Has someone copied your digital content? Don't fret. Copyright infringement is very common on the internet. The reason? For one, it is easy to copy digital content and in many cases it is easy to get away with it too. But thanks to the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act, October 12, 1998) which all online service providers have to comply with; you can easily report a copyright offender and shut down their website for good. This is exactly what we will be looking at in this article.
- Copied text content.
- Copied images.
- Copied digital goods. (software, graphics, ebooks, PDFs, digital books etc.)
- Copied music.
- Copied video.
In this article, I will be discussing how to deal with these types of copyright infringement issues by identifying the offender, sending cease and desist emails and finally by sending DMCA notices to services that the offender is using to run his website.
- Finding out details about the person infringing your copyrights.
- Sending Cease and Desist Email to the offender.
- Reporting copyright infringement to authorities like Search engines, Hosting companies, Payment Processors and Domain Registrar of the offender if he does not respond to the Cease and Desist email.
This article is split into two parts as follows:
- Part 1: Sending Cease and Desist Email to the Offender.
- Part 2: Sending DMCA notices to proper authorities.
So let's get started:
Part 1: Sending Cease and Desist Email to the Offender
Your first step is to send a Cease and Desist email to the offender asking them to discontinue infringing upon your copyrights. You can wait for a day or two for them to respond. If they do not respond within that time frame, you can start sending DMCA notices to concerned authorities.
Identifying the Offender's Contact Details
Stat by identifying the offender's email address so you can send them a cease and desist email. You can follow these steps to find their email address:
- Visit their website and see if you can find any contact information. If there is an email address, note that down. If there is a contact form instead, note down the URL of the contact form.
- If you don't find any contact information on their site, check out their website's WHOIS information. The best way to check WHOIS information is through the official ICANN site which is: https://whois.icann.org/
Note down the email address you find under the Registrant Contact.
In-case the Domain Name is Using Privacy Protection: More often than not, the domain in question would be using privacy protection. If that is the case, read the information provided by the organization offering the privacy protection to get the email to contact. Some privacy organizations like DomainsbyProxy.com offer an alternative/cloaked email address where as some others like PrivacyProtect.org will want you to visit their website to contact the registrant. (refer image below)
DomainsbyProxy: Visit DomainsbyProxy.com and click on 'File a Claim' link.
PrivacyProtect.org: Visit http://www.privacyprotect.org/ and fill the form that says 'Report Abuse'.
Sample C&D Email Formats
The following are some sample C&D email formats that you can use to contact the offender:
Sample Cease and Desist Email Format for Content Infringement
Subject Line: Legal Cease and Desist Notice Against infringing sitename.com
From: Your Name, Legal Department, Company Name and Address
This is the legal department of (Company Name). We have come to identify that your website sitename.com is illegally duplicating and reproducing copyrighted content from our site sitename.com.
Stop duplicating our content and remove all infringing pages immediately. If you do not abide to this in the next 24 hours of this mail receipt, we will have to carry out legal proceedings against you. We will also release DMCA complaints as per Section 512 with all major search engines, your hosting provider, Ad networks and domain registrar. So your site will be banned permanently from the SE database and dropped from hosting.
All content and images on our site, sitename.com is copyrighted by US laws and any kind of duplication or reproduction is illegal.
We want you to stop this infringement immediately or else get ready to be sued for damages.
Sample C&D Format for Product Infringement
This is the legal department of (Company Name). We have come to identify that your website sitename.com is illegally selling our digital product as a part of a resale package the online location for which is
Other urls that display the product
We want you to discontinue this product and remove all our products immediately. If you do not abide by this in the next 24 hours of this mail receipt we will have to carry out legal proceedings against you. We will also release DMCA complaints with all major search engines, hosting provider and your payment gateway (Paypal). So your site will be banned permanently from the SE database and dropped from hosting. You will also be reported to all online crime control centers including the powerful internationally functional ic3.gov.
All our products are copyrighted by US laws and selling them illegally is a crime.
We want you to stop this product within 24 hours or-else get ready to be sued for damages.
Part 2: Sending DMCA Notices
If the offender does not respond within the stipulated time frame (24 to 48 hours) of sending the cease and desist email, you can start sending out DMCA notices. Depending on the type of copyright violation, DMCA can be sent to the following authorities:
- Hosting Company (This includes third party hosting like Download.com, ebay.com etc. ).
- Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo (asking them to remove the offending website's from their index).
