What to do when someone rips off your work

Someone stole your work… now what?

Scrolling through YouTube, you begin to see a familiar face and lyrics in the compilation of songs in the video the site is hosting. You never authorized the person who uploaded the video to use your likeness of lyrics for any reason. Frantically, you search for the help link and type out your complaint, but customer service doesn’t get back to you. In the meantime, someone is making money off your content and you seemingly have no way to stop it.

 If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, chances are, your work has been ripped off a time or two. Whether you produce blog posts, photos, videos, designs, etc., your work has probably been stolen.. even if you don’t know it. There are many ways to handle an infringer. One of the most effective ways is to submit a DMCA Takedown. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was enacted in order to help creators like you have a cost-efficient way to remove infringing work online. You don’t need an attorney to submit these for you, although we do submit them daily for clients.

What is a DMCA takedown notice? 

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows anyone with a claim to unique work to help preserve their ownership and use of it through what is known as a DMCA takedown notice. This notice serves to alert companies hosting your copyrighted work that it is being used illegally and without your consent to serve the purposes of another. While in some limited cases there may be fair use issues for some works, most companies will take down posts or other activity which infringes on a copyright. Working with a trademark lawyer, you can quickly craft and send a DMCA takedown notice to ensure your work or likeness is protected.


What kinds of works are covered by a DMCA takedown notice?

Anything covered by federal copyright protection is covered under a DMCA takedown notice. Written works such as books, essays, pamphlets, or any other written creation are covered as are videos, audio, photos, software, and still images from artwork to photos. See our blog post on 50 Things That Can Be Copyrighted for a more comprehensive list.


What should my DMCA takedown notice include?

If working with your lawyer, they will know exactly what should be included. If you’re submitting this on your own, you should craft a notice which identifies you as the content creator and owner. Then, you should provide the location of your content on their website, the original URL where the content can be found, and include your contact information. The notice must also state you are providing the takedown notice in good faith and it must be signed by you or someone authorized by you.


Do I need a copyright registration?

No, you do not need a copyright registration for a DMCA takedown notice to be sent and acted upon by a company. Most exclusive or copyrighted work is not a registered copyright but will still be treated as such for DMCA takedown purposes. Again, there are limited exceptions to this which fall under fair use or broader free speech categories but most copyright infringements will not qualify for these exceptions.

For example, if, on a European vacation, you took beautiful still photos of the Eiffel Tower, uploaded them to your Facebook, and saw those same photos included on a YouTube video background, you would be entitled to send a DMCA takedown notice and expect removal of the offending post.


Is sending a DMCA takedown notice a cumbersome process?

 No. Crafting and sending a DMCA takedown notice is a relatively quick process once you have identified the content infringing on your copyright, have crafted the notice with your attorney, and have instructed your attorney to send the notice to any company hosting this content. This can also be done on your own.

If necessary, sending multiple DMCA takedown notices is a cost-efficient way to protect current or future revenue streams from being diverted to those who are infringing on your copyright. Even if you do not intend to make money from your copyrighted work, crafting and sending these notices will not be an expensive proposition if you do it yourself or engage the services of an attorney. Following receipt, many companies will take down the infringing content within a day or two in order to avoid negative consequences.


Are there certain platforms that are protected from complying with DMCA takedown notices?

All websites in the U.S. must comply with DMCA takedown notices or risk being sued for every instance of infringement. Most reputable and well-known sites such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, and similar entities will respect a DMCA takedown notice and remove the content mentioned in the notice reasonably quickly and without incident. These notices can be sent, and copyright infringing work will be taken down on almost every online platform leaving you safe to create content without it being repurposed by another without your authorization. 

Some websites do operate outside U.S. jurisdiction and may not comply with the notice, but it does not hurt to work with your trademark attorney to craft a notice which protects your intellectual property.


What can I do if my DMCA takedown notice is not honored?

If a U.S.-based website refuses to honor your takedown notice, your intellectual property lawyer, whom should be versed in copyright law, can begin to work with you to discuss next steps which may include a cease and desist letter or possible lawsuit.


Is the time and effort involved in a DMCA takedown notice worth it?

Yes. The time and energy you spent creating your work or using the right to your likeness should not be at the mercy of every individual who can find it on the internet and use it for their own purposes. You, as the exclusive owner of the copyright, should be able to dictate how, when, and where it is used to help further your purposes. Even if your work does not have a copyright registration, DIYing the takedowns or working with a lawyer can help you reclaim your work through a cost-efficient process that is respected on major platforms. 


If you need assistance removing posts that infringe on your copyright, contact copyright and trademark lawyer Andrea Sager andrea@andreasager.com to discuss how you can quickly and effectively reclaim your work. 

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