out there, so they’re not confused. We’re particularly concerned that people might think that any statements YOU make online using our business name have come from US. Our business is seven years old, after all: there are a lot of people out there who will see the name “Hot Igloo” and assume that it is us. This works the other way too, of course: if you really are a professional businessman, I’m sure you will not want your clients being confused in this way either.
In closing, I’d just like to say that you are not the first person to try to copy us, and I don’t expect you’ll be the last. Back in May, in fact, someone copied our shoe blog, Shoeperwoman, in much the same way that you have copied the Hot Igloo brand. We took legal action which resulted in the domain being transferred to us and the site shut down: prior to this, the copycat site was deleted by three separate web hosts (all of whom agreed that it was engaged in something lawyers call “passing off”), and its Twitter and Facebook accounts were closed down by the respective social networks. There is absolutely no difference between what you are doing to us, and what that other “Shoeper-Woman” site tried to do, and we would ask you to please consider what you will do to your reputation by continuing to use someone else’s brand in this way.
Please get in touch to discuss this: you have our details. (If you don’t, feel free to Google “Hot Igloo”. It’s the first result.)
Amber & Terry
Hot Igloo Productions Ltd.
P.S. You’ve been Caughty Doing a McNaughty: welcome to the club!
UPDATE: Monday, August 22nd:
Albert Martino has now deleted all of the comments from his Facebook wall and blocked us from commenting, before changing his page settings to block the entire
UK. world except America. He is obviously prepared to go to great lengths to avoid having to speak to us, which is a shame, because if Albert genuinely believes that he hasn’t done anything wrong, then he should have no reason to fear speaking to us. And if he has nothing to hide, then there should be no reason to block most of the world from his page.
Note to Forever Amber readers: I’m really sorry to once again be publishing something like this here, and I had really hoped I would’t have to write this. Obviously we would have preferred to have been able to resolve this issue privately and amicably but Albert Martino has ignored our emails, deleted our messages from his Facebook page, and blocked us from commenting altogether. I’ve written this post, because although Albert can stop me commenting on his Facebook, he can’t prevent me from talking about this issue elsewhere on the Internet, and he can’t prevent YOU from talking about it either. To be blunt: we will go out of business if people continue to copy us like this – we just cannot hope to continue if all of our time and money is being spent trying to prevent people like Albert Martino from duplicating our brand. As always, we’re grateful for any support our readers can give us.
(Note: If you’re a new reader, you may want to read this post first, for some context…)
Just last week, I was sitting at my computer, quietly working away, when I thought to myself, “You know, it’s been a long time since someone tried to rip me off on the Internet: maybe the copycats have finally found someone else to bother?”
Famous last words. Within twenty four hours of me publishing “Teddies on the Freeway” – I got a trackback from this site:
At first glance, I wasn’t too perturbed. It looked like one of the many, many content-scraping sites which use your RSS feed to republish the first few lines of your post, normally with a “read more” link that links back to the original site. There are hundreds of those sites out there, and they’re not TOO much of an issue for us (Although, thanks to Google’s recent Panda update, some of them are becoming more of a problem), so I was prepared to let it go.
Then I scrolled down the page:
Ah. That would be my photo. And more of my text. And, in fact, the entire post: all 1,500 words of it.
It’s also my bear, of course, which means that not only do these people steal photos of ME, now they’re stealing photos of TED, too! And let me tell you, Ted is NOT a bear who takes that kind of thing lightly. And nor am I, for that matter. In fact, I was pretty damn furious, to be honest, because not only had this site blatantly ripped off my content and photos, they were also using it commercially: the entire post was surrounded by Google Adsense adverts, allowing the copycats to profit from a post I’M not even making money from myself. So, basically, I’d spent part of my Saturday morning working for someone else, without even knowing I was doing it, and without earning a single penny for it. And you know, I’m not for a second suggesting that it was the greatest post ever written, but if it’s going to be making money for someone, I think that someone should be ME, the actual author, as opposed to the owner of some random website, who thinks he/she has the right to use other people’s work for free.
