When it comes to writing and publishing content on the web, “copying” is not something to be taken lightly. You can’t go around stealing or copy/pasting other people’s images or content and using it as your own. Some instances of this might be OK, but you must either get permission or give proper attribution.
It can also be frustrating when you’re on the receiving end. You’ve worked hard on a piece of content or creating a beautiful image, and then someone uses it without your permission. 😠 This is why the DMCA exists. Today we’ll dive into how to properly handle a DMCA complaint against yourself as well as how to create a DMCA takedown notice.
What is the DMCA?
The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is a United States copyright law focused on digital mediums that helps content owners get their stolen content removed in a fast and efficient manner. This extends to places such as Internet Service Providers (ISP), web hosting providers, and search engines.
A DMCA takedown notice applies to where the content is physically hosted. So people outside the US can still file DMCA complaints. For content hosted outside of the US, many hosting providers will still honor DMCA complaints, however, legally they are not obliged to comply.
One thing website owners tend to forget is that a DMCA takedown doesn’t require the content to be copyrighted in order to process the takedown or for the request to have the content taken down acted upon by the website owner or ISP.
Here are some examples of digital content that this applies to:
- Text (TXT, RTF, DOC, DOCx, PDF, PPT, etc.)
- Images (BMP, EPS, SVG, JPG, JPEG, GIF, WEBP, PNG, PSD, RAW, TIFF, etc. This includes on social media)
- Video (MPG, AVI, RM, MOV, Quicktime, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer)
- Music (AIF, AU, MP3, MP4, MID, WAV, etc. )
Over the last decade, it has become very important for bloggers, webmasters, and hosts to understand how the DMCA procedure works so that everyone can keep their content protected; as well as knowing how to deal with complaints or notices when they arrive. According to Google’s transparency report, requests to remove content due to copyright have been increasing rapidly.
As over March 2019, URLs requested to be removed due to copyright issues has surpassed 4 billion!
What Does DMCA Protected Mean?
You might see the term or phrase “DMCA protected” in the footer of some websites or even on a badge. However, this is slightly redundant, simply due to the fact that any published work in the United States is already protected by the DMCA.
However, if you see badge like this one below, it might mean the website is using a service like DMCA.com which provides copyright protection services. In other words, the website owner is paying DMCA.com to handle the takedown notices for them.
How Do I Handle a DMCA Takedown Notice Against Me?
The first thing you should know is how to deal with a DMCA takedown notice when it is filed against you. Generally, when your ISP or web hosting provider receives a DMCA complaint they will demand the removal of the content immediately, or do it for you. And by this, it sometimes means they even shut off your hosting. So don’t ignore emails about DMCA takedown notices.
Your provider might not necessarily even check into whether or not your content is actually infringing. Depending on their location, they might be legally obligated to take this content down and will do so in a fast and efficient manner.
If you believe that you received a complaint in error, or that you do in fact own the content, then you can submit a DMCA counter-notice. Under section 512(f) of the DMCA, any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification may be subject to liability. So be very careful when you file a DMCA counter-notice, if you are not sure whether or not you own the content then you should probably seek legal advice.
Your counter-notice needs to contain the following information:
- Physical or electronic signature
- Name, address, and phone number
- Identification of the material and its location before it was removed (URL)
- A statement that the material was removed by mistake or misidentification (remember you are liable)
- Consent to the jurisdiction of a federal court in the district where you live or where your service provider is located
- Consent to accept service of process from the party who submitted the takedown notice
How Do I Issue a DMCA Takedown Notice?
The other side of the DMCA process is when you find that someone else has stolen your content. Here are the steps you can follow to ensure it gets taken down.
Try Reaching Out to the Website Owner First
Before drafting up an official DMCA complaint, it can sometimes be quicker to email the owner of the website directly. You can check to see if they list their email anywhere online or if they have a contact form on their website. After getting an email like this, some will just remove the content right away.
Here is a template we use. Feel free to copy and modify it:
Hello,I work for [COMPANY] and we discovered your website (https://domain.com) has been using content that is owned by us.Here are some examples of our content:
- https://yourdomain.com/~ [EXACT CONTENT/IMAGE LOCATION]
- https://yourdomain.com/~—And here are copies on your site:
- https://domain.com/~ [EXACT CONTENT/IMAGE LOCATION]
- Please remove all copyrighted content belonging to [COMPANY] immediately otherwise we’ll have to proceed with filing a DMCA complaint.I have created a case ID #xxxx to track this issue until it is resolved.If you have any questions regarding this, let me know.Thanks
Due to the fact that people are busy and sometimes miss emails, you might want to try sending an email more than once. Here you can find a few solid tips on how to find anyone’s email address.
