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How to Report Stolen Content: DMCA Guide and Tips

Reporting Stolen Website Content

What is the DMCA?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA *) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works.

Source: Wikipedia

Estimated reading time: 8 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 elementary to copy content and images. Even with right-clicking disabled those, who are so inclined, that will still get at your copyright-protected content and images.

When you find that your photos or content have been stolen, it is infuriating. But, before you do anything, calm down. The last thing you want to do is file formal complaints while you are upset, as you need to be the professional in the room.

There is a process for you to lodge formal complaints that can result in stolen content being taken down. Sometimes this even results in entire sites being shut down. While it takes a little work on your part, 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 Where the Site is Hosted

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. 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 make sure you have the following in order and available:

Section 512(c) of the DMCA requires that a notice include all of the following to be valid:

  1. A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed;
  2. Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or if multiple copyrighted works at a single site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site;
  3. Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit WP Engine to locate the material;
  4. Information reasonably sufficient to contact you, such as an address, telephone number, and an e-mail address;
  5. A statement that you have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
  6. A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that you are copyright owner or authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

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 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.

Let's Recap

  1. Immediately screen capture and document what you find on the infringing website.
  2. Print out the WHOIS record for the offending website(s).
  3. Make sure you have the necessary information and statements as noted above ready to go.
  4. Communicate as a professional leaving emotion out of your formal complaint.
  5. Also lodge complaints with advertising networks visible on the offending website.
  6. If you are unsure about doing it right, subscribe to to a professional service to help you out.

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.

There is nothing like checking back on their status to get a 404 (not found) or discovering that the entire website is offline. Now go get 'em!

At your service,

Judith: WordPress Consultant and Coach