Advice - General / Tracking down pirates / Once you have found a rip-off...

As soon as you find ripped-off articles or photos, you need to start collecting evidence as though you were going to court. It'll help in negotiation, even if you don't get to court. And courts like paper much more than they like computer files.

Print everything you find, making sure that your browser is putting the date and time in the page footer. For this reason a printout is better than a screen grab, if harder on the forest. If you know how, you could make a screen grab and add your own date and time, but unscrupulous pirates (and is there any other kind?) know they could get lawyers to quibble - so we won't explain to those who don't know.

You can keep electronic copies on your hard disk as well if you like. They can be easier to find. We recommend making PostScript files because you can re-locate them by searching your hard disk if you forget where you put them - and they're more likely to be accepted in evidence. But a tutorial in how to do that is beyond the scope of this Guide.

How long has it been there?

Copy and paste the URL of the page you have found into to look for earlier versions of the same page. This allows you, with some patience, to find out how long the rip-off has been posted on the web. Print out the earliest version you can find.

Note that you cannot search for content - text or pictures. You have to find the URL (web address) of a page, and then find that in the archive. The archive system appears to wait a few months before displaying pages that it has saved. It may not save every page from a website every time it visits some of that site. It often fails to save copies of pictures - but you can often see where they were on the page.

Photographer David Hoffman has recommended visiting (now charging, but offering a 30-day trial: see link below). This maps visually what websites are connected to the one you found (you will need to know how to make sure you "have the latest version of Java installed"). He finds that the sites it finds often have further rip-offs of his pictures.

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Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.