Someone else is using your website content or images, what to do?


In today’s world it’s very easy to get inspiration from other professionals’ websites or blogs over the Internet. Most of us browse the web to find interesting articles, great content, and awesome décor ideas that we can modify and adapt for our clients. It’s about getting those ideas, putting our creativity at work and make them better. And better. Unfortunately, many people lack that creativity, they take whatever they find without changing a bit and they just use it for their own purposes. Of course, without your permission. Very easy and very disrespectful. It can be flattering but it’s very unethical.

In the event and planning industry both content and images are at risk.

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Website Content

Normally new planners who need a website look online to find inspiration, they browse dozens of websites from competitors (local and in other geographical areas) to see what they do, say and show on their websites. Inevitably, they start copying and pasting content from different websites – or maybe from just one because it really resonates with their style and their ideal client.
The first thing that you should do in order to prevent content theft or infringement is to add a copyright notice on your website and / or blog (this can be placed at the bottom of each page or at the bottom of each post) along with your Terms Of Use that clearly specify how people can use (or not use) your content. I have a very short one at the bottom of this site but I’m planning on expanding on that soon.
How to find out if your content is being used without permission:
* CopyScape – Enter your page URL in the search box and the site searches for other pages that have the same content
You can add a CopyScape banner that says “Protected by CopyScape” to your blog: that will hopefully keep content thieves away because it shows that you constantly check on the Internet
* Google – You know how it works 🙂 Just enter a few lines of your content in the search box (it could be from your About page, or from your Services page, for instance) and Google search will pull up all the relevant results
When you find out that someone else is infringing your work and your copyrighted content appears on another planner’s website don’t attack this person immediately by posting on social media to warn everybody in your network (yes, this happens very often!). Instead, keep calm, take some screenshots of the website and its content (this will be useful as a proof in case the infringer takes the site down and denies the accusations), then call her and tell her what’s going on. Be prepared for some argument because it’s very unlikely that this person will apologize to you. Find out how she obtained the content (whether she did it or maybe an intern, or maybe her web designer), and tell her that she should replace the specific sections with her own copy as soon as possible. Give her a deadline (48-72 hours is a reasonable time frame). If she doesn’t comply then you can tell her that you will send her a Cease And Desist letter. If she sounds like she has no idea of what you are talking about it’s probably because she didn’t create the website after all. If this is the case, ask her to talk to her web designer and have her / him make the changes as soon as possible (or you will move forward with the letter mentioned above).
There’s an excellent article about copyright infringements HERE.

Case study

I was involved in similar cases while serving on the San Diego Board of the Association of Bridal Consultants. Several members contacted me in regards to other people’s websites infringing their content. A planner in particular attacked the “offender” on Facebook even before contacting her to discuss. Needless to say, that unfortunate post sparked a lot of comments but also a lot of controversies. The planner later deleted the post and she fixed the issue with the other party directly however, we all remember who that “bad guy” is now and her reputation has been damaged regardless of what she did. My advice is, don’t take this route even if you feel it’s wrong: try to establish a connection and start a conversation instead. Always give the benefit of the doubt before moving forward.

Website Images

This is another huge issue for event professionals, especially for photographers who own the rights to their images forever. Every professional photographer I work with has specific wording about this in their agreement. Wedding planners receive pictures from those photographers with permission to use them for their portfolio, website, social media, marketing materials, etc. as long as they are not misused or sold. Always get permission from the photographer to use images and make sure that you credit the photographer.
How to find out where your images are being used without your permission:
* Tin Eye – You will be asked to upload a specific image or enter the image URL and this site will find websites that use that same image

Case study

It happened to me, yes… A few years ago a stationery designer I work with informed me that some images from one of my weddings were displayed on another planner’s website in their portfolio section. I went to their website and recognized the images. I immediately contacted the photographer who had shot those pictures and I explained what I found out. I added that I completely understand the fact that she owns the rights to those images therefore, she can do whatever she wants with them. However, she should have given different images where no planner was involved in that particular wedding since they were displayed on a wedding planner’s website. The photographer apologized and contacted the other planner directly to remove and replace those images with different ones. It took them two weeks to do so but at the end they were removed.  When images are the ones being used without permission, always reach out to the photographer first since they are the ones who supposedly gave permission to the user. And if they didn’t, then you did the photographer a favor by finding out for him!

Did you ever experience anything similar? Was any of your colleagues in a similar situation? Share in the comment box below!

TAKE ACTION ~~~ Use one of the sites mentioned above to see if someone is using your content or images today!

Want more? Catch me on Periscope for more Event and Wedding Professionals Open Discussions and my weekly Wedding Planning Success Lounge.


photo credit: TrustMe – Responsive WordPress Magazine / Blog – Tablet 03 via photopin (license)

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