It can be painful to see someone copying your work and presenting it as their own, sometimes even reselling it and making money out of it.
The very nature of digital goods is such that it can be easily copied. But thankfully there is DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), using which you can stop these goons in their tracks and claim what is rightfully yours.
Let's see how.
Common types of copyright infringement on the internet
Before proceeding, let's take a quick look at the main types of infringement present on the internet:
- Copied text content: In this case, the offender has copied a few articles from your site and is posting them on their site (without giving any credit). In some cases, they could have copied the entire website.
- Copied graphics/images: In this case, the offender has downloaded image(s) from your site and is reusing them without permission on their site.
- Copied digital products: In this case, the offender is reselling your digital goods on their own website or on a third party website like EBay.com. This can include software, graphics, ebooks, PDFs, presentations, music and video)
Dealing with copyrights infringement
The steps to deal with this will defer depending on if or not the offender has his own website or is reselling your goods on a third party site like eBay.com.
Based on this the article has been split into two parts as follows:
1: Offender has their own website
If the offender is reselling your goods on a third party service like EBay, you can skip to Part 2 of the article.
Step 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.
a.) Identify the Offender's Contact Details
If the offender is running their own website, start 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/
Go to 'whois.icann.org' and enter the offender's website url to get their contact details.
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)
Links to contact the abuse department for popular privacy services are as follows:
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'.
b.) Sample C&D Email Formats
The next step is to send Cease and Desist email to the offender.
The following are some sample C&D email format that you can use:
Subject line: You are infringing our copyrights
This is the legal department of (Company Name). We have come to identify that your website sitename.com is illegally selling our digital products (or illegal reproducing our website content) at the following locations:
Other urls that display the product/content.
We want you to discontinue this and remove all our products immediately.
If you do not abide by this in the next 24 hours, we will have to carry out legal proceedings against you. We will also send DMCA notices to all major search engines, your hosting provider and your payment gateways . So your site will be banned permanently from the SE database and dropped from hosting.
Step 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.
a.) Sending DMCA to the Hosting Company
The first step is to identify the company hosting the offender's website.
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 the following tool:
Once you find the hosting company, visit their website and find their DMCA contact page. Different hosting companies may 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:
Example: Let's say, you want to reach the DCMA contact page for the hosting company, hostgator.com. Go to Google.com and perform a search for Hostgator.com +DMCA.
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.
Here is a quick sample DMCA filing for Hostgator.com
Identify all pages on your site that are being infringed upon and the corresponding pages on the offender's website. Once done, fill out the DMCA form and include as much information as possible to prove that you are the real owner of the product.
Refer the image below:
As you will see in the above image, there is a mention of Archive.org, Domain name age etc. We will discuss how to get this information in the later part of the article. Or you can read about it right now by clicking here.
Here are a few examples:
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 will lead you to the following page that has a form from where you can send the DMCA notice: https://www.tumblr.com/dmca
Links to DMCA pages for popular free hosting sites:
If the site is using a CDN (Content Delivery Network):
Think of a CDN as a middle man between the hosting provider and the Domain nameserver.
When you check the offender's site using the tool offered by HostAdvice.com (as mentioned above), it will tell you if a site is using a CDN.
If the site is using CloudFlare as their CDN provider, then it is not possible to find the actual hosting provider as CloudFlare will hide it.
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. Visit this URL for more details: https://www.cloudflare.com/abuse/.
b.) Sending DMCA to Search Engines
Check to see if the infringing pages on the offender's site are indexed in Google, Yahoo or Bing.
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.
Check to see if the infringing pages appear in the Google index.
If you find that the infringing pages are indexed, you can send a DMCA request to get these pages 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
c.) Sending DMCA to Payment Gateways (Optional)
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.
d.) Sending DMCA Notice to Ad Networks (Optional)
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 (or listing).
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.
One way is to simply search for your product keywords and see if the ads appear in Google and Bing.
Another way is to use 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
e.) Sending DMCA to Adsense/Third party Ads (Optional)
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 big blow to the offender.
Some Things to Note:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
2.) Offender is Using a Third Party Site
In-case, the offender is copying or reselling your digital products on third party sites like Ebay.com, Download.com, Sharecash.org, Amazon.com, Youtube.com etc, then you can send a DMCA to these sites directly.
Sending DMCA to Third Party Host
Visit the DMCA page of the host by making a Google search for sitename.com followed by the word DMCA.
Here are a few examples:
DMCA Pages of popular services:
Each service will have different procedures to follow while filing the DMCA. So make sure to read their policies clearly before sending your notice.
Sending DMCA to Ad Networks
There is a possibility that the offender is using an Ad network to drive traffic to their listing.
More often than not, they would be using Google Adwords or Media.net.
As mentioned earlier, you can contact the abuse department of these companies to cancel their account.
How to prove that you are the real owner of the work being copied?
In most cases, it would be quite evident that you are the owner of the work being copied.
But you can include the following additional information to make your case stronger:
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 (as mentioned earlier in this article). If your domain is older and the offender's domain name is relatively newer, your case is stronger.
b.) Archive.org Information:
Archive.org keeps a history of all websites on the internet.
Check the offender's website (or any page URL) on Archive.org and see at what point their 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)
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.
You can include this info while filing DMCA.
Note: There is a possibility that the offender has brought an existing domain name in which case the domain age will not be accurate. In this case, try to click various dates on Archive.org (clicking on the round blue circles as shown in the image above) to see when the site added your copied data.
Note: There is also a possibility that the offender has disabled crawling by Archive.org in which case no data will be available. In that case, you won't be able to use this method.
If you need help with your case or have additional queries, feel free to let me know in the comments below.
Also, before you leave, please let me know if you ever dealt with (or are dealing with) a similar case before and how did you deal with it? Thank you for taking time out to comment.