Welcome to Part 3 of my series on copyright infringement, hosted in conjunction with Jennifer at Literate Housewife - please visit her blog to see what she has to say on this subject. Part 1 of this series was called “Copyright Infringement: What Is It?” and Part 2 called “Copyright Infringement: How Do I Find It?”. Please note that this is not legal advice - this is just the information I have found while searching the internet and consulting a lawyer.
So, what do you do when you’ve discovered someone using your content without your permission?
Notify the Blogger
This isn’t technically necessary, but I feel like it’s usually a good idea. If there is contact information available, contact them and let them know that you are aware they have stolen your content and would like it taken down within a certain time frame (I usually say 24 hours).
Another reason I feel like this is a good idea is because a lot of people, especially from other countries, don’t realize that copying content is infringement if they provide a link back to your website. In this case, people are usually apologetic and take content down immediately. I’ve also been in a situation where people claim they are “surprised at my response” because they were trying to promote my blog. Ha!
Issue a DMCA Takedown Notice
If you can’t find the blogger’s contact information or they haven’t responded within the specified time frame, then you have to take the next step - issuing a DMCA takedown notice. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a blog’s host (Wordpress, Blogger, Typepad, or any independent hosting company) cannot be held accountable if a blog it hosts infringes on someone else’s copyright. However, according to US law, the only way they can maintain that status is if, when they are informed of copyright infringement by the person/organization holding the copyright, they must investigate and take action. Therefore, issuing a DMCA takedown notice to the host (not the blogger/site owner!) is a surefire way to get your content removed from someone else’s website.
The DMCA takedown notice has one huge, blindingly obvious caveat - it can only be used against hosts in the United States since it’s based in US law. If a host is located in another country, your best recourse is to notify them of the copyright infringement and politely ask that they remove the offending content - I’ve had to do this and was successful in getting the content removed. However, the host is under no legal obligation to do so under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Just to reiterate, this means it doesn’t matter what country the person stealing the content is from, just where their web host is based. I had a situation once where a spam blogger was based in Israel, but their web host was located in North Carolina. They responded immediately to my DMCA takedown notice.
But first, in order to issue a DMCA take down notice, you have to figure out who the host is, craft the letter, figure out where to send it - it’s a process that sounds complicated, but really isn’t once you get the hang of it. Here’s a step-by-step guide to sending one.
Step 1: Find out the website’s host
First, you need the WHOIS information of the website. This will sometimes provide you with the webhost, but in my experience, it rarely does. What it does do is, on occasion, give you the contact information (including email address) of the person who the website is registered to, in case you want to contact them. I’ve found GoDaddy’s WHOIS service to be the most comprehensive.
If you can’t find the person’s contact information or just don’t care, you need to find out who their webhost is. Sometimes this is really easy, especially when it’s Blogger, Wordpress, or some other major free blogging service. But if the website has its own domain name, it can be much more complicated.
That’s why I absolutely love the website I stumbled upon, WhoIsHostingThis.com. What it does is pretty self explanatory - you type in the name of the website, and it tells you who the host is. For example, for my blog, it says the host is Google, which it is because Google owns Blogger.
Once you find this information, they have a link that you can click on and pay $99 for them to file a DMCA takedown notice for you, but no need - you can easily do it yourself for free. But first, you need to figure out where to send the notice.
Step 2: Find an email address to send the DMCA Takedown Notice to
Google the host that WhoIsHostingThis provided and find their official website. The larger sites will likely have a dedicated abuse or copyright infringement email address readily available. If you can’t find one of those, though, just email whichever address you think is most applicable.
You should also see where the host is located and make sure they are in the United States. If not, go ahead and send an email to the host anyways, but they aren’t legally obligated to do anything about a DMCA takedown notice. It’s really frustrating, and if you’re determined, you can look into the host’s country’s laws and see if there is anything you can use to compel them to remove the content, but a polite email including both the copied links and your own originals is usually your best recourse.
Step 3: Craft the DMCA letter
Sadly enough, I have a sample DMCA takedown notice saved as a Word template with all my information already filled in - all I have to do is copy and paste the infringing links. That’s how often I’ve had to use it. I’d recommend doing the same - it doesn’t take any longer than crafting the letter, and it will save you time in the future.
For my DMCA take down letter, I used the site IP Watchdog. They have a lot of great information about what a letter needs to contain, as well as a sample letter you can copy and paste and use for yourself.
Once you’ve got your letter together, send it to the webhost! If they are US-based, you should see the infringing links removed relatively quickly.
It’s actually against the Google Adsense Terms of Service for blogs that use it to steal intellectual property. If you come across a spam blog that is stealing your content that uses Google Adsense (which, in my experience, most do), you can report them to Google. At the bottom of an ad, there should be a small box that says “Ads by Google”. Click on it, and go to the bottom of the page, where it will allow you to report a policy violation.
This isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s a good way to protect others who haven’t found their stolen content yet. I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing this for just anyone, but I have no qualms about it when it comes to spam blogs.
Well, that’s about it! I hope this series was helpful. Copyright infringement is such an important issue, and unfortunately in today’s climate, it’s not a matter of if your content is copied but when it will be. If you’re vigilant and take action when you see your content stolen, you’re not only protecting yourself, but your fellow bloggers as well.