“Having a unique and original idea, even if it’s not perfect, is what matters the most. It’s the only way to succeed.” – AskGamblers.com
“Don’t get mad, view it from a positive perspective! Imitation is a form of flattery.” – LatestCasinoBonuses.com
“Webmasters have to understand they’re going to get their work stolen or copied – it’s part and parcel of the digital age.” – betnhl.ca
For years the biggest problem any affiliate had to face was having their content ripped off and copied. Also for years Google hasn’t helped the situation as these sites with stolen content would often rank with little effort and are rewarded for stealing. Things then got a little different as it was too easy to detect when your content was copied so now you have content spinners which is easier to fly under the radar.
A similar problem which has existed for as long as content has been copied is having website designs stolen and copied. The same could be said when it comes to ideas as well. When it comes to stealing designs this is where the argument opens up as it becomes an issue of interpretation of a design and people have their own opinions of what is stolen versus what is either original or similar. Rarely will you see a design come out that is an exact clone of another site but usually you’d find something very similar.
In the creative industries whether design or music for example, people are always borrowing ideas from one another. Even in the design community you have a site Dribbble.com (that’s 3 ‘b’ ) where designers can share their designs. They have a feature called Rebound where a designer can take someone’s idea or design, make their own version of it and the Rebound gives instant credit to the original creator. So in essence, websites for a long time have been essentially like a rebound: take someone’s successful website, borrow some elements and put your own spin on it. When this happens most would agree there isn’t much you can do about it other than to acknowledge you have competition and if people are borrowing ideas from you, then you are doing something right. However we are dealing with a time when copying is just too easy to do and successful webmasters are going to need to stay on top of it just as much as they have to when it comes to having their content ripped off.
Be Successful, Get Copied
Big sites will almost always get copied which is the unfortunate part of having a successful website. For sites as big as AskGamblers.com and LatestCasinoBonuses.com as 2 of the biggest casino portals around, their designs are not random and a lot work and thought has gone into the details of all of their pages. It takes time to come up with a unique and original design and even more time when you have to assess the user experience as well as focusing on conversion rate optimization. Creating a website should be a time consuming process and a lot of tough decisions need to be made on more than just the look of a site.
Unfortunate Case Studies & Quotes from 3 top webmasters
“AskGamblers website is a custom made website (we don’t use templates, themes, or ready-made assets) and every single detail was carefully thought of and developed in-house by our team of experts.
Over the years, our work has been cloned numerous times. In fact, almost every month we stumble upon some new AskGamblers wannabes. Some copy our design, others the content, and there are also those who try to copycat our whole website.
When a copyright infringement happens, we take several actions such as: contact the owner or hosting company, talk to casinos or affiliate managers, and/or when necessary file legal notices.
The bottom line: There’s no practical use in having websites copycatted. Players are well aware of this and they don’t respect it. It’s just a matter of time when a site who clones well-known brands is going to end up being publicly condemned. “
“When we find a website that has cloned LCB our first step is to get in contact with the site owner and let him/her know they are in breach of copyright laws and need to remove all stolen content, images and change up the design. We are a brand and we can’t have other sites ripping off our hard work and confusing visitors. If we receive no response or they are not willing to cooperate we contact all the casinos they promote, make the affiliate manager aware of the copied design, stolen content, images etc and ask them to contact the affiliate and close the account if unwilling to cooperate. This usually gets the cloners attention 😉
The more recent clones have been more amicable and we have been able to chat and keep in contact with the site owners and work with one another to make the necessary changes.
Our final words on the matter: Don’t clone! When designing your own site pick the best features from several sites and come up with something unique and memorable, provide value for the player in a different way.”
