Sunday, January 3, 2010

Copy Cat, Dirty Rat?

The internet is designed to share information. Millions of pages of content are available at the click of a mouse and countless links are shared freely via Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites. Many pages encourage sharing via the use of Share Widgets or people just use copy and paste.

When information is so readily available the lines can become blurred about ownership of web content and information. It’s easy to forget that those words belong to someone and in many cases are copyright to the author.

After operating our online business for just over eighteen months we’ve had three separate incidents that we know of, where other websites have “borrowed” either our website copy or images. In one case, the company badly photo-shopped the Belly Beyond packaging out of one of our product shots, so they were certainly aware they were our images (as opposed to the manufacturers).

We know how easy it is to make the mistake. In the very early days of Belly Beyond, a similar error was made in setting up product text on our website. Text was used from a site other than the manufacturers which included personalised sentences being added here and there to the manufacturer’s standard text. In due course, we quite rightly received an email from the author, and then another hours later when further indiscretions were found, requesting their text be removed immediately. We amended the text and telephoned the company straight away to apologise personally.

We’ve since heard of many other companies who have had it happen to them and the majority certainly say it seemed to be out of ignorance rather than anything malevolent. So based on that, here are our recommendations from both sides of the fence.

1. Starting Out

a. Make sure any content and images you source are directly from the manufacturer or distributors themselves or a URL that they provide you. We check with each supplier every time we add a new product that images and content are available for us to use.

b. Take the time to write your own copy or in the least personalise it.

c. Do not use another site’s text or images. They belong to them and apart from possible copyright breaches, it’s just plain rude.

2. What to do if you’ve been copied

a. Take a screenshot. Then you have your own copy of the content in question.

b. Contact the company or person by email. Be professional and request politely but firmly that they remove the content that belongs to you.

c. Give them a reasonable amount of time to reply and rectify. In all the cases we’ve dealt with, the companies in question were apologetic and embarrassed and removed the content straight away and we trust that there won’t be another occasion to contact them.

If the company refuses contact or removal of the content, then get in touch with your lawyer.

At the end of the day you need to put it into perspective. Is it the end of the world that this has happened? If it’s a minor indiscretion then how much time and energy are you going to put into it?

3. What not to do if you’ve been copied:

The company who contacted us about incorrect text on our site has taken a totally different approach. As far as we can tell here is their step-by-step guide and I’m pretty confident they won’t mind us not giving them a credit for their actions in this case:

a. Set up customer accounts under false names on the competitors website
b. Ask for free samples of product
c. Place numerous fake orders, either then ignore the correspondence that follows or send false complaints about the service
d. Send fabricated complaints to joint suppliers
e. Email joint acquaintances about how awful the company is and how undeserving of their success
f. Set up yet more false user accounts and join the competitors Facebook page and spam with mischievous comments and your own website link
g. Use the false names to publish made up reviews about your company

While your first instinct to being copied might be a negative one, remember that just like any other action you take in business, how you choose to deal with the situation will reflect on you and your business as a whole.

Note: if you have been the target of similar tactics, in any industry or to any extent, please get in touch for more info on our support group “Business Against Bullying”. Your correspondence will be treated with the utmost confidence.


MariaJ said...

A mistake borne of unbridled (but misdirected) enthusiasm led to years of victimisation and misery for me. I never found a way to deal with the problem and dialogue with the bully proved fruitless. I admire your approach and wish I had had the strength to deal with it in this way. Good luck girls, if BAB's makes a difference for just one person then your efforts will have been well worth it!-(MIB)

BBBlogger said...

Thanks for your comment Maria, sounds like a rough time for you. Hope things are on the up, drop us a line any time :) Lou @bellybeyond


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