What amazes me most about all of this isn’t the fact that this site stole my post: sadly, that’s become all too common these days. No, what amazes me most is how BLATANT they were about it. I discovered the theft because I got a trackback from the copycat’s site, and the reason I got that trackback was because they’d actually linked back to me. Twice.
I’m assuming that by linking back in this way, the content thief assumed it was OK to reproduce a 1,500 word post in its entirety. I’m assuming this because I’ve seen it happen so many times now: I’ve even had people who’ve stolen content from me react with total astonishment when I’ve asked them to remove it, and say, “But I linked back to you!” Yes, you did. Thank you. But that doesn’t change the fact that you took something that belongs to me and used it without my permission. And that’s wrong. I don’t spend hours writing posts and taking photos just so YOU can get a bit of extra traffic to your site. I do not pay an image agency for photographs so that YOU can use them for free. I am not working for you. And of course, we’d ALL like to be able to have content for our sites every day that we didn’t have to create ourselves, or pay someone else for. The fact is, though, that SOMEONE is paying for that content. SOMEONE is having to go to the time and effort of creating it. And that person should be the one who gets to decide how and where it gets used.
But back to the teddy bears.
Unusually for a content scraping site, comments were open on the post, so, as there was no other way to contact the site owner, I left a comment pointing out that I was the author of the post and that it was being used without permission. My comment never did make it out of moderation, but it must have gotten through to someone, because by the time we came home on Saturday night, the whole site was down: it came back up on Sunday, but minus my post. I didn’t get any kind of explanation or apology from the site owner, but then again, I didn’t expect to.
Having successfully rid the internet of one more copycat, however, my work was not done, because when we got home from our day out on Sunday, I found an email from someone drawing my attention to this eBay auction:
Regular readers may recognise the photo of yours truly from this post. Even if you didn’t recognise it, you’d have known it was me, on account of the “ForeverAmber.co.uk” watermark which the seller hadn’t bothered to remove from the photo. In the gallery underneath it, there were two more photos of me, both also watermarked. Of course, I’m pretty used to finding photos of my feet, lips and eyes being used to sell things on eBay, but this was the the first time someone had used a photo of my ENTIRE BODY, so it was a landmark moment. (The person who found it was a photographer, who’d noticed the watermarks on the images, realised the images were stolen, and very kindly let me know about it, commenting that he hates it when people use his photos without permission, and he figured I might feel the same. How right he was!)
I emailed the seller through the “Ask Seller a Question” link, and, once again pointed out that hey, those are my images, and I didn’t take them in order to help you sell boots on eBay! (Also: it’s misleading to use a photo like this, because it means that the item pictured isn’t the item being sold. I know when I buy things on eBay, I like to see a photo of the thing I’m actually bidding on, not a photo of some random blogger prancing around a beach.) She said she “didn’t realise” the photos belonged to someone (Was the fact that they’re photos OF SOMEONE not enough of a clue, then? Did the watermarks not give her even a tiny bit of a hint?) and that she would remove them because “they were never going to affect wether [sic] I sell the goods or not.”
Just another weekend in the life of the most copied woman on the Internet…
This arrived in the mail today.
Bring it on, all you McNaughties out there…
(P.S. This makes me officially a superhero now. Anyone know where to get good capes these days?)
Yes, it’s another post about people who copy my websites. Sorry, I’d be bored hearing about this by now too, but it really has become the over-riding theme of our lives at the moment, and it makes me so angry I just have to keep on venting. Feel free to scroll on by…
So, remember in my last post, when I said I was particularly angry because although we’d successfully managed to get one host to remove Lin Shuideng’s copy-cat websites, there were no other consequences for this person, who would be free to just start up again with another host?
That’s exactly what happened.
Last night, the website I wrote about last week was reactivated, this time with 600 of my posts copied in their entirety.
