When Someone Steals Your Whole Design & You Can’t Do Anything About It

About two weeks ago, I noticed some unusually high traffic on my site. This got me investigating the access logs to see what was going on. It turns out someone was like spam visiting my site, but as I was investigating that, I saw another unusual thing. I was getting a lot of POST requests to my site from another URL. That was odd. So I followed the referring site and came across this:

Copy of the Nose Graze design

Look familiar?

This site (which I will not link to, because I don’t want it getting any page views) copied the entire HTML for Nose Graze, copied all the styles/CSS/images and uploaded them to their own site, and replaced the content with advertisement material. So basically, my whole site has been copied and is being used for spammy looking advertisements.

Obviously the first thing I set out to do was submit a DMCA takedown notice. But the problem is this site is being hosted on what’s probably a dedicated server on a hosting site from Luxembourg, and they don’t give a shit about DMCA. I did submit a copyright infringement complaint to them, but all they said was:

Hello,

we forwarded your complaint ot the customer and asked him to resolve this issue.

Best Regards,
ROOT S.A.

It’s obvious right off the bat that ROOT S.A. put a lot of into that reply. [/sarcasm]

So basically, they forwarded my complaint to the client—the person who blatantly stole it in the first place. They’re not going to take down the site or insist that the client remove it. They’re just going to inform the person who stole it and let them decide how to proceed. Well the person who blatantly stole it isn’t going to remove it just because I decide to complain.

DMCA notices that are sent to well known shared hosting companies or free sites (Blogger, WordPress.com) are usually dealt with well and swiftly. The problems arise when the thief has a dedicated server with a company that’s not in the US (so DMCA doesn’t apply) and doesn’t give a shit about copyright infringements. ROOT S.A. is clear that they’ll only take action against things like child pornography, as they say on their Abuse page:

This being, please solely contact us using the below email address to report content hosted on or transmitted via root servers that is blatantly illegal such as child pornography, inciting racial hatred or inciting violence content or in case of attempt to defraud the public via, for example Phishing attempts.

Any other type of claim shall be addressed directly to the applicable party and therefore will be disregarded by root.

ROOT S.A.

Fair enough if the theft was questionable or ambiguous, but in this case, my entire design and logo have been stolen. It still even says “Design by Creative Whim” at the bottom. And the comment form was copied straight from Nose Graze, so it actually sends a POST request to https://www.nosegraze.com/wp-comments-post.php if someone tries to use the comment form. This is such a blatant and thorough copy that I find it disgusting that it wouldn’t be immediately and forcibly taken down.

At this point, the only remaining option is to start paying to have the site taken down (hire a lawyer or professional copyright infringement service).

Have you ever had someone steal your content and/or design?

Did you feel powerless when it came to getting it removed?

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I'm a 27 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). I like to inject a little #girlpower into the WordPress development community by teaching women how to be coding badasses. more »

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72 comments

  1. What!? I can’t believe no one even cares that this was done! It must be completely frustrating to not be able to do anything! Maybe you could try threatening the person who did this? Although it doesn’t seem like that would work in this case… Your new design looks lovely too, though! πŸ™‚

    Nadia @ Nadia Reads recently posted: Nadia Reads Slowly
  2. This is terrible, Ashley! Sadly, the online theft is becoming more and more common. I know an artist here, in Vancouver, Lilian Broca, who makes wonderful mosaics, and of course the images are on her website too. Someone from Turkey copied her images, put them on T-shirts, and started selling them on eBay. And they sell – the designs are beautiful. She didn’t know until one of her friends told her. The friend thought it was Broca’s idea and wanted to congratulate the artist. She tried to complain, eBay notified the company, they closed their store and 2 weeks later reopened it under another name. The T-shirts are still selling, and she doesn’t get a dime. And because those thieves are not in USA or Canada, she can do nothing. Very frustrating.
    She tells her story on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0taQlix5BJI
    At least, your new design looks better; the butterflies are lovely.

    Olga Godim recently posted: Fantasy Character Interview #11
    1. Wow that’s horrible! πŸ™ It’s awful that someone is so blatantly stealing from someone else and profiting off it!

    1. Thank you! πŸ˜€ And yeah, it’ll take me a while too. I think I’m already at least partially used to it though since I’ve been working on it for like a week straight! My eyes have already adjusted a bit, haha.

  3. Woah, that really sucks, it’s really tricky when it’s on the internet and you can’t do anything about it because of the location! I once had a bookish friend use the same template as me on WP, but I knew I couldn’t do much about that because it’s not something I created myself. It kind of makes you feel sick to the stomach though. I hope you get it resolved soon!

