Will's Web Watch: Stop thief!

The 'borrowers' are coming to a website near you...

The 'borrowers' are coming to a website near you...

Ego-surfing - the practice of typing your own name into a search engine to find what results are returned - can throw up a number of surprises.

For starters there was the young man who discovered he had been kidnapped as a child and had since been living with his kidnapper.

But often the results aren't so dramatic. One thing that can turn up, however, is the increasingly common issue of intellectual property theft. In the business of journalism this is certainly true. A search under my own name will often return results where silicon.com content is being reproduced without permission elsewhere.

And that is exactly what happened to Shane O'Donoghue, editor of the Car Enthusiast website. He happened upon content which he recognised as his own on a rival site called Car or Car.

Not only was the content his own but the design was also stolen from his site. The theft was 'cut and paste' to such an extent that he was even credited as the editor of the rival site. The thieves had literally taken the whole site. All they genuinely owned was the domain name.

Often it is the case that a simple phone call or email can rectify the issue as generally these wrongdoers know what they are doing is wrong and once rumbled will call it a day. But in this case the issue was complicated by the fact the domain was registered and hosted in Australia and Taiwan respectively - far away from the long arm of UK or EU law.

Upon writing the story we were inundated with emails recounting similar tales - websites or content lifted and posted elsewhere. In the same way criminals rip off trademarks and famous brands - from clothes to music and movies to works of art - so these criminals are ripping off others hard work. And it would appear to be endemic.

It's another example of how difficult it is to control the wild, wild web. Sites registered in Australia and hosted in Taiwan, for example - as in the case of Car or Car - have deliberately added layers of complication to guard against easy legal action and the bottom line is that you will always be fire-fighting. You can never be 100 per cent sure where your content is being used and your intellectual property is being abused.

This isn't an internet-only phenomenon though - merely an extension of real world crime. In the same way Rolex can never know how many fake watches are in circulation at any one time in every country in the world, so domain owners will never be able to know exactly where their content is being picked up and abused.

Each time somebody finds such an instance it is understandable that they will take action but what's to say it won't appear on other copycat sites as quickly as it disappears from another?

Is it happening to you? If it is - and you know it - we'd love you to tell us about it.


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