What is the DMCA?
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
“Someone Stole My Content!”
You arrive on a website, are just poking around or reading, and familiarity kicks in — big time.
“That’s my content — I wrote that!”
“I made the graphic; how did they get it?”
“No one contacted me asking permission to use my copyright-protected work!”
Even if you disable the ability to right-click and save, it is still easy to copy content and images. Those so inclined know how to still get at your copyright-protected content and images.
It is infuriating to find your photos or content on other websites without your permission. But, before you do anything, calm down. The last thing you want to do is file a formal complaint while you are upset, as you need to be the professional in the room.
The good news is that there is a process for you to lodge formal complaints that can result in stolen content being taken down. Sometimes this process can even result in the entire site being shut down. While it takes a little work, for me, it’s worth every minute to stop someone from benefiting from my hard work.
Documenting the Theft
The moment you discover stolen content, the first thing you want to do is document the situation. Take screenshots of the offending site. Make sure the URL bar and your monitor’s time stamp are visible.
You want to do this so that you have indisputable proof of what you’ve found before you make any formal complaints. Not sure how to do this? Check your browser for “screenshot” apps.
Find Out Who Hosts the Website
Now that we have a URL that has stolen your content, we need to find out who owns it, where it is registered, and where it is hosted. You can use the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) WHOIS service.
WHOIS is named accordingly. Every domain registrar has a WHOIS service that will tell you “Who Is” the owner and where the domain is registered and hosted via the DNS nameservers. Print out the results so that you have those on hand.
What if the domain Contacts are hidden with a privacy service?
Those who plan on stealing content try to hide behind privacy services so that you cannot “see” where they are hosting to file a complaint. But that’s a futile attempt as privacy services have DMCA pages too. Furthermore, just because your content info is hidden doesn’t mean you can steal others’ copyright-protected works.
For example, Domains By Proxy offered by GoDaddy is a service website owners can subscribe to that hides their actual contact information for privacy concerns. However, the service does not exist to protect the contact information of individuals where claims of illegal or unethical activities have been made against them.
Domains By Proxy has a Trademark and Copyright Infringement Policy filing process to expose those who do not respect other’s copyrights. Additional privacy protection services will offer the same.
You can also try running the offending domain through Hosting Checker.
How to File a DMCA Complaint
Every hosting company has a DMCA policy along with a directions page just for official complaints of theft of copyright-protected collateral. However, before you can file a formal complaint, you need to ensure you have the following in order and available. Here is an example from WPEngine.
Section 512(c) of the DMCA requires that a notice include all of the following to be valid:
DMCA Online Forms
Some providers have an email address where you can provide the above by email. Others offer a convenient form that requires the following:
- Name of Copyright holder.
- Location (URL) of the unauthorized material on the provider’s service. Not just the primary URL but each URL where offending content resides such as post, page or media file URLs.
- Describe the copyrighted work so that it may be easily identified.
- Location (URL) of copyrighted work (where your original material is located, not the offending material).
You can only complain about one website at a time. Therefore, if you find your works on different sites, you must file a separate complaint about each website.
Do other countries have a DMCA?
- CANADA: Canada does have a “Canadian” version of the DMCA take down. It is called The Notice and Notice regime and it came into effect on January 2, 2015 as part of the Copyright Modernization Act of Canada. The Canadian Notice and Notice process is very different that the USA’s implemented version of the DMCA take down Notice.
- EU AND UK: If the website owner or host company is registered within the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) you may have to use the EU E-Commerce take down Notice forms.
- INDIA: If the website owner or host company is registered within India you may have to use the take down Notice forms based on Rule 75 of the Copyright Act of India 2013.
“This is way too complicated for me!”
I get it. All the legal statements and requirements can be intimidating. It is even more complicated if the offending websites are not in the United States.
Check out a professional DMCA service for those who want some help, including tracking your site’s content. DMCA services provide the appropriate templates/forms for complaints within Canada, EU, UK, and India for you to DIY, or they can handle that for you.
DMCA services is the one stop shop for all your DMCA & internet copyright needs and provides its customers with a variety of tools to help detect and defend theft that has occurred and prevent it from occurring in the future.
Don’t Forget Ad Networks
Another option to explore is onliners who scrape content from other sites generally do so to get ad revenue from Google’s AdSense and other similar networks. For example, if AdSense is displayed on the offending website, click the little blue arrow in the top/right of the ad. Then “Ad Choices” in the scraper site’s AdSense ad unit.
On the resulting Google web page, scroll down to where it says:
- Leave feedback on the website or ad you just saw
- The issue(s) were with:
- the website
- the ads
Choose “the website” and file a complaint. Other ad services/networks provide the same opportunity as they do not want their ads displayed on sites run by unethical copyright and trademark infringers.
I do not hesitate to immediately document and lodge formal complaints against anyone who takes and displays my content without my express permission to do so. Use the rights you have at your disposal to put these unseemly onliners in their place.