  4. I’m sorry this happened to you and that you can’t do shit about it! Ugh. I didn’t know spammers did that! Just wow.

    I have not experienced anything as severe as this, but I’ve seen a lot of blogs whose designs are mimicking my past ones. In fact, I’ve seen all my designs “inspire” other bloggers. Even the one I paid for has been heavily used on a another blog, and it pisses me off. Yah, you can add your own flavor to it, but if myself and others see my blog still, you obviously need to be more original. It sucks. Everyone screams about plagiarism, but some of these same people steal design elements and styles and have no remorse!

    If you need to look at someone’s source code or have to constantly visit their site while designing yours, that’s a really bad sign. Branding is unique, not regurgitation.

    Christine @ Oh, Chrys! recently posted: Featured Book Blogger, #14: Cee from The Novel Hermit
    1. Yeah there’s a fine line between “copying” and “inspired by”. It can be really annoying even if someone was just clearly inspired by your design… even if it’s not quite stealing, it can still feel like it.

      I think that’s one of the reasons I really wanted to change my design. I saw this person stole my design entirely, then another person was clearly heavily “inspired by” my previous design. I think it just inspired me to make a change!

      And I 100% agree with you.. if you constantly visit someone else’s site while designing yours, that’s not a good sign!

    1. It can be equally frustrating when you see someone who was very obviously “inspired by” your own design. πŸ™

  5. I had something odd happen last week too. I don’t think anyone stole my design, but I did have a HUGE spike in my visits, with not enough referrals to back some of those numbers up. It was bizarre, and it makes me wonder how reliable the stats are. I’m fairly certain they were spam views. The spam comments go to the same 2 posts too but that’s about the only correlation. I don’t think this is a problem that will be going away any time soon. πŸ™

    1. Yeah they’re very odd. In my case, someone was spam visiting my tag archives. They were visiting totally random archives way faster than any human could ever navigate through them. My husband thinks maybe the person was scraping my site, but I have no idea why!

    1. Yeah it really sucks. I guess it makes sense that someone who’d stoop low enough to post spam advertisements would also stoop low enough to copy a whole design >_<

  6. Excuse my language, but what an absolute load of shit. That’s unacceptable!!

    I can’t believe someone would have the cheek to do that and that there’s really nothing you can do about it! Someone stole your stuff, blatantly, and you’re basically being told ‘tough luck’ :/

    I hope you can get this resolved soon, somehow, Ashley, because this is just ridiculous!

  7. I’ve not had this happen, but… several years ago, I tried to get the URL http://www.LoriClark.com someone already has it, but not really. A squatter has it and it’s available for sale for the low-low bargain price of $15,000. Yes, that’s fifteen-thousand dollars. W.T.F? I know that it’s supposed to be “illegal” for them to do this, but I don’t know how to go about “fighting” with them to get it. πŸ™ I went with http://www.LoriLClark.com instead, but it makes me mad.

    With yours … they used everything but the name. πŸ™ and They re-used your graphics as well as your Nose Graze logo/name. That’s horrible!

    Lori L. Clark recently posted: Book Review & Giveaway: Kissing Eden
    1. It actually isn’t illegal to “squat” on domain names. People can buy whatever names they want, hang onto them, not use them, and try to resell them. It’s pretty common. It’s only illegal if the name itself is a registered trademark (then they’re infringing upon that).

      But I agree it can be massively annoying! I recently tried to buy a domain name that should have been worth a few hundred dollars, but the person who owned it wanted like $6k for it! But there were very similar names (in terms of length, nouns, common words, etc.) going for under $1k!

      It’s just a pain in the ass, but unfortunately it’s a legal one. πŸ™

      1. Yeah,, I was just going by what John Sandford wrote on his blog under FAQ. Someone asked him why he had johnsandford.org instead of johnsandford.com (http://johnsandford.org/faq.html) and he said: Because johnsandford.com was already taken when I tried to get the domain. It had been registered by domain squatters β€” no surprise there β€” but these people were playing the “noble” card. See, they claimed that their company existed solely to register celebrity names and hold them until the “rightful” celebrity shows up to take it away, at which point they’d give it away for free. This would prevent the name being used for porn sites. As I said, noble.
        Alas, it turned out that what they were really doing was using their ownership of the site to leverage themselves into a different job: that of running the site for the celebrity in question. When I was adamant that, no, I was the webmaster and I wanted the name, they offered to turn it over for free. Plus about $700 in shipping and handling.
        I could have done it, sure. I could have paid $700 to domain squatters and gotten the name. I could also have taken them to court, since a court had recently ruled that for personal names, if you don’t have a reasonable claim to that name, you can’t hold the domain name from someone who does have a reasonable claim. But the easier path by far was to just get .org. Since I already had a .org (for something completely different) and since the Sandford site wasn’t meant for profit, I went with that solution.
        They eventually sold the domain name (or lost it, perhaps) and now it’s a series of meta-forwards to a generic geo-targeted advertising page. Since this website’s comfortably been a .org for more than a decade, I’ve got no particular desire to try to get the .com.

