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How to Defend your Blogs Copyright

Posted By Darren Rowse 8th of February 2009 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

copyright.jpgIn this guest post Gary from DevOracles (follow him at @methode) continues his examination of the topic of copyright as it applies to bloggers.

In my previous post I explained what is copyright, presented two copyrighting processes and told you one-two things about the Creative Common licenses.

In this post I will tell you the steps I followed to take down my copyrighted work from the infringer’s blogs. This is my own process, I made this process for myself but since I found it very effective, it would be a real guilt to not share it with other bloggers. As always, if you know a better way, please let me know because I’d be very interested.

First of all, some myth-busting: to remove your copyrighted content from 3rd party websites is NOT expensive, it’s NOT time consuming and you do NOT need a lawyer for it. Forget those advices which say that you will go bankrupt if you want to remove your content from the search engines or 3rd party blogs, that’s only true if something is fishy regarding the copyright. I removed almost all the posts I found and which infringed my copyright from dozens of blogs and I spent not more than 6 US dollars which represented the cost of sending traditional mail in the United States. I didn’t need an attorney to contact the copyright infringers or their host and I spent less than 1 hour in total to write the take-down notices.

Let’s see the steps, I will comment on each one to help you better understand everything:

Step 1: Gathering data about the website which infringed your copyright

What you will need firstly is contacting methods. You will have to contact somehow the copyright infringer or their host. So look for a contact form, if you don’t find one then for an email address. If you find no contacting method, go to a WHOIS lookup service (I use nwtools.com but it doesn’t really matter) and look at the domain’s WHOIS data. There you should find the author’s email address, or if the WHOIS data is protected, then the service’s email address which protects the registrant’s details.

You will need to identify the content which violates your copyright on the 3rd party blog. Note down all the URLs, you will need them in the take-down notices. Also identify and note the URLs of the stolen posts on your own blog.

If you know how, you may also want to identify the date when the copyright infringing post has been published. This is not really needed, but the more exact information you enclose in a document the higher its credibility is.

Now that you have these details, proceed to Step 2

Step 2: Contacting the copyright infringer

If you ask a lawyer that will say this step is pointless and you should always start with a DMCA takedown notice addressed to the copyright infringer’s webhost. I think starting with the big guns is a bit too much. My advice is to contact these people in a friendly(ish) manner. Let’s not forget that we’re humans and no one likes when it’s threatened. So put together a few lines in a way that it’s not so harsh, but neither too friendly, something like this:

I noticed that you copied one of my articles, MY_ARTICLE_TITLE from MY_ARTICLE_URL, and published on THE_INFRINGING_CONTENT_URL on HIS_DOMAIN_NAME. This is my intellectual work and under the current law I’m the copyright owner of the article. You are using my work without my consent and this is illegal as per the copyright law and legal action can be taken.
Please remove the infringing article from your website immediately!
Have a nice day,

And now wait let’s say a week. Have no rush, do not force the envelope because you can cause more damage than you expect, just stay calm for about a week. My experience is that since these publishers are not too rich they will take down the content since they don’t want legal action. They realize they are guilty and they remove the post and you won. But what if they not? Read Step 3.

Step 3: Contacting the web-host of the copyright violator

To learn who the webhost of the blog’s which violated your copyright is, do a WHOIS lookup on the IP address of the blog. That will reveal the webhost’s URL and the contact methods. Most likely the email address you will have to contact the host is [email protected] or [email protected]. Obviously, replace the example.com with the webhost’s domain name. If you need help with this, ask in the comments section, I’d be gald to help.

Now a bit of bad news: this step involves a bit of legal stuff because if you send the above letter to a web-host, they will ignore it. You will have to compose a real DMCA take-down notice. Since I already composed one and used it with success here’s a template:

Ladies and gentlemen,
This letter is a Copyright infringement Notice as authorized in the US Copyright Law – paragraph 521(c) under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The infringing material appears on a webserver which IP has been assigned to you, thus you are the responsible of the material which appears on this server.
1. The copyrighted material, which belongs to me and appears illegally on your server, is the following:
Blog post titled “MY_TITLE”, published on “DATE” by “MY_NAME” and can be reached on the following URL: “http://MY_BLOG/THE_SLUG_OF_MY_WORK”
2. The material which violates my copyright is situated under the following URL
3. My contact information is:

MY_EMAIL is a working e-mail address and is the preferred contact method
4. I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
5. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

That was the big deal. Note that every detail you supply in this letter has to be accurate else you will be ignored. Send this in an email to the copyright violator’s webhost. When I did this, I encountered three results:

  1. They informed me that the material was removed from their service
  2. They asked me to send the letter to a specific address as ground mail
  3. They asked me for proof

The third situation is unlikely, but it happened with me once. At that moment my content was already registered with the US Copyright Office, so I had proof and they kindly removed the content which violated my copyright.

The second situation is very likely as they need to keep this letter for their records. That’s not a problem though, you simply print the letter and send it to the address they specified.

And in the first situation, you obviously won.

Following these steps I was able to remove almost all the content which violated my copyright from 3rd party blogs. Except in one case when I was so unfortunate that the blog was not hosted on US servers and they ignored all my notices. But just like most of the websites which rely on content theft, this website also had AdSense advertisements all over the page, this was their source of revenue. I thought it was time to be a bit more evil and sent two DMCA take-down notices to Google, respectively to Google AdSense.

Google respects copyright, even though sometimes it doesn’t looks so. I guess what I did was extremely unexpected for the owner of the blog which copied my article because Google removed from its search results the infringing blog post and AdSense simply banned the publisher. I got later an email from the infringer saying that he was about to remove the post I mentioned and it was really unnecessary to ruin his revenue.

Well, my answer is, that he could think before acting.

Note: Nothing in this article should be considered a legal advice. Problogger.net and its affiliates should not be held responsible for any loss caused by misuse of the information presented in this article. If you need copyright related legal advice, please consult a specialized attorney.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Is it all right if we use your letter outlines in a letter to a scraper? Thanks for the great post!

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