And so we begin again. Another Friday, another day spent filing DCMA notices and trying to persuade yet another host to stop the same person, doing the same damn thing. And I know we’ll be successful. The host will remove the site. And then next week? Next week we’ll get to start all over again, with yet another host. As this point I feel like we’re going to spend the rest of our days chasing Lin Shuideng around the internet, and I honestly can’t tell you how dispiriting that is.
On the plus side, I guess we’ll end up with a very streamlined process of filing paperwork and having these sites removed. It still just seems wrong to me, though, that I’ll have to file the same notice, against the same person, over and over and over again, when really, someone like Lin Shuideng should be prevented from registering another domain or buying new hosting space ever again. I know that’s not practical. I don’t have any solution to it. I just know that thanks to Google’s awesome work with their algorithm, before they were removed last week, the copycat sites were ranking higher than Shoeperwoman.com for the articles they’d stolen, which means that I was losing traffic to someone who had just blatantly stolen from me. And the more duplicates there are of my work online (bear in mind that Lin had set up two websites, both containing hundreds of my posts, within the space of a couple of days), the harder it will be for my sites to survive. This is why I can’t just shrug my shoulders and ignore this. It won’t just go away: in fact, it will just get worse.
I also know that “Lin Shuideng” (I still don’t know if that’s a real name, by the way. I assume it isn’t, so I’m just using it as shorthand for “The Mysterious Stranger Who is Hellbent on Destroying My Sanity”) isn’t just stealing work from me. Last week, Terry did a bit of digging, and discovered some other shoe blogs which had been targetted by this person, and which now have illegal duplicates of large numbers of their posts online. Of course, we contacted the bloggers in question to let them know about it, but we notice that the copy sites are still going strong, so obviously they haven’t yet been successful in having them removed either.
Oh, and Terry’s detective work yesterday also turned up ANOTHER site, which has also copied lots of my posts, and this one actually has the cheek to have added the line “What do U think, xoxo Shoeperwoman” to each one. I mean, AS IF I would abuse the letter “U” in that way! And honestly: why would you steal someone’s work and then go out of your way to add the name of the site you’d stolen it from to every single one of the posts? WHY?
We’ve contacted the respective hosts of both of the new copycat sites.
We’re yet to receive a response from either of them.
And so it begins again.
I hope Lin Shuideng and everyone else like him/her is haunted by THAT OLD WOMAN from Insidious until the end of their days. Now THAT would be justice.
UPDATE: The new host removed Lin Shiudeng’s site on Friday night, in response to our DMCA notice. It was back up on Saturday morning, this time containing content stolen from various wedding websites (some of which, admittedly, appear to be free article sites, which would be legal to reproduce). Lin doesn’t really take a hint.
ANOTHER UPDATE: (Saturday, 2pm) I spoke too soon: just got a Google alert letting me know that Lin has set up a new website, with all of its content stolen from me again. Lots of personal photos on it, plus lots of reader-submitted photos from the Shoeper Shoe Challenge, which is really distressing me, because obviously those people didn’t submit those photos to me so they could appear all over the web. So we don’t even get our one-week break this time, we just go straight from fighting to get the last site taken down to fighting to get this new one taken down. Furious. On the plus side, it doesn’t cost us anything but our time to have these sites removed, but it WILL be costing Lin money to have to buy an entire new server every day…
YET ANOTHER UPDATE (Monday 23rd, 10am): We managed to get the latest Lin site taken down within a few hours. Damn, but we’re getting good at this! Terry’s spent most of the weekend tracking down more sites that are scraping our content… may as well get them all while we’re in “DCMA Mode”!
AND ANOTHER ONE! (Monday 23rd, 1:30pm) It turns out that while we were busy getting Lin’s last site taken down on Saturday (because that’s obviously our favourite way to spend the weekend…) Lin was just as busy setting up another one. With hundreds of posts stolen from me. Since last week, getting rid of this one person’s sites has become a full-time job for Terry. Obviously that’s not sustainable for us: no sooner do we get one site removed than another one pops up, and Terry is now spending ALL of his time having this one person’s illegal copies of our sites removed. How is that in any way fair?
