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They say that "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Not if you are a Web site owner and you have a brand to protect, however!

I've seen designs copied, content copied, even entire sites copied. It's so easy for infringers to "View Source" and take whatever they like, without regard to copyright.

You can locate copyright infringers pretty easily with Copyscape if they've lifted some of your page copy. It's much more difficult if they've limited their sticky fingers to just your design.

So far I've discovered by tip-off or by chance that our Netconcepts.com site design has been "pinched" multiple times. Eventually, many months later, the infringers finally stopped using our design, but the evidence of their misbehavior is permanently archived in the Wayback Machine (example 1 and 2).

In fact, the Wayback Machine is quite useful in that it can serve as indisputable proof of who is the source and who is the copy: Whichever site shows the design in use before the other is the source.

The way I see it, you have five options for dealing with an infringer:

  • File a DMCA infringement notification.
  • Contact the infringing company's CEO.
  • "Out" them on your blog.
  • Have your lawyer send them a nastygram.
  • Do nothing.

If you do nothing, eventually the infringer will redesign (probably stealing another design from somewhere else). That's not a great option if you're serious about protecting your intellectual property rights, however.

A phone call to the CEO is inexpensive and it can work. It has worked for us in the past: he asked for two months to redesign, which we've granted him. But this isn't a viable option if you're dealing with an entity that operates overseas and has masked its domain contact information.

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Stephan Spencer is the founder of Science of SEO and an SEO expert, author, and speaker.

LinkedIn: Stephan Spencer

Twitter: @sspencer