- Ad Networks (Adwords, Yahoo/Bing Ads, Chitika Ads, Amazon etc.) asking them to stop displaying ads of the offending website.
- Payment Processors (Paypal, 2checkout etc.) Asking them to suspend their services so the offending website cannot accept payments.
Sending DMCA to the Hosting Company
Start by identifying the offender's hosting company. As long as the site is not hiding behind a CDN (Content Delivery Network) like CloudFlare, you should be able to find the hosting company using any of the following tools:
Make sure to search using all these three tools and check the results for consistency. Once you find the hosting company, visit their website and find their DMCA contact page. Different hosting companies many have different formats in which you would be required to send the DMCA. So make sure to read their policies. A simple way to reach their DMCA page is to do a Google search with the website URL and the word DMCA as explained in the example below:
The first result for this search leads me to the DMCA page of Hostgator.com which is http://www.hostgator.com/dmca (refer image below). As you will notice, this page has good documentation and a contact form wherein you can conventionally send the report.
If the site is using CloudFlare, you should be able to see CloudFlare as the hosting company.
In this case, it is impossible to find the actual hosting company of the offender. Thankfully Cloudflare and other similar companies offer a contact form through which you can contact the hosting company of the offender. In many cases, CloudFlare will also reveal details of the hosting company if need be. Vist this URL for more details: https://www.cloudflare.com/abuse/.
If this is the case, then you can contact the parent company directly with the DMCA notice. To reach their DMCA pages, just do a Google search for the sitename with the word DMCA. For example, searching for tumblr + DMCA in Google lead me to the following page that has a form from where I can send the DMCA notice: https://www.tumblr.com/dmca
Links to DMCA pages for popular free hosting sites:
In-case, the offender is reselling your digital products on third party sites like Ebay.com, Download.com, Sharecash.org, Amazon.com etc, then you can send a DMCA to these sites directly. Visit their DMCA page by making a Google search for sitename.com followed by the word DMCA. Eg: Ebay.com +DMCA
Sending DMCA to Search Engines
Check to see if the offending site is indexed in Google, Yahoo or Bing and if it is ranking organically.
You can find if the site is indexed by performing a search using the site search command as follows:
Replace 'sitename.com' with the domain name of the offending site.
To see if the site is ranking organically, use a service like SEMrush.
If the site in question has copied only some of your content, then note down those URLs and check if those URLs are getting organic traffic. Again, this can easily be done using SEMrush.
If you find that the site is indexed you can send a DMCA request to get their website removed from search engine indexes.
Use the following information for sending DMCA to the search engines.
Sending DMCA Notice to Google Inc: You can send DMCA via the following URL after logging into your Google Account: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-notice?rd=1
Visit this URL to report other types of infringements with Google: https://support.google.com/legal/troubleshooter/1114905?hl=en
Sending DMCA to Bing: For DMCA notices to get a website removed from BING organic search results, vist: https://www.microsoft.com/info/FormForSearch.aspx
For DMCA notices to get a website removed from BING Ad Network, send an email to: email@example.com
Or visit the following URL: https://www.microsoft.com/info/Search.aspx for more details.
Sending DMCA to Yahoo Inc: Visit the following URL and click on Submit a Copyright Infringement Notice: https://policies.yahoo.com/us/en/yahoo/ip/index.htm
Sending DMCA to Payment Gateways
If the offending site is selling your products and is using a payment gateway (eg: Paypal, 2Checkout etc.) to collect payments, you can contact the payment gateways to suspend their services so the offender cannot accept payments.
To find the payment gateway, follow these steps:
- Locate a product on the infringing website and try to make a purchase. This will take you to the payment gateway giving you information about the company offering the service.
- Do a search in Google with the website name to reach the website of the Payment Gateway provider.
Here again, a simple way to find the DMCA page for these payment gateways is to Google the name of the payment gateway along with the word DMCA.
Sending DMCA Notice to Ad Networks
If the site is selling your digital goods then there is a possibility that they are using some sort of advertising to generate traffic to their website. This could be through advertising networks like Google Adwords, Yahoo/Bing Ads or through a myriad of other networks. Although it is difficult to figure out all the networks they are using to generate traffic, you can easily find out if they are using Adwords or Yahoo/Bing Ads through a service like SEMrush.
Go to SEMrush.com, input their website URL and check if they are generating any traffic from Paid Search. If yes, click on advertising research to investigate further. Do this for Bing as well. You should be able to select Bing data from the Other Countries drop down menu.
To get more information on using SEMrush, read this beginner's tutorial.
