Reliable Answers - News and Commentary

Use DMCA To Fight Copyright Infringement

Updated October 24, 2009

I prefer to do things myself rather than hire a graphic artist, pay a developer, download someone elses code or go to lawyers, doctors or politicians. About the only thing I avoid completely is the kitchen. If it weren't for my darling wife, Taco Bell, Marshmallow Frogs and Hot Pockets, I'd die of starvation.

Anyway... I have many times had my content — programming source code, poetry, lyrics, articles, graphics and other shtuff — stolen or pirated from my site and republished either with or without my name on someone else's site, or sold on CD's or redistributed in other ways.

Since most of us only have to deal with the first of these — republication of our content on another website — I'm going to provide you with a really cool link to find plagiarized content and a form-mail structure you can follow that complies with all the requirements of the DMCA (The Digital Millennium Copyright Act), has worked for me in the past, and helps you keep your cool when requesting that content be removed. The first time I found my content on someone else's site — well, it was also probably the first time I swore in an email.

The DMCA has several *explicit* requirements in order to make a "legal" demand that someone remove content from their site (OR their **clients** sites). If they fail to comply with your request the DMCA also spells out some rather ugly punishments ($$$) for copyright infringement.

[Finding Plagiarists]

I have a lot of stuff on my sites. Anyone that's been there can vouch that it's possible to spend hours and hours on end reading this and that and still never finish reading. Heck, the virus page alone (which has had entire sections 'generously' stolen from it on occasion) takes the average person at least a half an hour to read. As such, it's hard to find out when someone is copying content — I essentially have to 'run into' it on my own or have someone alert me to the copies existence.

Would you believe it if I told you it was possible to automagically find plagiarized content? Really! It's one of those really nifty apps built to interface with Google — which means it's an internet search engine and will only work for websites. But having that footing is something far better than the alternative of waiting to bump into the violator at the mall when they're selling copies of your site as a printed book.

CopyScape is the tool you want to use. You stick the URL to a specific page on your site (yes, it must be a specific page — sorry, nothing's perfect)

If it finds a result it'll bold a portion of the actual matching text in the results, and optionally, you can view the page using a link from their site that highlights all the violating text. I believe that it only searches a portion of your document, though, so it will not find everything. Again: better than nothing.

[What to do?]

Now that you've found your plagiarists/copyright violators and general online boo-hoos, you need to contact them (at whatever email address you find) and also contact abuse@theirdomain.com and also check their domains "whois" information (another really good opportunity to take advantage of the WhoIs Source) for 'abuse' and/or 'copyright' and/or 'legal' contacts. They may have several: use all of them.

The following is an example form-letter you can use which complies with (and expands upon) the DMCA requirements for requesting that an infringing document or documents be removed.

I used this particular letter to contact the owners and hostmaster for a certain Lyrics site that had copies of some of my poetry (and didn't bother to ask or link to my site!).


[Letter]

Subject:
  Copyright infringement on your site or site(s) hosted through you
To:
  abuse@example.com; support@example.com; username@hotmail.com

Good day,

This message serves as legal notice that EXAMPLE.COM of IP Address 127.0.0.2 is using copyrighted works owned by myself (Shawn K. Hall) without permission. This message meets all requirements for compliance with a DMCA Cease & Desist request.

(i) My signature below serves as my legal electronic signature.

(ii) & (iii) The works being used are:

"Crow"
Author: Shawn K. Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=crow

"Enter The Paradox"
Author: Shawn K. Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=enter+the+paradox

"Green Eyes"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=green+eyes

"I Won't Say Goodbye"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=i+won't+say+goodbye

"K to R"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=k+to+r

"Once Upon A Time"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=once+upon+a+time

"Pangaea"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=pangaea

"Quest"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=quest

"Radiant Lives"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=radiant+lives

"Reflection"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=reflection

"Riddle"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=riddle

"Someday Things'll Change"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=someday+things'll+change

"Stained"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=stained

"That's Okay I Know it Next Time"
Author: Shawn K.Hall
Violation:
http://www.example.com/
Original:
http://ReliableAnswers.com/music/poetry.asp?poem=that's+okay+i+know+it+next+time

Each of these works is also linked from:
http://www.example.com/

(iv) You may reach me at (209) 565-12PD or at Shawn@example.com if you have questions regarding this complaint. My mailing address is:
  Shawn K. Hall
  PO Box 1645
  Twain Harte, CA 95383

(v) I do not authorize the use, publication, performance or redisplay of my works without explicit permission. I have *not* shared usage rights for any of my copyrighted poetry, lyrics or music for use on EXAMPLE.COM or any other website owned or operated by JOE BLOW. As no rights have been given, this is a clear violation of my copyright.

(vi) The information in this notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, I (Shawn K. Hall) am the exclusive owner of the rights for the works listed above.

I appreciate your prompt response and action on this matter,

[signature]
  Shawn K. Hall
  http://ReliableAnswers.com/
[/signature]


As you can see, it's not brain surgery and it *is* a legally binding request which they can either gracefully act upon or suffer the consequences ($$$). I have now used this exact method against 3 infringers. One website was shut down immediately. On both others the content was removed within 4 hours. In fact, when I contacted one of the sites (the one above) they also removed it from another site managed by the same company. Good thing too, since that was next on my 'to do' list of contacting hosts and scalpers. :)

Before the DMCA I struggled with getting webmasters and hosts to comply and had to threaten to get a lawyer involved. I did succeed in having one website shut down, but it was a LOT more work than simply replacing some text in a document like this and sending it to a specific email address. Mind you, I'm not particularly fond of many of the implications of the DMCA, but in at least this regard — getting prompt support by webmasters and web hosts — it is a much better solution than before.

Regards,

Shawn K. Hall
http://ReliableAnswers.com/

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