If you have ever had a piece of work stolen and published elsewhere online, you know that it can feel pretty hopeless. Nasty content thieves just don’t seem to care how they acquire anything, and their plagiarism occasionally rewards them with sweet advert revenue. Don’t despair, though, for there is hope, and it comes in the form of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
In layman’s terms, it’s just another controversial United States government copyright act. You may have heard about it before, and it occasionally makes its rounds in discussion sites like Reddit (where the topical conversations have to do with how a big record label shut some kid’s YouTube channel operation down). Rarely do you hear about how someone can file a DCMA takedown notice on their own, and despite your opinion on piracy or content theft, this law actually helps out the little guy, too.
What Is a DMCA Takedown Notice?
The DMCA was passed in 1998 by the United States government, bringing two World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, pictured) treaties into effect in the States. Basically, this act extended protection against online copyright infringement. The DMCA also covers a few other things like DRM, but we’ll focus on how it protects your work for the purpose of this article.
For example, the DMCA outlaws every single video you’ve uploaded with a credit that says, “I do not own the rights to the song in this clip, but because of fair use policies, I am allowed to use it.” It isn’t fair use. Actually, it’s blatant copyright infringement.
What’s A DMCA Takedown Notice?
Takedown notices sound a bit more exciting than they actually are. In my mind, I like to imagine them as bounty slips in which virtual mercenaries can assassinate one’s online profile. That’s not the case, though. In reality, they are just digital cease and desist notices. They come in the form of an email or letter, and it looks a little something like this:
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is [NAME] of [COMPANY/WEBSITE], and I am the copyright holder of the [TYPE OF WORK] being infringed at:
[URLS OF COPYRIGHTED WORKS]
The original copies of the [TYPE OF WORK] can be found here:
[URLS OF ORIGINAL WORKS]
I have also attached images depicting the infringing material in an effort to assist with their removal from the offending websites.
This message is official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) requiring removal of the aforementioned infringements. Please remove the material from these websites immediately and also take appropriate action against the offender to prevent future infringement.
I have a good faith belief that use of the material described above on the offending web pages is not authorized by myself, the copyright owner, or the law. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information provided here is entirely accurate, and I am the copyright owner.
How Can I Issue A DMCA Takedown Notice?
Your first plan of action is to do a WHOIS inquiry on the domain to find out all of the necessary information:
- The host
- The registrar
- The owner
It’s pretty easy to do, and Tina along with a few others already offered some information about it on MakeUseOf answers. After that, take screenshots of all the WHOIS info and the offending content. This will help you in case it somehow disappears into Internet-land, leaving no trace of evidence behind.
After that, search for the host and registrar’s legal contact information. Write out a DMCA notice of your own (you can steal mine above – it’s OK), and send it to the host, registrar, and the website owner’s address. Just in case, attach the screenshots of the infringing pages, and BCC yourself into the email as well. If you are really paranoid, take screenshots of the sent email in case you accidentally delete it.
Next, you’ll need to wait for just a little while. This is normal, and sometimes registrars need to process information a bit before they can reply. As expected, the copyright infringer also may not want to respond right away. If you don’t hear anything after a few days, you might want to break out the big guns and consult a lawyer.
Copyright infringement isn’t cool, and although it’s fun to share creations among other likeminded people for derivative works, it’s not sharing if it’s taken away from you. If you’d like to add extra material to your own work (like music, photos, or footage), why not look into Creative Commons? That said, if someone steals something from you, there is a way to fight back.
As a note, I’d like to make it clear that this is not professional legal advice. Take everything I have to say in this article with a grain of salt, and please consult an actual attorney if you are seriously considering any legal action.
Have you ever filed a DMCA takedown notice? Did it come out well for you, or did further actions have to be taken?