If they don’t respond then you can proceed with the steps below.
1. Find The Person
The very first thing you have to do is find the person’s web host so that you know where to file the DMCA complaint. An easy way to do this is to look up the IP address of the website. You can either ping it or use a free online tool like Domain Tools. In this example below, we are using a site that is hosted on Kinsta on Google Cloud Platform. You can see Domain Tools easily shows us the IP address of the domain we looked up.
You can then take the IP address and look it up using the ARIN Whois Service. They have a good database of records and comments about which IPs are owned by which companies. You can see in this example once we looked up the IP address, it immediately shows us that it is on a netblock used by Google Cloud customers and the email address and web page for abuse complaints.
DMCA also has a great free Whois lookup that generates network information. You are limited to 5 free lookups per month. Another alternative you can try if the above doesn’t render any good results is the free Who is Hosting This tool from HostAdvice.
Note: If they are running behind a CDN or proxy such as Cloudflare, this makes it a lot harder as they will show as the owner of the IP address. In that scenario, you might have more luck reaching out to the individual site owner first (if you haven’t already). However, Cloudflare does have a DMCA complaint form.
2. Where to Submit the DMCA Takedown Complaint
Now that you know where the person’s content is hosted you must submit the complaint. Most providers have easy ways to access them. Look on their contact pages, or in the footer for anything that says “complaints” or “abuse.” Here are a couple of links to some common providers.
If you can’t find an online form then you must contact a DMCA agent directly. This is usually a long drawn out process. Contacting the web host or ISP provider directly is usually the fastest way. You can also pay a professional team to handle the DMCA takedown for you.
3. What to Include in the DMCA Takedown Complaint
You must include the following information to ensure your takedown complaint is handled properly.
- Physical or electronic signature
- The location and identification of the material you are claiming is infringing (this could be URLs, etc)
- Your contact information, address, phone number, mailing address, etc
- Statement of good faith that the use of the material is not authorized by the copyright owner or you
- A statement that everything is accurate (again, remember you are liable under penalty of perjury)
DMCA Takedown Template
Here is a DMCA takedown template that we use. Feel free to copy and modify it:
Subject Line: Takedown Notice Pursuant to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998
My name is [NAME] and I’m the [POSITION] at [COMPANY].
This is a notice in accordance with Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (”DMCA”) requesting that you immediately cease to provide access to the following copyrighted material. A website that your company hosts (according to WHOIS information) is infringing on copyrighted material owned by our company.
The original [CONTENT/IMAGES], of which we own the exclusive copyrights, can be found at these URLs:
- — [EXACT CONTENT/IMAGE LOCATION]
The unauthorized and infringing [CONTENT/IMAGES] can be found at this IP address/URLs:
- — [EXACT CONTENT/IMAGE LOCATION]
My contact information is:
I have good faith belief that the use of the described material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or by operation of law. The information in this notice is accurate, up to date, and I can confirm that [COMPANY] is the copyright owner.
Should you wish to discuss this further, please contact me directly.
4. Getting the Content Removed from Search Engines
If the original content is taken down, then it will automatically get removed from the search engines. However, if for some reason the above process fails, you can also submit a complaint directly with Google and Bing.
While this won’t always get it removed from the person’s site, it will at least remove it from SERPs so that nobody can find it. It will also ensure that it never ranks over your own content.
Remove Content From Google Search
To remove content from Google Search, use this tool. Select the “Web Search” option and fill out the remaining questions according to your individual case.
Remove Content From Bing Search
To remove content from Bing Search, use this tool, and fill out their copyright infringement report.
How Long Does a DMCA Notice Take?
Generally, a DMCA takedown notice will take around 72 hours. However, we’ve seen them go really quick (within 24 hours) and also drag on for 6+ months. This depends on a couple of things:
- How fast the company is at processing the DMCA requests.
- The location of the content. Remember, DMCA is only applicable to copyrighted material in the United States. Therefore, if you’re emailing a company outside of the United States, you might never hear back. Although most hosting providers, regardless of location, will try to help.
Hopefully, now you now know a little more about DMCA and how takedown notices work, both when filed against you and when you need to protect your own content.
Have any experience with people copying your content or images? We’d love to hear about it below in the comments.