Here are the steps I took to get my work off websites clearly violating copyright law, without attorney expense. That doesn’t mean it will work in your case, unfortunately. This post is a “cookie cutter” approach I hope will help others come to their own copyright violation resolution.
There are plenty of articles that explain everything on the Internet is not public domain, so I don’t need to repeat the sermon. Simply grabbing something and putting it on your website is against the law. The oft cited “Fair Use” is not what most people think, and unless you qualify under its narrow definition, grabbing a photo/article is theft, pure and simple.
Finding Pirate Websites
In my most blatant case this year (so far), a friend notified me that a website lifted my article, word for word, took out my byline and posted it as its own work. I probably would have never discovered it without networking.
I found the stolen photo myself. You can also do a reverse image search on Google. Instead of typing a term in the search field, hit the camera button, find the photo on your computer and drop it in. It’ll tell you the websites that have it live (well, some of them, anyway) and similar images on the web.
You’ve Found The Thieves, Now What?
You need to contact the owner, but the Internet allows criminals to hide behind multiple layers of clutter, deliberately, while they suck their thumbs between bedwetting bouts in their parents’ basement. Look for an “about” or “contact” tab on the website. I sent a short, businesslike note on the photo and never heard back for a week. There is no contact info on the article-stealing website. Stories there don’t allow comments.
My next step in both cases was a visit to WhoIs.com to find the registered “owner” contact and abuse-notification e-mail address. My notes to each were official looking and included all pertinent legal info to put them on notice. In one case I linked to where the original story appeared. In the other I attached my original image, in slightly larger size than what they were able to steal.
The rough text, massaged for the website host, is below. Modify it for the website owner and give it a try.
Didn’t Work in Either Case
So I put the company hosting each website on notice. They can also be held financially responsible—once they’ve been notified—if you parallel the language below.
Go to WhoIsHostingThis.com and plug in the violating website address. It will provide the firm renting a chunk of cyberspace to the pirates. Now, visit their url, report the violation to their abuse or customer service e-mail addresses and wait.
In both cases, the violations disappeared within 48 hours of that move.
Copyright Violation Resolution
The image and story are down, but I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the episode. They ignored my businesslike note, ignored my official-looking e-mail and only listened when their web host got threatening.
I still won’t provide website names at this point, because we all receive a lot of e-mail. I’ll gladly do so if it happens again or they don’t take down my good friend Richard Mann’s story.
I hope this helps if you, too, fall victim to piracy on the World Wide Web. If it does help you come to a copyright violation resolution, I’d sure like to hear your story.
My Text (sans names)
To: [website here] Administrative Contact
I am the copyright owner of the photo being infringed at: [post the URL here].
I’ve attached photo being infringed to assist you in the removal from the infringing website.
This letter is an official notification under the provisions of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) to effect removal of the infringement reported above. This is a request t that you immediately remove the specified posting and prevent the infringer, identified by its web address, from posting the infringing story and image to your servers in the future. Please be advised the law requires you, as the website service provider, to “expeditiously remove or disable access to” the infringing photograph upon receiving this notice. Failure to comply may result in a loss of immunity for liability under the DMCA.
I have a good faith belief that the material used in the manner complained of here is not authorized by me, the copyright holder, or the law. The information provided here is accurate to the best of my knowledge and I swear under penalty of perjury that I am the copyright holder.
Please send me at the address noted below a prompt response that indicates any actions you’ve taken to resolve this serious matter.
Email: [Your e-mail]