“Webmasters have to understand they’re going to get their work stolen or copied – it’s part and parcel of the digital age. I’ve seen it all. From simple logo designs and button taken, to content to entire websites. However what webmasters have to understand is this is rarely done maliciously. It’s usually by people who don’t know any better – or get carried away when working on a website. I see people getting irate and posting on forums in a complete rage. Take a step back, decide what you want done and contact the website in question. If it’s a simple logo or graphic for example, you may allow them to use it as long as they link back to your site. If it’s something larger like content or a website design inform them that they must change it. If they don’t agree to anything, then contact affiliate programs or businesses they promote and lay out your case. While public shaming is the common way to do it, it should be the last resort or only used when you need public proof to protect your brand.” – betnhl.ca
Unfortunately cloning a site is not only easy to do but it is probably the cheapest way to make a website. Website cloning basically bypasses the designer as well as the ideas and layout work into making a site. A programmer can more or less do all of the work and unfortunately there are many tools out there to help with this process including softwares and companies offering this bespoke service. Take a look at one website cloning service has to say:
“[domain removed] provides you with the best service of copying and developing a web-page or an entire website, by using and improving the key features of original site and adding unique new ones. With our service you can implement a perfect website clone at your domain in a minute.”
Do copyright laws protect designers
The answer to that is not really but keep in mind I’m not a lawyer. In the creative fields when it comes to designers there is not as much someone can do but it is all relative. A designer can choose to take someone to court over a design they believe to be stolen but this is a time consuming and costly process. In the fashion world, copying is almost a normal practice where the large design firms steal designs and ideas from individual designers. Designers unfortunately acknowledge that this line of their creative work is less protected than something like writing a book. It is until that designer realizes their designs were lifted that they make a stink about it and usually what happens as a result is the firm admits some misunderstanding, they endure some negative publicity but things come around full circle as the original designer will sometimes get some compensation, attribution of their work and if anything, they gain a lot of exposure in the process.
What can us affiliates do to combat design thieves
If you are an affiliate and your designs are ripped off, well let’s assume that taking someone to court is out of the question as there is a good chance you would lose plus the fact that it takes time and money in the process. There are a few things that can be done and is worth the effort if you think you’ve had your designs unfairly ripped off.
1. Contact the affiliate first
2. Contact their affiliate managers
3. Contact their host
4. Name & Shame
Contact the affiliate first
Do this for documentation purposes but give the affiliate a chance to clear things up before anything becomes public. Sometimes webmasters have legit reasons for the problem like they hired a design company that ripped off another site without their knowledge. Make sure that webmaster gets the message and put a notification when the email is read so they can’t play dumb and act like they didn’t get their email or forgot to setup their email properly.
Contact their affiliate managers
Depending on the affiliate program and what’s in their terms and conditions for account terminations, they can help resolve problems with threats to close their affiliate accounts. Think about it this way, if you’ve been copied, it is implied that you are earning more than the people copying you. If an affiliate program doesn’t close an account or pressure the design thieves, then it is like they are condoning it and they are more likely to lose the business of the successful affiliate for not helping. Trust me, nobody wants their account closed so the threat of it is enough to get an affiliate into action to make necessary changes.
Contact their host
This is another grey area in terms of how effective it can be but it’s worth a shot. Find their website host and contact them explaining that a client of theirs has stolen your designs. It’s a similar situation for their terms and conditions but again hosts don’t want to be stuck in the middle either as being a company that condones bad behaviour.
Name & Shame in forums
Quite often, thieves are delusional and if they have no ethics and steal from you, then calling them out on it will just lead to a shouting match where they will defend they didn’t steal anything. What will naming and shaming accomplish? Usually it is one of the more effective routes as nobody wants to have their name permanently associated with stealing anything at all as it is a bit embarrassing. Most of the time other webmasters will sympathize with the original creator and the site that did the copying will do the right thing for the wrong reasons.
When you work hard to create something whether it takes your own time and money to create, having your site copied can be infuriating but take a few pointers from the top affiliates mentioned in this article. If you are getting copied, take it as a compliment that you are doing something right. That said don’t just sit there and tell yourself how great you are, you are building a brand and having a similar website like yours whether similar in domain, designs of features, you should look out to protect your brand and take action when someone tries to copy you.
John Wright is an igaming veteran with 15 years experience in the industry. While he wears many hats of the trade, his main focus is on UX design and conversion rate optimization. He runs Gaffg.com which offers an affiliate coaching service to help grow affiliates.