They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but I'm sure if you found out your entire website had been ripped off you might not be feeling flattered.
Honestly, you'd probably be pretty cranky.
The internet is an amazing place where you can share information and show off products, but it also can be incredibly easy to steal intellectual property. After all, you just need to right-click and save to steal someone's logo, images, and content.
One Reddit user shared his story a while back, where another brand was constantly knocking off his products, design, and logo. He says "Someone has copied the entire site, going so far as "rebranding" my logo as his own. We redesigned the whole site, within a week he had copied the new site."
It's a pretty interesting thread to read, if you have some time.
But why is it so easy to copy a website?
Many are under the assumption that if the content is online, it's free to use- even commercially. This really isn't the case, but it's possible the person stealing your design simply didn't know.
It's pretty easy to have your website look similar to someone else's, especially with themes being used by hundreds of thousands of stores at any given time. This is where branding truly comes into play and can separate your store from the others.
How do you know if it's happening to you?
You can check for yourself using a tool like Copyscape to check for duplicated text content, or a reverse Google image search to see if anyone else is using your images. You can also run a Google search with your content in quotations to see if anyone else has used a particular phrase, for example, your slogan or tagline.
According to Berify, 64% of professionals had their content stolen over 200X, with the United States, France and China being the countries with the highest instances.
What can you do about it?
If you find a website using your content, in many cases an email will help. You could try something like this:
I noticed that you have copied our content at YOUR URL and posted here on THEIR URL. This content is copy-written, so it needs to be taken down in the next 48 hours or we will explore our legal options."
This will probably be enough to get the content removed and usually even an apology.
On the off chance you don’t get a response after a few days, you can try to contact their ISP and request the website be taken down. Remember to share proof that the design or content is yours and any copyrights or trademarks you may have. Most ISPs will suspend the website to avoid legal trouble or liability on their end.
If it's your entire website, product or brand which is being copied, things can be a bit more serious.
You should record everything. Take screenshots and create side by sides of all the copying going on.
If your store is hosted on Shopify, you can take these images and your case to their DMCA form for their legal department to investigate.
How can you prevent this if it hasn't happened to you yet?
There are proactive actions you can take to prevent someone from stealing your designs or ideas. Adding a copyright to your footer and a TM to your product names can scare off copycats and those who believe all online content is public domain.
You can also trademark your information and your products if they are created by you to prevent someone from knocking them off and selling from under you.
For images, if you're handy with code, it is possible to disable the right key using the css. Similarly, you can hide your source code from people visiting your website This can be especially helpful if you have proprietary elements in your theme.
In this digital age, content theft happens and will continue to happen. Take precautions and keep an eye out for your own content being stolen. When necessary, reach out to the website owner, and seek legal advice.