        I guess I’m not famous enough.

        Lori L. Clark recently posted: Book Review & Giveaway: Kissing Eden
  8. That’s awful! I’m so sorry that it can’t be taken down. At least your site looks different enough now that it won’t be confusing. (The new design is super cute!)

    It begs an interesting question about international copyright law and the Internet, since clearly based on this post and the comments, it’s a huge problem. I wonder how long it will take for countries to cooperate and figure out some kind of universal baseline for copyright takedowns. (Sorry. Reading back that was super nerdy for before 10 AM on a Monday.)

    Terri @ Starlight Book Reviews recently posted: Discussion: When Spin-Offs Disappoint You
    1. Yeah I agree. It would be nice if people just had some common courtesy.. I feel like with a case as clear cut as this, there should be no doubt about whether or not it gets removed. Fair enough if the copying isn’t as extensive/deliberate. But in a case like this where they’ve even stolen my name, logo, and “design by Creative Whim” image, it should be clear cut!

  9. This sucks! I can’t believe that they took your entire source code and replicated it. It’s rough that the host company didn’t do anything and it definitely brings to mind international law and the internet. The internet can’t be owned by one single country, but when things like this happen, we need to have a common agreement on what to do.

    alice-jane recently posted: Review// Reality Boy by A.S King
  10. That REALLY sucks…

    I guess you already filled a Google complain?
    https://support.google.com/legal/contact/lr_dmca?product=code

    You probably know it but in case you don’t: you could prevent hot linking (if they do some) and block the POST request with your .htaccess.

    On the bright side… it doesn’t even look like a real website. It feels automatically (copied) and generated. There’s no google ads or links to any shop, the social media figure are fake (fb and so on), the content feels copied too: it talks about uk products and then us (not that I read much of it, that was NOT that interesting :p). The whole thing is just garbage. It almost feels like a weird hacking test.

    Once, my sister found a photo of one of her grandpa’s painting on a personal blog. The author was claiming she had painted it herself. Everyone was praising her in the comments (you bet…). I couldn’t believe someone could have such wit.
    Anyway, we contacted her and put comments on the article. She finally put a note under the painting photo, but still pretended it was a “reproduction” (as if she painted copy of the real one and that was the photo of it…).

    Some people are just weird.

    1. I have blocked the POST request but unfortunately they’re not doing any hot linking. πŸ™ They re-uploaded every single asset to their own site. Sigh.

      I’m not sure about a hacking test just because they stole purely static HTML files, which doesn’t help with hacking at all. If it were hacking, they’d be testing my PHP by trying to do SQL injections or something. But someone can’t really hack with just pure HTML.

      But yes, the whole thing is really, really weird O_O

      1. Yes, it’s pretty much worst scenario… πŸ™

        Sorry I didn’t mean to suggest they’re trying to hack your website. It was more the “hack” of “hackaton” (and me not explaining myself unclearly, which is a habit!). Looking at their site and trying to figure out what (-the f***!) their website could be for (considering there’s no ad, no shop, no link, and obviously no original content), I thought maybe someone was working on some code to generate a website from copied stuff, a bit in a same way spam mails and comments are code-generated nowadays with “customized” sender and content. I thought about this because the only link about your blog and theirs is the wedding dress theme (and so, keyword), so I thought maybe it’s like these spam comments that target blogs with a certain theme: some generator seeks websites that fit a keyword (say “wedding dress”) and download the front code with the idea that your design should fit the keyword.
        But maybe I’m reading too much Sci-Fi and this is just some garbage website made by a looser whose idea never made any sense, thus the weird blog! πŸ˜€ (I just couldn’t believe that the website could be put together by a HUMAN being!)

        Thinking about it, I think I really DO read too much Sci-Fi. *blush*

  11. Wow! I’m so sorry Ashley that’s terrible!!! I always wondered who these people are that do all this spamming, creating viruses, and the like. What do people get out of this!?! It’s like they have no moral compass and it’s very sad. I really hope they take that down for your sake. Please keep us updated ❀
    On the flip side, I love your new design πŸ™‚

    1. Yeah why do they need to steal my design when they could just grab a free website template that still looks decent?

  12. As a new blogger, and hop scotching between a couple sites I’m writing on, I’m VERY self conscious of what I do. I’m always super aware of the people that are pros and respect their work. Using their sites as inspiration, not plagiarism, is what I strive for. This is complete (and excuse my language) bullshit! So sorry this happened to you. I’ll be sure not to give those other people any traffic or recognition.

    Jamma recently posted: Intro to Nineteenth Century Art
  13. What??? I cannot believe this. How can no one care? It should be a simple solution. You shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer, but I would, if that’s the only option. These people are disgusting and they need to be stopped.

