Alrighties, I promised I'd explain what happened, so here it is.
I've been having a lot of problems lately with people pirating and copying my website designs, and selling them on the sly. Its absolutely frustrating, as you can imagine. I mean, its tough enough making a living lately, let online one online, so the piracy actually hurts in more ways than one.
So on Friday, I got an email from someone letting me know that this one website has several pirated versions of some of my templates for sale!
I promptly form a Cease and Desist letter, and send it to the website promoting it, after noting that they claim to be the owner of the design company.
The owner doesn't reply at first, so I check around on a couple of other places, and find his Facebook, and a chat room that he frequents a lot. In the chat room, I casually inquire about this guy, and promptly everyone scatters, except for one guy. He's very standoffish, asking why I want to look for him, and I explain, well, pirating is bad, and I can get his hosting yanked. Turns out chat guy is using some of owner's hosting himself, and doesn't want that pulled, so he gives me all of his contact info, including his messenger.
I proceed to hop on IM, and catch owner online. Turns out, he was in the middle of reading the email I sent, and was FREAKING. I mean major freak out mode "don't sue me, don't sue me". I said just remove the stuff off your little design site, please, that's all.
Oh, but he doesn't own that, actually.
He was just claiming it was his because the design site offered him a cut of any sales, and he figured he'd sell more if he tried to purport it as his. Yeah well, look how that worked out, eh?
He turns around and gives me the username of the guy who actually owns the design site. Apparently, he never emailed the guy, just PM'd him back and forth on a forum somewhere, he doesn't really remember which one, but the name was like <blah blah> Ah hah, we're getting closer now!
A quick Google search turns him up quickly, so I hop onto the forums, register, and send him an email, plus a PM, and then poke around a bit.
Yeeeep, there's at least three threads on the forums where he and another user (who we'll call Small Time Pirate) on the forums are selling my stuff. Lovely. I reported the posts, then posted on the threads about who I was, and the fact that the items being sold were stolen....whoever got them would be facing a C&D letter, so it'd be a good idea not to buy them.
Nobody responded until the next day. Small Time Pirate decided it'd be a great idea to blame his theft on a "design blog that showed me how to do this". I asked for the URL, but he'd just so happened to have accidentally deleted his browsing history yesterday, woops! I said that didn't really matter, kind of hard to believe a design blog would not online describe how to do my exact design in such detail, but to leave in my watermarks? Now that was just weird.
STP got nasty at that point, cursing at me, and saying that he could duplicate my ENTIRE work in less than five minutes in Photoshop. I said go for it, prove it.
later he sends me a tiny screenshot of a very small portion of my work, and tries to gloat about it. I guess I shouldn't have said my next thing, but I replied "Yep, thank you for proving you not only couldn't pull off the same detail and quality of design, but that it's obviously much more difficult than a few minutes of work."
Then, out of the blue, the forum admin gets involved, and posts that he doesn't believe my claims that my work is stolen. In fact, he's slightly inclined to believe that I
am the thief, and that I need to provide proof that I'm not.
Fine, whatever. Within a few minutes, I posted a TON of screenshots of sales, file creation dates, and promotion dates from when I first launched those designs.
I'm sick and tired of this, now. Its Sunday at this point, and I'm tired of this little dance. So I pulled out the big guns.
It's DMCA time!
Now, a DMCA notice is the really big WMD. Basically, its a sworn statement that cannot
be ignored by who you send it to, or you can sue the unholy bejeebers out of them. As a nice caveat though, if you're wrong *at all* about what you claim, they can promptly do the same to you. So its a double edged sword, but oh, what a whammy.
I proceeded to send a triple-checked over DMCA notice to Main Pirate's hosting provider. They are legally obligated to reply within 24 hours, but, they replied in less than 15 minutes. On a weekend. A Sunday, no less. :P
MP's hosting apparently took one look at the claim, and saw the obviously pirated material immediately. They in turn sent a notification to Main Pirate to pull that stuff down, NOW. I thanked them, and promised I'd check back in the morning.
Monday morning, oh happy day.
MP's hosting provider finally got through to him, and he immediately pulled all of the material off his site. On the forum, I guess the overwhelming amount of evidence convinced the forum admin, who had him remove the images as well from there.
He even sent me a personal apology, stating that he was very sorry, and that he only copied it because a customer of his requested that he do it for cheaper than what I was selling it. He wanted the money, so he didn't think twice.
I thanked him for removing it, and explained that for the future, if someone asked him to copy work like that, he should just explain to them that it would be more expensive for them in the end, after they got hit with a copyright suit! I also told him that I looked at his work, and he has potential, that he shouldn't waste it by copying others, and to work on refining his own talent.
Guess that got through to him, because he thanked me, and said that he never thought of it that way, and that he'd keep in touch with me, to show me how he was progressing.
Never did hear again from STP, not that worried about him, honestly. Turns out its a young kid, but I'll be keeping an eye out for him just in case. MP said he'd talk to him, so hopefully, that will also be settled.
In the end, I'm just happy that it wasn't too overly stressful, and that he removed all of my stuff.