I wrote a massive, 2000 word rant about this yesterday morning, just to get it all out of my head, but what it basically boils down to is this:
The hosts of the site which had stolen 500 of my posts removed it on Friday night.
Not without a fight, and not before they’d recommended we hire a lawyer (AGAIN) to have it removed, but they finally, albeit reluctantly, agreed to take it down.
Oh, and they ALSO took down the OTHER site we found on Friday, which:
- was ALSO registered to Lin Shuideng.
- was ALSO hosted by the same US company which was hosting the first site.
- ALSO contained around 500 of my posts, copied and pasted in their entirety, complete with images and watermarks. In fact, it was the SAME 500 posts the first site had stolen.
I don’t get much luck with this kind of thing, do I?
Oh, and Lin Shuideng? Had around 300 domains. As far as we can tell, they were ALL hosting stolen material. This person wasn’t just ripping off me, he/she was ripping off HUNDREDS of people. So if the hosts had stuck to their guns, they would have required a possible 300 people to hire 300 lawyers, to file 300 pieces of paperwork, to stop ONE PERSON BLATANTLY breaking the law.
Because that would be fair.
In the end, the hosts DIDN’T remove Lin Shuideng’s hosting account because of the theft of copyrighted work. No, they said they’d found mysterious “other issues” with it, which had forced them to remove it. I’m not sure what could be worse, in hosting terms, than stealing from 300 people, but whatever it was, it got them to take down the two sites that were ripping me off, to my great relief.
I say “relief”. To be honest, I’m still mad as hell about all of this. And not just because yet another working day was lost, spent fighting an intellectual property thief, rather than doing the work I’m so far behind with, but because I don’t feel justice can really be said to have been done here. Sure, Lin Shuideng will have woken up the next morning to find that his/her illegal websites had all vanished into the ether, and that must’ve been a bit of a bummer. But… that’s it. There are no other consequences for this person, who will surely just start again on another host. Three hundred illegal websites is not a small thing. It is not an insignificant thing (not in a business sense, anyway). It is large-scale theft, and yet it will go totally unpunished, and there will be absolutely nothing to prevent this person going on to do exactly the same thing again.
That’s the way it is, though. If someone steals your physical property, the law will protect you for free. If someone steals your intellectual property, the law will extract a large sum of money from you in order to protect you. If you don’t want to, or can’t afford to pay, the criminal will be allowed to go on breaking the law, and that’s not fair.
We’re now waiting for Lin Shuideng (or the NEXT Lin Shuideng) to pop up somewhere else, stealing more of our content. It was Shoeperwoman.com this time, but next time it could be TheFashionPolice.net, or it could be this site. Or it could be YOUR site. Isn’t that a worrying thought?
I just published the following statement over at Shoeperwoman, but figured good news bears repeating. And really, the sight of Rubin in shoes never really gets old, does it?
“Following on from the trademark dispute I told you about last month, I’m very pleased to announce that following negotiations between our lawyers and the owner of the Shoeper-Woman.co.uk website, we have now reached an agreement, in light of which the owner has rebranded, transferred domain ownership to us and withdrawn the Trademark application that conflicted with our website name.
Obviously this has been a difficult and stressful time for everyone involved, and we’re happy to be able to draw a line under it and get on with the important business of talking about shoes. Once again, we’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us throughout this: we will now be continuing with our own trademark application, and hope that, if granted, this will help give our brand additional security in future.
Thanks again for everyone’s help and support: it really does mean the world to us.
P.S. As a courtesy towards the other party in this dispute, we have agreed not to name either her or her new business name, and we’d appreciate it if you could refrain from mentioning these names in the comments here.”
Unfortunately the fight DOES go on against the site I mentioned in yesterday’s post, which is still live at the time of writing, and I’m still completely mystified as to why on earth it even exists. My current tagline gets truer by the day…
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.