I was doing a duplicate content search on the web for our site content and found that someone has downloaded/mirrored our entire website and is hosting it on a subdomain of their own main domain. When I check the WHOIS database, no details of the user are available.

Why do people do this when it is clearly a copyright infringement - is it an SEO thing?

What is the best way of dealing with these individuals?

  • 3
    Your website was not stolen, it was copied. You should reword your question to be more accurate.
    – JamesRyan
    Jul 15, 2013 at 13:15
  • 1
    Copyright infringement is commonly referred to as "theft" - see here. Added quotes around "theft" to indicate this.
    – dan
    Jul 16, 2013 at 0:44
  • Until we find an answer, I suggest you update your site as much as possible. I noticed that the lazy people who copy my websites tend to not update and within a few months are quite outdated.
    – Itai
    Jul 16, 2013 at 3:24
  • @dan at one time people commonly referred to the world as flat, they were also incorrect ;)
    – JamesRyan
    Jul 16, 2013 at 9:01
  • @JamesRyan I tried to address this in my answer...to set them straight ;-)
    – dan
    Jul 16, 2013 at 9:32

3 Answers 3


You should try to contact the domain owner and/or webmaster and/or site author and/or web hoster. But if this doesn’t work or if you don’t want to wait for answers/actions:

Because they seem to copy/update your site one-to-one automatically, you could try some tricks to mitigate possible negative effects:

  • Make all internal links relative and use the base element, set to your domain. If someone clicks on a link on the duplicate site, they should land on your site.
  • Add a link element with rel value "canonical" to every page, containing your absolute original URL of that page as href value.
  • You could insert JavaScript to detect the current URL and have some fun if it doesn’t match your domain. E.g. hide the content and display a message to the visitors that this site is an illegal copy. Or try an (ugly) redirect to your site.
  • 1
    Thanks - some good ideas in your answer, I will definitely look into how to implement them.
    – Ubique
    Jul 31, 2013 at 12:31

Reports of this are not too uncommon - it's an easy way for unscrupulous site operators to use your content to gain traffic from search engines.

Hopefully you included a copyright (©) statement in all your files. In the U.S., this is not a requirement, however, in many other countries it's required in order to attach copyright protection to your works. You can also take the additional step of registering your works with your country's copyright office.

Though commonly referred to as theft, legal precedence does not equate copyright infringement as theft, conversion, or fraud. However, both civil and criminal actions can be pursued. If your website included trademarks, this would also encompass trademark infringement. The same is true of other forms of intellectual property too.

In the U.S., you can report claims of intellectual property "theft" to various governmental agencies, who may have access to resources that the public does not, as listed here: Where To Report Intellectual Property Theft If you're located outside the U.S., do a search for the options available in your country.

If this is resulting in financial or other damages, you might also consider contacting an attorney as well, who may be able to work with law enforcement and send a cease and desist letter/court order, and file legal suit against the other party.

  • Thanks. My site has a clear © and I have no way of identifying the offending person - see above @Anthony. I am interested to know why this is happening though? Is it malicious SEO at play here or something else?
    – Ubique
    Jul 23, 2013 at 8:26
  • You're welcome. Based on your comments above, they could be trying to build domain authority/trust by adding your site as a subdomain to their domain, in addition to increasing traffic in their web stats. It could also be a malicious attempt to get your site to rank lower because you'd be competing with them due to duplicate content issues. Since it seems this has happened more than once, I'd suggest filing complaints as my answer indicates, and contacting an attorney if possible.
    – dan
    Jul 24, 2013 at 0:14

What about the web hosting company and registrar. Those are great ways of making changes happen sooner. Registrars and hosting companies usually will comply and get involved with copyright infringement and legal issues since it exists on their network.

So what you can do is do a whois lookup of their DNS records and make note of who their registrar is of the main domain. From the DNS you can usually trace who is hosting their server. Whois one of the name servers or the ip address can also sometimes reveal who the web hosting company is. And contact the hosting company and make a complaint that one of their clients has stolen your intellectual property. Additionally you contact the registrar company (Godaddy, VeriSign, Name.com etc) and tell them the same thing; one of their clients has stolen material and is using their DNS service and with a false registrar identification names (which I believe is illegal according to ICANN rules). Otherwise you would have contacted them directly.

And just for what it's worth http://www.copyscape.com/ is a good checking service.

Learn About Intellectual Property Law

Most countries should have a website outlining rights and laws. For example in the USA I believe it is the United States Patent and Trademark Office. And they have a section on IP Law & Policy

  • The host was Google Apps, so I contacted them directly and they closed the offending account. The first time it happened, I was able to do a WhoIs search and identify the person and contact the Webhost with a DMCA notice directly, which worked. With Google Apps, user accounts are pretty much anonymous so I have no way of telling if it is the same person doing this.
    – Ubique
    Jul 23, 2013 at 8:23
  • Great. If you ever wanted to take it further then that you could hire a law firm which specialized in IP. Just search for ip lawyers. Jul 23, 2013 at 16:13

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