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Stolen Web Graphics

08/13/08


  
Permalink 09:58:16 pm, by Jet-Screamer Email , 780 words   English (US)
Categories: Tech Tips

Stolen Web Graphics

Somebody STOLE my website's graphics!

Ok, you've discovered another website displaying graphics from your site which you either created or paid to have created. What can you do?

Your graphics have been stolen in one of two ways:

  1. Your graphics are being displayed on their website by linking to the image on your website
  2. Your graphics were downloaded from your website and loaded onto their server for display

Situation one is the worst. Not only have your images been stolen but YOUR website is actually displaying the image(s) on THEIR website. This not just image theft, it's also what's known as "Bandwidth Theft", meaning your server is expending it's limited monthly bandwidth to display the image on their website. This is HIGHLY unethical and illegal.

You can likely first combat this through your website Hosting Control Panel. Most hosting companies provide their customers with a Control Panel which allows them to set many aspects, one of which is "Hotlink Protection" (on the Plesk Control Panel). By turning this on you prevent any website, other than your own, from displaying graphics from your server. This is the strongest method to ensure other websites do not link to and display graphics from your server on their website.

Excluding this option, given it's appropriate for the graphics's display on your own site such as a website title graphic, add your own domain's http URL in tiny text. No competitor would want to display that.

You can have a lot of fun with image/bandwidth thieves too. Rename the image you use on your website and rename a highly inappropriate image to the one being stolen by the other site and voila! They're now displaying an image they had no intention of.

Situation two, your graphics have been downloaded from your server to theirs and are displayed there.

Your first step here is to simply contact the offending website via email (assuming they have contact info on their website) and state you have seen your graphic(s) on their site without permission and they should cease and desist from displaying your property. Include anything you can to point out it's your graphic, such as screen shots of your website, original artwork (watermark it!), etc. Copy yourself on these emails and make sure you save them for future proof. As an added point you could CC an attorney whether real or not. If you do not get a reply from this and they still display your image(s), give the scoundrels the courtesy of a phone call. In both the email and the phone call, state that if your image(s) are not removed from their site you will contact their web host's abuse department.

How to find the image stealing website owner's contact info and their web host's Abuse dept contact info:
To try and find the domain name registration information for your image thief, start with a WhoIs search on GoDaddy. Enter the domain name and see what you can see. Often, people will use a privacy organization to block their actual data being available here. Nothing you can do about that. Onto finding the abuse dept of their website host.

To find the offending website's hosting company abuse contact info, first find the the IP address of the website by going here and entering the website's name, such as aWebsite.com. This will ping the website and return 4 nearly identical lines of info such as, 64 bytes from 62.223.158.104: icmp_seq=0 ttl=245 time=2.949 ms. You want the 62.223.158.104 bit. Enter this info into the search box on this, Find Out Whois By IP site. This will give you a lot of info but most importantly it will give you an Abuse Dept email address, likely abuse@... AND a phone number.

First email then call the Abuse Department. Contacting the Abuse department of a website's host often results in immediate action. A web hosting company leans towards putting the burden of proof on their customer to avoid dragging themselves into a legal battle. The average reaction is to turn off a customer's website until their customer disproves the accusations against them or ceases the offending behavior.

Your last step before actually having to pay an attorney is to send a registered letter with the same cease and desist language including the same proof from your first email. This is one of those mandatory tasks in situations like this. This Internet Copyright Law web page will give you much information on what you need to do to create a good cease and desist letter. Often, bluffing that the image(s) are copyrighted is adequate for action. After all of this you'll have to contact an attorney.


  
Jet-Screamer.com provides website hosting, website design, and website maintenance. Our website hosting plans can be reviewed here.

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