I received an anonymous note yesterday from a site visitor informing me that there was a copycat site of AndrewJensen.net at the domain RBConsultingFirm.com. I’d like to express my gratitude to the visitor who brought that to my attention. Who knows how long it would have been before I would have stumbled across it. I’m usually too busy with clients to get distracted by personal issues; however, this one is quite extreme, and I figured we could all benefit from it. After all, in today’s Wild West of the Web, it’s just too easy for someone to instantly replicate what you’ve invested thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time into. So what can you do? What can be done when someone else copies your website and claims to be the author and even have copyright ownership of all of your articles and content?
The guilty party then substituted my name for the name “Robert Blankenship” and swapped out my company name, phone numbers and geographic information for Blankenship’s corresponding information (RB Consulting Firm, 870.514.2217, and Castle Rock/Denver, Colorado).
When I first saw the website (after a Sunday dinner), admittedly, I was quite ticked off. The fact that the guilty party had even taken my banner and erased my name off the graphic, substituting in “Robert Blankenship, Business Efficiency Consultant” made matters even worse. Humorously, my original banner file name was andrew-jensen-logo5.jpg, and the guilty party renamed it robert-jensen-logo5.jpg.
I could go on and on about “relics” still left on the RBConsultingFirm.com website which blatantly reveal it’s a copy of AndrewJensen.net (e.g. it still has tracking code on it that was copied from AndrewJensen.net, it replicates all of my clients’ testimonials/reviews, it illegally copies all of my licensed stock photography, etc), but the truth of the “copysite” is really a no brainer.
So, what did I initially do?
Secondly, I tried calling the phone number listed on the site (870.514.2217). However, I merely received a message stating that that number was no longer active.
I tried submitting a comment through the comment form underneath each of his articles. The problem here is that his site isn’t powered by a content management system, like mine. Instead, the guilty party had merely copied all of the HTML and image files, creating a static copy of AndrewJensen.net, so that it appeared there was a comment form underneath each of his articles, but those comment forms don’t work (and neither does the search button).
I checked the WHOIS for the rbconsultingfirm.com domain and discovered that the domain owner has privacy set for the domain. (Even still, today, I sent by email a Cease & Desist letter to the privacy email). While checking the WHOIS, I jotted down the web host (Arvixe LLC), and sent them an email through their abuse support. On a side note, the RBConsultingFirm.com domain was initially registered on January 31, 2013.
I then did a variety of Google searches and … Bingo! I located Robert Blankenship’s LinkedIn profile (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/robert-blankenship/2b/356/453) which led me to his Twitter account. Interestingly enough, his LinkedIn profile mentions he serves those in Memphis, TN (in contrast with the new RBConsultingFirm.com website which lists Castle Rock/Denver, CO). His LinkedIn profile links out to his company website, though the URL has a typo in it and is listed as rbconslutingfirm.com. I sent a public tweet to his Twitter account (https://twitter.com/Robert54923202), but I haven’t heard back.
Today, I sent the following Cease & Desist letter by email to the privacy email address connected with his domain registration:
Dear Robert Blankenship,
It has come to my attention that you have made an unauthorized use of my copyrighted work entitled AndrewJensen.net (the “Work”) in the preparation of a work derived therefrom. I have reserved all rights in the Website, which was first published in 2009 through 2013 on https://www.andrewjensen.net.
Your work entitled RBConsultingFirm.com and which appears on your web site at http://rbconsultingfirm.com, is essentially identical to the Work and clearly used the Work as its basis. As example comparisons, see http://rbconsultingfirm.com/index-26.htm and https://www.andrewjensen.net/tips-for-overcoming-winter-blues-at-work/; also, see http://rbconsultingfirm.com/index-33.htm and https://www.andrewjensen.net/combating-midafternoon-productivity-lull-in-the-office/.
You neither asked for nor received permission to use the Work as the basis for rbconsultingfirm.com nor to make or distribute copies of it. Therefore, I believe you have willfully infringed my rights under 17 USC Section 101, et seq. and could be liable for statutory damages as high as $100,000.
I demand that you immediately cease the use and distribution of all infringing works derived from the Work, and all copies of it, and that you deliver to me all unused, undistributed copies of it, or destroy such copies immediately, and that you desist from this or any other infringement of my rights in the future. If I have not received an affirmative response from you by March 31, 2013 indicating that you have fully complied with these requirements, I shall consider taking the full legal remedies available to rectify this situation.
Andrew P. Jensen
Sozo Firm Inc.
When someone posts a copy of your copyrighted work online, thankfully, there is a way to submit an appeal to the search engines. Otherwise, the copycat website may be able to hurt your website’s ranking and ability to draw in traffic (and valuable leads/customers). You can inform Google of copyright violation through the following avenues:
- Removing Content from Google (easy to fill out tool/form that narrows down what you need to do to file a removal request)
- DMCA Request for Google (you provide offending URLs and original URLs and wait to hear back from Google regarding their decision)
The DMCA Request appears to require entering a long series of URLs from the offending site in conjunction with the corresponding URLs from your own website. I’ve submitted a basic DMCA Request and have my fingers crossed, hoping I won’t have to thoroughly go through each and every page and post on RBConsultingFirm.com, compiling a huge list of URLs to submit to Google. Time will tell.
So far, I have been unsuccessful in reaching out and making contact with Robert Blankenship or RBConsultingFirm.com in order to come to a resolution with the company’s copying of my website layout, graphic design, and content. It would be nice if they would just remove the site completely, make a formal apology, and begin work on creating their own website that accurately reflects their own consultant’s identity.
If you’ve experienced the thrills of having someone else violate your copyright online, I’d love to hear what you did to counter that. Did you go the formal route with attorneys handling all of the communication, or did you try the “soft” route by initially reaching out to the offender and attempting to make resolution before the situation escalated?
Credits: Bottom photo © dragon_fang / Fotolia.