Don’t Steal Your Competitor’s Website Content

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Search engine optimization provides a marketing edge. Would-be clients may be more apt to contact those professionals at the top of the online list. So, some professionals spend considerable resources to maintain a priority position in search results. There are marketing tricks to achieve priority status, and tools to employ. But, professionals must not go too far. Take for example the New Jersey attorneys who allegedly stole a competitor’s website content to generate more hits on their website.

A New Jersey attorney recently sued two law firms for conversion, misappropriation of likeness, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, identity theft and copyright infringement arising from allegedly stolen website content. The plaintiff claims that the defendants stole computer code and even the lawyer’s name and biographical information for their own marketing purposes. The attorney claims that the firms’ use of the content was damaging to his business and misdirected potential clients.

The defendants point at their website consultant and claim he was responsible for the stolen data without their knowledge. The firm also claims that contact information and the attorney’s name only appeared in metadata and therefore visitors to the site could not see the plaintiff’s name or contact information.

The lawsuit demonstrates that some professionals will go to great lengths to improve profit margins in a digital age. As a result, lawsuits are changing; claims are no longer limited to the accidental disclosure of client information or leaking of privileged and confidential documents. Liability now arises from hidden and less obvious technological snafus such as inappropriate information stored in metadata. All professionals should be wary of the potential liability lurking behind modern technology and should rely upon competent IT experts to reduce those risks.