Copyright Crooks

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Is it me or are there more and more internet crooks out there? I’m not talking about phishing schemes to steal your personal information, or the technically savvy computer hackers, but I am talking specifically about companies — people — stealing copyrighted material from our website. And it’s frustrating.

In the last year we’ve had several companies grip pictures and copy — words written by our technicians — and claim the content as their own. It has cost us several thousand dollars, not to mention hours of our time, to have the stolen material removed from competitors’ websites.

The first time we found our copyrighted information on another company’s website (brwelder.com) I contacted the company president directly by letter. When I got no response, I called him up and asked him, as a fellow small business owner, to remove the copyrighted material. First he told me everything on the internet was free for the taking and when I informed him it was actually a violation of copyright laws, he said, “So what. Sue me.”

Suing, and paying hefty legal fees was not the route we wanted to go, so instead we filed a DMCA Copyright Infringement Claim with the major search engines and with his web host company. The result was his websites were banned. When he received the notifications from Google and Yahoo, he called me crying about how tough business is.

So tough apparently he couldn’t take the time to write his own copy or take photos of the products he sells.

Not too long ago we noticed that Weldingsupply.com gripped some pictures and copy. They didn’t even remove our custom logo from the part! Then they posted it on their own website with a prominent copyright disclaimer. Of course it’s listed for less than our selling price… but we actually had the part to shoot the picture in the first place!

Our most recent find was at the aglevtech.net website. You may be familiar with Aglevtech as a low cost eBay seller. The site features two pages of content written by our technical experts, including a list of links to professional welding associations and manufacturers around the world in addition to a list of links to online welding articles. Now I’m not saying they couldn’t have found that information, however, what they did was replicate, word for word, the descriptions and the links. They didn’t even try to hide it because they obviously don’t think they did anything wrong.

Companies like those listed above are not really competitors, more like followers that can’t think for themselves. I would not buy from any of those companies.

When you’re looking for a company to do business with, be sure to consider: is there a phone number on their website? An address? Will you know who to contact if you have questions before you make a purchase? How about if you ordered the wrong part? Or it’s defective? Are the warranty and exchange terms clearly stated? How do they handle shipping? Do they know anything about the parts they are selling? Do they even stock the parts they are selling?

Conducting business with integrity is part of the culture that we encourage at Arc-Zone.com. We may not always be perfect, but we are honest and we don’t steal. Arc-Zone.com®, has a prominent Contact Us form and our contact information is on EVERY page of our website, including a toll free number. And, our return policy and shipping terms can be easily found as well. To me the key to business is to have repeat customers — people that would refer their friends and co-workers.

Hopefully you won’t have the same problems we have had, but in case you do, here are some links to resources so you can protect yourself:

United States Copyright Office.
Copyright Law of the European Union
World Intellectual Property Organization
Filing a DMCA Copyright Infringement Claim with Google
Filing a DMCA Copyright Infringement Claim with Yahoo
Chilling Effects Clearinghouse

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