Help! Someone Stole my Pictures/Video/Blog Post/Logo!
Lately I’ve noticed a bunch of bloggers on Instagram and Facebook talking about the growing plague of competitors and other people taking blog posts, pictures, logos, etc. and re-posting them. This is usually done without permission and without linking back to the original blogger’s post or providing any credit to the original blogger. Infuriating? Absolutely. Unethical? Certainly. Illegal? Possibly. It’s important to note that your material is protected by copyright law even if you’ve not registered it. In other words, the DMCA can be a great tool, if you know how to use it.
So, once you’ve discovered that someone is using your material without your permission (copyright infringement), what can you do? How do you make them (the “infringer”) stop? Well, You can always ask them nicely and hope that they cooperate. This may or may not work and you may or may not have to do something else.
Another option is to hire an attorney to go after whoever it is that took your stuff. While that approach may be successful, it can get very expensive. Fortunately, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) provides another option that is a pretty simple and straightforward process for getting your materials removed from the offender’s website.
Under the DMCA, you can contact the Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) where the infringing material is being hosted, notify them about the infringing material posted on the Internet, and have them take it down. The process doesn’t cost any money, can be done by anyone (even if you’re not an attorney) and provides a clear path to get some results.
How Do I Use the DMCA?
There are two steps in order to use the DMCA to have the ISP remove the offending material from a website.
First, you need to identify the Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) that is hosting the website where the offending materials are posted.
Second, you need to prepare a DMCA “Takedown Notice” and send it to the ISP.
How Do I Identify the ISP?
Usually, you can identify the ISP by searching for the URL using an online look up tool like WHOis lookup.
You can also get the information from a site like DNS Lookup Tools.
In most cases, using these tools, you’ll be able to identify the ISP and probably get the contact address where the DMCA Takedown Notice should be sent. If you need more help, you can probably contact your website consultant or IT guru and have him or her help you get the information that you need.
What Do I Put in a DMCA Takedown Notice?
While there is no requirement for the exact content of a DMCA Takedown Notice, these are the required elements that must be included:
- Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed. You can accomplish this by written description, pictures, or the URL where your original material is posted on the Internet.
- Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing and information reasonably sufficient to permit the ISP to locate the material. You can accomplish this by written description, pictures, or the URL where the copied material is posted on the Internet.
- Information reasonably sufficient to permit the ISP to contact you about the Takedown Notice, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address where you may be contacted. Just provide your current contact information.
- A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner. You simply state that “I am providing this information in good faith and I believe that the rights of the copyright owner are being infringed.”
- A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright that is allegedly infringed. You simply state that “Under penalty of perjury, I certify that the information in this notification is true and accurate and that I am authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner.”
- A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright that is allegedly infringed (this is probably you). This is your actual “signature” or a digital representation of your signature (i.e., “/s/Betty J. Blogger”).
Then What Happens?
In most cases, a few days or a few weeks after you submit the DMCA Takedown Notice, the ISP will either remove your materials from the other website or the infringer may decide to remove the material on their own. In some cases, the infringer may decide to respond and rebut your Takedown Notice. In that case, the ISP will contact you to let you know what’s going on with the process.
Finally, remember that not all uses of your material is necessarily improper. Certain uses, like news reporting, commentary, and satire may be considered “fair use” and allowable. You don’t want to send out a DMCA takedown notice unless someone is actually using your materials improperly. When in doubt, contact an attorney.
Here is a link to some additional information about the DMCA.
Remember – Be Smart. Be Legal.