US Copyright Group Caught Red Handed Copying Competitor's Website

from the photo-hunt dept

Why is it that the biggest “defenders” of copyright are always the ones caught infringing on others’ copyrights? As a whole bunch of you have been submitting, US Copyright Group — the publicity seeking effort from DC law firm Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver that is suing tens of thousands of people for alleged copyright infringement in an effort to get them to pay up via “pre-settlement” letters — appears to have a bit of a problem with understanding copyright itself. TorrentFreak is showing how USCG appears to have blatantly copied the full HTML for its “settlements” website from a competing operation called Copyright Enforcement Group. USCG had set up a site at CopyrightSettlement.info that had code that was so obviously copied from CEG that it included CEG’s copyright statement, images and phone number for some of the time. Since then, much of the code has been “scrubbed,” but plenty of CEG’s code was still there. Here’s the image TorrentFreak put together noting the… uh… obvious similarities (you can click for a larger view):

And it’s not a case of the two operations being related or sharing information. TorrentFreak contacted CEG about this, and was told:

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are not associated with the US Copyright Group and they are not authorized to use Copyright Enforcement Group materials.”

Someone else was told that Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver will be receiving a cease & desist shortly. I wonder what sort of “pre-settlement” option will come with that letter.

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Companies: copyright enforcement group, dunlap grubb & weaver, us copyright group

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Comments on “US Copyright Group Caught Red Handed Copying Competitor's Website”

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49 Comments
Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Scapegoat

They’ll just blame it on some poor schmuck who created their website for them. I’m sure they’ll claim they had no idea that their website was copied from somewhere else.

That’s true and that reasoning would probably hold up in a court of law. But in order to get content taken down that you don’t like — or in this case, copied “without your knowledge” — you don’t need to take someone to court. All it takes is a DMCA takedown notice and some bullying.

How funny would it be if each group sent a takedown notice to each other’s ISP and both sites were shut down?! (Hmmm, is there such a thing as an amicus brief but for DMCA takedowns?)

abc gum says:

Why am I not suprised

Typical responses will be:
1) Do as I say, not as I do
2) We have done nothing wrong
3) Someone else is responsible, not us
4) PROFIT !!!

Obviously, they see themselves as above the law.

Nothing will come of this and they will continue to send out their letters of extortion to dead people, childeren and laser printers.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Why is it that the biggest “defenders” of copyright are always the ones caught infringing on others’ copyrights?

I’ll answer that one. To the copyright industry, copyright is not about protecting the work of authors, artists, musicians or coders. It’s about eliminating competition and maintaining the status quo through the use of their government granted monopolies.

Big players can and do infringe copyrights all they want. They can do that because they’re big. At the worst even if they’re sued they have the money to quickly settle.

What the big players like about copyright is keeping the little guys from upsetting their gravy train. When the little guy infringes, the big guys can sue the little guy into oblivion.

So, with our current copyright system, the big guys can do whatever they want and infringe whatever they want. While the little guys and consumers are forced to comply.

As an example, you had a posting a short while ago about a fashion designer, who on one hand “stole” his designs and on the other hand, wanted strict copyright protection for his designs.

As I explained above, there’s no contradiction in that. With a strong copyright, he’d still be free to “steal” any designs he wants and then drag it out in court and settle if he has too. However, any upcoming designer would be shut out. It’s a win/win for the status quo designer because it eliminates competition. Which is the real purpose of copyright.

A McC (user link) says:

Re: Biggest Defenders? What about the "Little Guy"?

Copyright was originally intended to protect a piece of intellectual property for a specified number of years. A song, a photograph, etc. What has happened is it is so expensive for a “little guy” to protect a copyright that virtually all violations go unchallenged in court. How many average people do you know that have 10-20 thousand dollars just laying around to give to a lawyer to take a violator to court?
It’s a damn shame that parents haven’t taught their kids that just because it’s on the web doesn’t mean that it’s actually free.
What really needs to happen is to reduce the cost of taking some-one to court so that the little guy can actually defend their copyrights and I’ll bet that it wouldn’t take long before people figured out that stealing doesn’t pay.

Mr. V says:

Copyright is a GREAT thing...

Copyright is always a great idea… when it applies to everyone else. When YOU need to copy something, obviously YOU are above such petty restrictions…

It’s been shown to be the case with politicians, acitvist groups… and now… apparently, copyright organizations.

However, that said… it’s fairly likely they bought the same website template somewhere, which is why the sites look so similiar.

Cheap start-ups and knock offs of each other.

average_joe says:

If this is true and USCG got caught red-handed, then that is too feakin’ funny! LMAO!

Although, for right or for wrong, none of this changes the cases USCG has brought against alleged infringers.

For USCG haters, this is an empty victory… feels good for a second, but ultimately changes nothing in the underlying battle.

Josh says:

Pre-Settlement letter HELL NO This is a lawsuit you can retire on. It’s a commercial website seeking seeking business. Not some snippet of news cut and pasted or song downloaded in the middle of the night.

Also this is a business to business transaction solicitation. So no consumer protection laws or such to protect or limit liability.

iamtheky (profile) says:

It seems as though they have maintained code for two functions checkmyform() and checkmyformb() that do not correspond to anything on their new site, but are easily identified on the copyrightsettlements.com site.

And they get a bonus for leaving the word ‘Placeholder’ where I suppose they want a title to point out one more time that the defendant record ID goes in the box.

Decline (profile) says:

They probably “hired” some web designer for cheap after they saw the other site. The designer came up with an idea and they kept saying, “can you make it more like that one we showed you, we really liked it.” After dozens of emails like this the designer got fed up and wasn’t being paid much and said, “Fine you want it just like their site?” They said, “basically yes” and he said, “Here you go, their site.”

iNtrigued (profile) says:

Web Designer

I can’t speak for all Web Designers, but a big part of web design is finding a site that the client likes and modeling their site after it. You don’t however just copy and paste the entire html. Most web designers don’t care if you copy segments of their code because they most likely found code from someone else too, but to not change any of the information is more than just bad practice.

That said, no web designer is ever going to put a site out live without getting the expressed permission from the client. They are getting paid whether it goes live or not so their, “but it was the web designer’s fault”, excuse isn’t going to cut it. They are the ones who decided to put it live, not the web designer. Its their responsibility as the client to go through the pages to be sure the content is correct, not the web designer. And if they did give the web designer complete and unchecked authority on what content gets put up then they are even more so responsible for the content of the pages than if they designer had gone rogue.

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