How To Send A DMCA Notice, With Sample Letters

Over the past few weeks, I have been covering issues pertaining to copyright violations.  The first portions of the series covered the following:

This final segment looks at how to pursue formal action under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) should you wish to do so. The steps are relatively simple:

  1. Identify the offender and their host.
  2. Send the offender a cease and desist letter. This letter can be relatively gentle if you believe the violation is done by a well intentioned person, out of ignorance, or it can be rather strong if you believe there was an  intentional misappropriation of your content for financial gain. You can skip this and go straight to the host if you are sure it would be futile or if the offender is selling your material.
  3. If the offender does not respond, send a formal DMCA notice to their hosting company, demanding removal of the material.

Below are sample materials that you may use when sending the notices. They include:

  1. A cease and desist letter sent to a website who is using material without attribution or who is scraping material in full, whether with or without attribution.
  2. A Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice sent to the website’s host after they failed to respond to the cease and desist.

With both of these times, important notes are included regarding their use.  Also, I am required to make this disclaimer: This is not legal advice, nor is it intended to be viewed as such. By providing you with these samples, I am not providing legal services or initiating or forming an attorney/client relationship in any manner.

One other caveat: Sometimes simply ignoring a copyright violation can be preferable. For example, a site that is scraping multiple blogs with attribution is likely to get little attention or actually detract from your site, while also giving you a linkback. It might not be worth your time and effort to pursue that. Deciding when to take formal action is a personal business decision.

Sample Cease and Desist Letter

The language used in this cease and desist letter is fairly strong. I like to  vary them based on the type of site. This one was sent to a professional who was clearly attempting to profit from my content and who had also falsely listed me as a contributor to their site,.  The site happened to sell questionable nutritional supplements, which I did not want to be associated with in any manner. I am gentler with small, non-commercialized blogs that might not know better. In those cases, simply asking that the person refrain from using content in full and asking for attribution is often sufficient.

I also tend to include payment terms in my stronger worded cease and desist notices.  I have not yet attempted to collect on any of those and suspect that doing so would be difficult, both in terms of time expended and in terms of legality.  In actuality, guaranteed damages are only available when a work has a registered copyright.  An unregistered work must prove damages in any lawsuit. Mostly the provision might help set damages in the extreme case where a lawsuit was brought in regard to the stolen material. So, I am not making claims that you can legally collect on such a billing—you very well might not be able to do so and should contact an attorney if you actually wish to try it.  However, I am aware of some photographers who have actually billed offending sites and were paid, even when their work was not registered.   I include it mostly to leave the option open, drive my point about removal home in a rather firm manner, and because if someone wished to pay for syndication of my material, I very well might consider it.

Some people also add  “bcc: legal” to such materials regardless of whether they are forwarded to legal counsel.

Begin sample

Hello,
It has come to my attention that your website, [provide the full url], has been republishing multiple items of content from [your website name] without payment or authorization in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I also notice that you list [your website name] site as a contributor when I have not agreed to do so.  My standard syndication/contribution/republishing fee is $85 per post, with a 6 month expiration. Renewals are negotiable. Because you have not sought permission for use of my content or paid for its use, I demand that you remove all content taken from [your website name] immediately. Failure to do so within 72 hours may result in billing for the content, a formal take down request to your hosting company, notification of copyright violations to advertisers, and pursuit of other available legal remedies.

[Your Name]
[Your Title and Website]

End sample

Sample DMCA Notice to Host:

In many cases a cease and desist will be sufficient. However, occasionally it is not. At that point a formal takedown notice can be sent to the host of the offending website.

A formal DMCA notice has legal requirements.  The Act requires that the notice be sent with a statement that it is under penalty of perjury and that it contain a list of specific elements.  In the sample, once the paragraph starting with “accordingly” begins, the DMCA notice below contains the sections that are required by law. Thus, even though it is clunky and long, I do not recommend editing portions out unless you check the DMCA requirements first. Otherwise, the host will have no obligation to you. Most hosts have a section on their website telling you what they require, which is normally just a repetition of the requirements of the federal act, but may include additional or slightly different requirements. In general though, the legal requires under section 512(c)(3) of the DMCA are:

(i)A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

(ii)Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.

(iii)Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material.

(iv)Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.

(v)A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

(vi)A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Some hosts will accept an electronic signature. Others will require you to fax a signed copy. Check the host’s terms of service page for these requirements.

What was not required in the notice below was my statement about the RSS feed. I recommend that you have a policy published on your site that your feed is not syndicated for republication. The note about the host’s terms of service was also not required, but it can be nice to note it.  I also gave the whois link as helpful information to the host.

Begin sample

[Name of Hosting Company],

I am writing to you to report a violation of my copyright under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by a website that appears to be hosted using your service (the name server points to [Name of Hosting Company]). The website at issue is [give full url of the offending site], which has been republishing content from my website, [give full url of your website], and falsely listing me as a contributor without my permission. My work is clearly labeled in the RSS feed as not licensed for republication.  I also observe that infringement of another’s intellectual property is a violation of your terms and conditions found at this link:  [provide terms of service link]

I have sent email to the contact information listed at [the offending website name] and to the email listed as the proxy registrar at whois demanding that my material be removed and that I not be listed as a contributor. The owner has not done so and has not responded. The following is the whois link for information about the offending website: [provide whois link]

Accordingly, this letter is a Notice of Infringement as authorized under § 512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Law. I am reporting an instance of what I feel in good faith is an instance or Copyright Infringement. The infringing material appears on the service for which you are the designated agent.

1. The material which belongs to me, and appears illegally on the service is the following, with the offending website address provided:

[name of your post]: [full url of the post on the offending site]

repeat for each offending post or item.

2. The material appears on my Web site at these addresses:

[Provide the full url to the material on your site]

repeat for each post or item taken.

4. My contact information is as follows:

[Your legal name, address, phone number and email]

5. I have a good faith belief that the use of the material that appears on the service is not authorized by myself as the copyright owner, my agent, or by operation of law.

6. The information in this notice is accurate, and I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner.

I declare under the perjury laws of the United States of America that this notification is true and correct.

Signed:  [your name]

I can mail or fax a physically signed copy is needed.

End sample

If you want to see slight variations on wording, or get a better feel of what is pretty well set in stone and what you can edit to your tastes, you can find additional samples,including a sample letter to a search engine, in the stock letters section of the Plagiarism Today website, which also happens to be an excellent reference site all around.

Comments

  1. Finally i found the letter i was looking for. Thanks

  2. Great article! Thank you for taking the time to share this!!!
    I’m definitely saving a link to this. I hope I’m not a victim, it seems so common I think everyone needs to be prepared!

  3. Thank you so much for this! It absolutely helped me! I hope you’ll make an image for it sometime, it would be super handy to be able to pin it & share!

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