  14. I’m so sorry this happened to you! I wonder if this is case where there is strength in numbers? If all of your followers sent similar emails stating that the design has been stolen maybe then they would recognize the seriousness of the problem? (You’re new design is absolutely lovely!)

    Lindsey recently posted: Bloggin’ Recap: March 16th-22nd
  15. This is just awful. Not only did they steal your entire site, but they did it the right way – in that you can’t just remove the images from your server and make them stop working on their site. I had no idea that this type of plagiarism was dictated by country – I thought everyone had to follow the same rules, regardless of geographic location. It’s pretty scary stuff, when you think about it.

    I’m sorry that this had to happen to you. If it’s any consolation, the new design looks fab!

    Kelly recently posted: Life of a Blogger
  16. Ugh that’s so horrible! I LOVE your new design though, and I’m super sorry that you had to go through that πŸ™ It’s so stupid how they don’t even want to do anything about it though because it’s your hard work that was put into your blog and the fact that someone just basically copied and pasted the CSS like it was nothing is such a violation of time. Ugh ROOT S.A. should definitely be a little more involved in my opinion.

    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted: DNF Review: Sekret by Lindsay Smith
  17. Ugh, that’s truly horrible. I think that’s one of our greatest fears with creating a website, that someone will scrape or steal your content. I’m so sorry. I’ve been having a lot of weird attacks on my site and I’ve also been getting a lot of odd spam comments where it’s like they’re digging for information. Asking me what security plugins I use – they pretend to be fellow bloggers who are trying to protect their site, or asking me about my email because they can’t find a contact form. I have one but my email is hidden from them. It just makes me feel like it’s a concentrated effort on some people’s part to steal my stuff even though I really don’t have anything worth stealing. I hope they didn’t find you through my site. I’m still getting login attempts every so often, at least on my old site.

    That truly sucks and I despise people who do this to others. There’s not much that you can do when they’re overseas but I don’t know if I’d just drop it and let them get away with it either. I mean what they’ve done is beyond scraping or stealing content. They stole your whole site. That just sickens me.

    And I also think your new design is lovely. The butterflies are awesome.

    Jamie Pinson recently posted: Just One Night: Part 2 – Elle Casey
  18. Good lord, the nerve of some people! I mean, they have stolen EVERYTHING!
    And the fact that nothing can be done about it? I can’t believe that someone can do something like this and get away with it without any consequences! I’m not very techy so I’m not sure if this makes sense but is there a way we can prevent people from copying a site’s HTML?

    Also is there a way where we can all file a Google complaint? I mean, if we all raise a flag they will have to do SOMETHING right??

    Your new design is gorgeous by the way! I’m sorry you had to come across this sort of crappiness! *hugs*

    Nuzaifa @ Say It with Books recently posted: Discussion: The Art of Blog Commenting
  19. OH! Sorry that this happened to you, Ashley πŸ™ It’s really unfair when people can take and claim what is yours and you can’t do anything about it. It’s really not right. This has not happened to me before, but I can almost imagine what you’re going through! πŸ™ I think companies should really buck up their policies and stand up for what is right; they shouldn’t just protect their own customers to earn money! They should be protecting the rights of other people as well. It’s unfair to let this go; it’s not a small issue. This is STEALING. I do hope this will get sorted out soon!
    On the other hand, you’ve got something to be very happy about, which is your new design! πŸ˜€ It’s absolute eye-catching and gorgeous ^^

  20. Oh Ashley that’s horrible. The one good thing out of all of it {if there’s any good to be found} is at least they kept your “designed by creative whim” ~ any increase in design requests?

    on a different note, your new design is simply lovely. The whimsical butterflies at the top are so happy and hearts always make me smile!

    keep your chin up. you’ve got gobs and gobs of book bloggers out here who know “Nose Graze” and “Creative Whim” and that love you.

    Stacy (The Novel Life) recently posted: Book Review: The Debt of Tamar
  21. I am really sad to see this. We as bloggers do such hard work. You do more work then a lot of bloggers because you do create templates and take the time to do this. I find it very sad that you can’t even get it taken down. At least you had a new design ready to go and can let the old one go. πŸ™

    Angie recently posted: What I like about your blog!!
    1. Unfortunately that won’t actually prevent it. πŸ™ Disabling right click does in fact disable right clicking, but there are two ways around that:

      * You can click “View Source” in your browser window (instead of right clicking and doing it).
      * Or you can just turn off JavaScript, which will cause the “disable right click” feature to not work at all, since it relies on JavaScript.

      So there’s not any way to actually fully stop it!

    1. Well it applies, but the hosting company doesn’t care. πŸ™ I could get it taken down if I pressed legal charges, but that means fishing out of my own pocket to cover lawyer fees and whatnot.

  22. I tweeted Johnathan Bailey, copyright and plagiarism consultant, to see if he could give you any other advice. Hope this helps! I hope your techno-thief gets a virtual gavel slam-down!

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