If they are using either of these networks to generate traffic, you can contact the abuse departments of Adwords and Bing Ads to cancel their account. Links to abuse departments are as follows:
- Google Adwords: https://support.google.com/legal/troubleshooter/1114905 (Go to this URL and select 'A Google Ad') and then select options that are applicable to you. Once the form is completed you will be taken to the proper DMCA page.
- Bing Ads: http://advertise.bingads.microsoft.com/en-us/copyright-infringement
Sending DMCA Notice to Domain Registrar
If you want, you can also send a DMCA to the domain registrar of the offending website. Although, registrars do not take immediate action and might require far more investigation before they can suspect a domain name.
You can find out the registrar of the domain name by checking the WHOIS as mentioned earlier. All registrar's have an abuse contact email through which you can get in touch with them.
Here are some additional tips to note.
a.) Domain/Site age: The age of the Domain name (in other words, when the domain was first registered) can be found by checking the WHOIS information. If your domain is older and the offender's domain name is relatively newer, your case is stronger.
b.) Archive.org Information: Archive.org is a website that keeps a record of all changes made to a website. Check the offender's website on Archive.org and see at what point his website started to violate your copyrights. Similarly, check your site on Archive.org and make a note of the date when the material in question was first on your site. (refer image below)
For example, if your content was stolen and the date of publication of the content on your site is earlier than on the offender's site, you have a strong case.
c.) Infringing Content Pages: In-case of content theft, use a service like Copyscape to identify all pages that are partially or fully related to your content.
d.) Adsense/Third party Ads: In-case of content infringement, there is a possibility that the offender is using third party advertising to generate revenue. Check the offending website to see if they are displaying third party ads like Adsense, Media.net etc. or if they are promoting affiliate products.
You can later mail these Ad companies and urge them to suspend the offender's ad account. This will certainly be a blow to the offender.
Some Things to Note
- Send out proper Cease and Desist Email Depending on the nature of infringement.
- Send Cease and Desist emails to all email addresses present on the offender's website and whois information. Also send the mail through contact forms if any, present on the offender's website.
- Give at-least 24 hours for the offender to respond and if he complies with your request don't take any further action. You can leave him with a warning to not repeat such behavior.
- If you are Faxing the DMCA Document, Fax it over a Company Letter Head. Note down the date of fax and keep delivery reports in file for future reference.
- If you are sending the DMCA through Email, make sure to send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Make sure that you have checked the documents thoroughly before you fax or email it.
- Some Hosting companies and Payment Gateways have different formats for DMCA. So make sure to check if there are any specifications mentioned on the site.
- The DMCA report should contain direct links to online original copyrights wherever available.
- Keep following up with the DMCA mail on a daily basis, but do not send more than one mail a day. Follow up mails need to be simple and precise with a clear tone.
- If any of the parties contacted responds to your DMCA queries and takes necessary action, use that mail to convince others to follow suite.
Glossary of Some Technical Terms Used in this Article
Cease and Desist: Cease-and-desist is a legal term essentially meaning 'stop'. It is used to demand a person or organization to permanently stop doing something (to cease and desist from doing it).
DMCA: Digital Millennium Copyright Act is an Act Passed on October 12, 1998, to bring copyright law up to date with digital/online media.
Domain Registrar: A "Registrar" (or "Domain Name Registrar") is an organization like Network Solutions that has control over the granting of domains.
Domain Registrant: A registrant is the person or company who registers a domain name. For example, Joe Smith (registrant) registers the name joesmith.com through enom.com (registrar) who in turn submits the name to the central database (Registry).
Google Adwords: A Pay Per Click (PPC) program of advertising on Google. The ads appear on the Google Search results page along with organic ads.
ICANN: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the non-profit corporation that was formed to assume responsibility for the IP address space allocation, protocol parameter assignment, domain name system management, and root server system management functions.
Online Payment Gateways: A service that allows companies to accept credit card payments online.
Private Whois: A private whois information does not allow the contact details of a website to be publicly view-able. To view such an Whois information, the registrar has to be contacted with valid reasons.
Paid Search Ads: Paid Ads are sponsored search engine listings that are displayed by the search engines along with organic results in order of the price paid by the advertiser.
SERP: SERPs are Search Engine Results Pages which refers to the resulting listings that are shown when a keyword is searched upon.
Whois: WHOIS databases contain nameserver, registrar, and in some cases, full contact information about the registrant of a domain name.
Have a query? Leave it in the comments below.