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, 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-date stamp are visible.
You want to do this to have indisputable proof of what you’ve found before making 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.
Many companies shield their information for security reasons to avoid spam and identity theft. We’ll cover that next. Regardless, 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.
These services do not exist to protect the contact information of individuals where claims of illegal or unethical activities have been made against them. Look for the Trademark and Copyright Infringement Policy for the filing process to expose those who do not respect other’s copyrights.
You can also try running the offending domain through Hosting Checker. Take screenshots of those results too.
How to File a DMCA Complaint
Every hosting company has a DMCA policy and a directions page just for official complaints of theft of copyright-protected collateral. However, before filing a formal complaint, you must ensure the following is 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. Others offer a convenient form that requires the following:
You can only complain about one website at a time. Therefore, if you find your work on different sites, you must file a separate complaint about each website.
Do other countries have a DMCA?
“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. In those cases, get used to crying “Uncle!”.
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 at 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.
*Some of the links on this page are to companies I have a professional affiliation with. Read my full affiliate statement here.