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stealing our materials

 
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Firefly
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PostPosted: Thu May 01, 2008 4:47 pm    Post subject: stealing our materials Reply with quote

After ceasing to trade online over 2 years ago we have just found out that the website designer ( and registered owner of the domain name for our old business) has been fraudulently trading under our names as if we were still up and running! As we supplied educational materials online he had access to all of our products and mode of operation. We have only found this out because we have rewritten and restructured our business and contacted old customers to let them know we were back online again with a new website address but of course they replied saying they thought we had returned ages ago!The course materials were written before the website ( or even the Internet actually) existed by qualified professionals and are not in the public domain as such but sent as emailed attachments. Basically HELP - what rights have we got and how should we proceed?
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PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Firefly

Given the seriousness of this complaint, you really MUST take this matter to a solicitor.


Go down to your local Citizens Advice Bureau, or Business Advice Center, explain what has happened and ask if they can recommend a solicitor in your area that deals in such matters. (this assumes UK - sorry don't know where you are).

Your solicitor will be able to advise how best to go about it, but the matters I would put on the agenda would be:
1. The fact that he is trading under your name - this is known as 'passing off' - the fact that your customers thought they were dealing with you supports this.
2. The use of your materials without permission.
(For both of the above, probably a 'cease an desist', followed by an injunction if they do not comply will be the solutions).
3. What are your options for financial reimbursement - i.e. financial damages in respect to his sales of your items (plus your legal costs).
4. Have his actions breach criminal as well as a civil law? (I am fishing here Wink )


Hope all goes well.

If you want to tell us how it goes, please do post again Wink - I know I'd love to hear how you get on.
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Warlock
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PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oooo... sounds like this guy needs taking down a peg or five Twisted Evil My only concern is you state that you ceased trading - is it still 'passing off' if the company no longer exists I wonder? Regardless, you defo have a complaint if he is selling your materials that are not his.

I agree with the previous post - you must go to a solicitor.
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Firefly
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PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 4:08 pm    Post subject: stealing our materials Reply with quote

Thank you so much for both of your supportive responses, they are really most appreciated!

As regards the 'passing off' yes we did cease trading but the old clients certainly thought they were still dealing with us.

Do either of you - or anyone out there know about the contents of the website and ownership when all the text was authored by us - mostly taken from our hard copy Prospectus which existed years before we had an Internet presence? I inderstand that the domain name and html etc belongs to the website designer but surely when we can prove the existence of the words prior to the site, we have some claims?

Also if the the site has been improperly used is there a case for us to try and claim the domain name?

We are really getting so tired of this especially the trust element so yes we will arrang to seek legal advice and will certainly keep you posted.

Thank you again and have a nice Bank Holiday!
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PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As the text on the website was yours (rather than written by the web-designer) there is perhaps some good news on that score.

His publication of your material without consent IS an infringement of copyright, and you can certainly require him to remove all the copied material - (that of course applies to the educational materials too).


The good news is that most ISPs (Internet Service Providers) will act quickly to remove infringing material once notified. It depends on where the ISP is based of course - but in the UK & US at least, an ISP becomes liable if they knowingly continue to host infringing materials. So they normally act pretty quickly to shut down infringing sites.

I would send a 'cease an desist letter' to the designer and send a copy to the ISP, informing them that they are hosting the infringing site and asking for assistance.
There is a good chance his site will be taken down quite quickly.


Sorry for not mentioning this earlier (duh) Embarassed


As for the domain name - I doubt it, but it is something to add to the agenda...
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Firefly
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PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2008 4:45 pm    Post subject: stealing our materials Reply with quote

Hi again!

You asked about whether the 'crimes' could be criminal/civil. Well we know for a fact that the point of contact name being used ( in emails) is actually that of someone who died 14 months ago and that they are using 3 names of our associates to give respectability without their authorisation or knowledge, as permission to use these names was given only to us. Each has given us a statement confirming this.

The site is now just showing a front page with none of our text but all of the links are obviously still there.

Hey ho!
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Firefly
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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2008 8:20 am    Post subject: Stealing our materials Reply with quote

Hi again!

Wondered if you would like an update on our situation. After legal advice we sent a letter to the 'offender' and now the domain name is up for sale and the site no longer operational. So far so good and thank you for your advice!

However one of our main contract clients is now being left in the lurch and in an effort to salvage our reputation we have offered to help them at no cost. Bearing in mind all of this is directly because of this fraud and that our reputation has been damaged and we will be out of pocket, are there any grounds do you think for claiming the name and links as compensation? The name was made up of our busines name ( with a dot com after it) and the site authored by us. As it has been running for over a decade, the links would be very useful to us. If this person sells the name, then the links will just disappear. Or do you think we should just now get on with our ives?

Thanks again!
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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2008 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So you took him out - A victory for the good guys Wink

Thanks a lot for the update, it good to hear how things are going.

Honestly, I think if there is any justice you should be compensated for your trouble - so my answer would be yes. It's certainly worth a try - But remember life is short....
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Firefly
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 8:28 am    Post subject: stealing our materials Reply with quote

And so this goes on! Now the 'crook' is demanding we prove copyright of our course materials! These were never part of the site ( and were delivered by me as emailed attachments) and the designer never had anything to do with them. The original copies from before we had a web presence no longer exist but there is lots of anecdotal evidence to support ownership - the original proof reader, people trained in the early days before the Internet who are very familiar with the material ,as well as having the appropriate background, experience and qualifications ( My Masters Degree consisted of the bulk of the materials as a dissertation but the University only keeps records for 3 years). The person demanding proof has no background in the subject and no qualifications whatsoever. Have you any advice on how to proceed with proving copyright?
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the update, it's good to hear from you again.

I think you have already answered your own question...
Quote:
there is lots of anecdotal evidence to support ownership - the original proof reader, people trained in the early days before the Internet who are very familiar with the material

Shame you don't have the originals, but even so it sounds like you have plenty of witnesses to vouch for your version of events.
If you are taking action against him, that would be a civil case - and that means that the judge or tribunal would assess the evidence and make a judgment based on the balance of probability - the defendant does not have the luxury of 'beyond all reasonable doubt'.

I don't know what you want to get out of this; I understood that the site had been taken down - so I'm assuming that he is no longer using your material?
If you are seeking compensation, I'd go back to the solicitor and start formal legal proceedings.

Hope things go well and do let us know the outcome.


I notice on an earlier post you mentioned that the domain name was for sale - it is worth you buying the domain name? - you said that the links would be useful (I assume you mean inbound links to the site).
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Firefly
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 4:16 pm    Post subject: stealing our materials Reply with quote

Hi again!

Thanks for getting back! We don't want compensation really just a strong assurance that it will never happen again. We tried for the domain name but they are asking a ridiculous sum ( 10,000!) so either they are on cloud cuckoo land or they guessed it was us! There is proven fraud involved as well - with one of our old contract customers ( where the site running or not is irrelevant). We have passed everything on to the Police now. Thanks again!!
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