November 6: Yep, someone stole my site: content, code, and images. Now who'd want to do a thing like that? I mean, really, it's not like this site leaps over the bleeding-edge.
Unfortunately it's not a unique situation. A 1997 article on ZDNet, "Has Your Web Site Been Stolen?", covers this issue and the problems in enforcing digital copyrights. Let's take a look at my thieves.
The pirated site was at http://lyndunagan.fsn.net (it's gone now, thanks to J.P. at FSN.net), but there's a large screengrab here. After studying the code and making several "whois" inquiries, I had a few contact addresses and a snarl of tangled coincidences.
They'd made a few changes besides adding banner ads: all the flowcharts, wireframes, and client site links were forwarded to a second Web site offering some lame-looking software; and the "Contact" link went to a third Web site in China.
Shortening a long story, I sent 'cease and desist' emails to everyone connected to the three parties and figured I'd never hear from anyone, but FSN.net took down the bogus site within a few hours. Lucky me.
I know the site was up for at least two weeks because of some changes I'd made. I still haven't figured out the WHY of this story, nor have I reconciled some of the other weird coincidences, which I won't go into here.
WHAT'S THE DAMAGE?
As far as I'm concerned, this episode involved copyright infringement, intellectual property theft, identity theft, and fraud.
Copyright and intellectual property laws protect authors of original creative works, which "must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression so that it can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine/device" and Web servers count as a tangible fixed medium. These pirates plagurized the content, images, and code that I'd written and assembled. They didn't even change the name of the site.
Fraud is "an intentional perversion of truth" or "a false misrepresentation of a matter of fact" that induces another party to "part with some valuable thing belonging to him or to surrender a legal right". The owners of the bogus site applied for an affiliatship using the stolen site they claimed to be me in order to get a franchise license (they didn't).
Identity theft using another person's identification with the intent to commit an unlawful action is a federal felony.
Will my pirates ever be caught or prosecuted? Not a chance. I'm happy enough that the bogus site was taken down, and I'll be alert
for repeat problems in the future.
I have lots of people to thank: Karen Garcia
for alerting me to the theft, J.P. at FSN.net for responding so quickly; Ruth, Shama,
for your ideas and sympathy. Forgive me if I've left out anyone
you guys rock.