You invest a lot of time, money and effort into creating your content and you have every right (both morally and legally) to protect it. When someone copies your hard work, you’ll likely be furious, but fear not, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provided a way for content creators to claim their work and fight the copyright infringement.
What constitutes copyright infringement?
If you haven’t licensed your work, then anyone who copies your work without permission has infringed on your copyright. You don’t need to show any copyright notice for your legal rights to still apply – your work is always your own unless you specify anything to the contrary.
There is another instance, where you may have licensed your work using Creative Commons for instance, but the licensee has not followed the terms of your license. In this instance, you are equally in your rights to request (always request first, then demand) that the content be removed, or the terms of the license be followed.
You are unlikely to just stumble upon a case of copyright infringement with the wealth of content that’s out on the internet. Instead, I use Attributor’s FairShare to find copies of my work (in whole or in part). It’s free and has a lot of configuration options for you, such as setting which Creative Commons License applies to your work.
Someone copied my content. Now what?
Once you’ve established that your work has been copied without permission and the initial feelings of contempt and anger have dissipated, you’ll be raring to take action.
As I mentioned earlier, the DMCA allows for site owners to take action against copyright infringement. While the DMCA is a US law, there are similar laws in place around the world.
Your first step is to try and contact the site owner, typically by looking for contact information on the infringing site. If you are able to find this information, make contact with the owner, but be sure to keep it civil. More often than not, people are not aware that what they are doing is illegal and will happily abide with a request to remove the copied content. Keep it civil and don’t mention legal action just yet.
If your initial efforts are ignored, start stepping up your language and remind the site owner of your legal rights to ownership of your content and threaten legal action if you don’t seem to be getting very far.
If your attempts to work out the situation with the site owner don’t get you anywhere your next best bet is to send them a DMCA Takedown Notice.
Filing a DMCA Takedown Notice
A DMCA Takedown Notice is sent from someone who believes their content has been copied, to the person who copied the content. It is a statement explaining your rights as a copyright owner and lists the URLs of the original content and the copied content.
There is no set way of laying one of these out, but there is an excellent DMCA Takedown Notice generator, which will help you put together the notice, just by providing the information pertinent to your particular case.
Once you’ve got the Takedown Notice text, send it to the site owner and wait to see whether you get a response. If you don’t, all is not lost – you can still elevate your complaint. This is also the point where people who weren’t able to find contact information for the site owner will start their quest to have the content removed.
Get the host involved
DMCA requires that web hosts investigate allegations of copyright infringement for sites hosted on their servers and take action accordingly. They will initially try to contact the site owner using contact information that they have for them and if no response is received, they may have to take the site down altogether.
I found a great website for finding out who the web host is for any given website. Once you’ve found out who hosts the website, you can get in touch with them and serve them your Takedown Notice and they will normally be very responsive. I’ve had to deal with web hosts on a number of occasions and the situations have always been resolved very quickly.
If you fail to get a response from either the site owner, or the web host, you are within your rights to pursue legal action, however, this is clearly going to be an expensive option and all other options should be exhausted first.
Have you had to take action against copyright infringement before? Did it get to the point of serving a Takedown Notice? Did everything get resolved? I’d be interested to know, so please leave a comment with your experiences.