You’ve seen a blatant lie about yourself, someone has stolen your photo and is calling it their own, a video you posted has been copied without your permission, an unflattering meme making you look dumb, someone altered a photo of you, or someone stole your video and has posted it on youtube.
These are prime examples of stolen content protected by the DMCA, aka Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the United States.
The law is designed to make online sites listen to your complaint about material that should rightfully be removed. Even better is that it is not just restricted to material that is copyrighted. Site operators are legally obligated to honor your removal complaint in the U.S. and many international hosts will often abide by your request to have material taken down that belongs to you.
What’s covered by DMCA Takedown
- Photos, images, your logo
- Blog posts, books, memos, your written works
- Drawings, illustrations, art
- Computer code
How to begin the Takedown
First, before doing an official DMCA complaint, see if the site hosting your stolen content has a form or less formal way to request the removal of your stolen stuff. The hosting site is the main site where your stolen material is found.
Dealing with Takedowns on the big tech sites
For major sites like Google and many other recognized names, follow the forms provided on their sites. Here are the most commonly used takedown forms from each big site.
- Facebook Privacy Violation
- YouTube (as obnoxious as they are at making you leap through hoops, here is the online information)
Trying the Nice Removal Approach
For other sites that only offer an email address contact, your letter sent by email should look something like this template:
I am requesting that my owned and copyrighted content appearing on your site at [insert website address link here] be removed immediately. I am attaching the original material along with the copyright, date and link it was original posted by me.
Here is the original content I own: [insert link]
Here is the unauthorized copy of my content on your site at [insert web address link to the content in question]
If the content is not removed within 24-48 hours, I will be forced to file an official DMCA complaint which could impact your site’s reputation and good standing.
Please respond and confirm that you have complied with this request as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary legal paths that will be both expensive and time-consuming.
I appreciate your immediate compliance to this important infringement.
Very truly yours,
[your name here]”
Make sure to attach any supporting documents if you have any such as trademarks, copyright notices, pdf screenshots showing that your original post occurs before the offending party.
Time to get serious: Official DMCA Takedown notice
Next step, if no answer or compliance, it’s time for the official DMCA Takedown Complaint which must contain the following information to be considered legitimate and mandating a response.
- Your signature either electronic or manual
- Specific web address location of the offending material you are citing as infringing
- You must state that you have not given permission for the use of your material and that it is in fact unauthorized
- Include your contact information, address, phone, mailing address
- Reaffirm that everything you are stating is true and correct
If you get no response or are not being taken seriously, then it’s time for an official DMCA Takedown Notice.
Example DMCA Takedown Notice
[NAME OF SITE HOSTING YOUR STOLEN CONTENT]
[Street Address ]
Re: DMCA Takedown Notice for Privacy Violations, Infringement of Name and Image, and Notice of Copyright Violation – Demand to Remove Offending Content
Dear Registered Agent for [name of hosting site]:
I am the exclusive rights holder for content that is posted on your website without authorization. This is your official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), and I demand the immediate removal of the infringing material from your computers, servers, apps and sites.
- The offending material which must be removed belongs to me and located on your site at [paste specific link]. (Explain and describe what the material is in the most complete way possible, for example) It is a photograph taken by me of 4 people including myself originally taken on [insert date] at [location] where I am seen wearing [insert details] while standing next to an airplane.
- The original material requiring removal was originally posted online at [insert web address to the specific post of the original content].
- The infringing material is located online posted here at [insert stolen content web address]
- My contact information is as follows: [insert Name, Mailing Address, Phone Number, Email Address]
This notice is provided in good faith and with reasonable belief that my rights are being infringed. Under penalty of perjury, I certify that the information I have provided to the best of my ability in this notice is true and accurate.
Very truly yours,
[Sign your name]
[Print/type your name]”
If there is no email contact address, then mail this using certified mail after making a copy.
Once received, the process of a response typically takes between 24 and 72 hours for sites located within the U.S. The recipient is obligated by law to take action and respond to your notice.
Responses that Slow the Process
Keep in mind the offender may reply with a counter-notice throwing the proof back in your lap or a “fair use” notice claiming that they are legally entitled to copy your material. Frivolous takedown claims can create liability for a counter-claim. Here are the only reasons provided by law that allow for a fair use exemption.
In this case, it may be time to consult with an attorney who specializes in this area of law. Our own lawyer would like us to tell you that there are some risks in sending takedown notices and for that more complete understanding you should consult with an attorney who specializes in these matters.