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News Editor

They took the whole site

Mar 15, 20044 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalware

Imitation isn’t always the sincerest form of flattery: It can be a crime . . . and a pain in the butt.

Shults Dot Com, a Web site design and hosting outfit in Mission Viejo, Calif., handles the online needs of myriad small businesses and recreational groups. Among the company’s sites is that of the Rochester, N.Y., chapter of the Sports Car Club of America, which you can see at

As of this writing, you also can see almost exactly the same content – page for page, link for link, right down to a photo album and contact info for club officers – at But the latter is an unauthorized copycat site about which neither Shults Dot Com nor the car club had an inkling until they heard about it from me.

The copycat was running a series of banner ads – since apparently stopped – over the car-club content it did not create and does not own. The advertisers – a motley collection of the sort one might normally associate with spam – presumably were compensating the Web site hijackers in some fashion, although exactly how or how much would be anyone’s guess.

“We were not aware of this happening,” says MaryAnne Curry-Shults of Shults Dot Com. “This company is blatantly stealing our content without conscience or consideration of the copyright infringement.”

Shults Dot Com late last week was attempting to contact the operator of the rogue site and its California ISP in an effort to get the matter resolved. According to the notoriously unreliable WhoIs directory, the phony site is registered to someone in China (a few of the links on the thing appear to this monolingual columnist to be written in Chinese).

“As far as legal action, we shall have to see if it really gets that far,” Curry-Shults says.

The good news is that it probably won’t get that far. These characters look to be of the hit-and-run variety, as they first targeted another auto-related site called Car Enthusiast, according to the British online news outlet That car site’s owner apparently succeeded in chasing off the bad actors with a few legal threats. My guess would be that Shults Dot Com soon will be free of them as well.

“I’m appalled at the way some will abuse the Internet,” Curry-Shults says. “I guess I’m just naive to the fact that people will do anything to make a buck no matter how unethical.”

Suing spammers is good sport, but . . .

Headlines are sure to follow whenever corporate giants such as AOL, EarthLink, Microsoft and Yahoo unleash a small pack of lawyers on a big pack of spammers. You saw this happen last week.

Much less certain is whether the ultimate goal – reducing overall levels of spam – is in any way a realistic expectation from such an adventure.

If history is any guide, that result is not likely. Lawsuits against spammers have been commonplace for years now, yet there is precious little evidence that they have done anything to stem the tide.

The companies behind this most recent crop of lawsuits say this time will be different in part because they have the nation’s new CAN-SPAM law at their disposal.

Anything that makes a spammer’s life miserable – and less profitable – is well worth a few billable hours.

But it still strikes me as stomping cockroaches with your shoe: Sure, you’ll squish a few of the buggers, but so what?

No need to send a card or bake a cake, but I thought you might want to know that my authorship of ‘Net Buzz reached the five-year mark earlier this month. Time does fly. . . . But the address remains the same: