Feb 20 | 2018

Combatting Online Copyright Infringement

If you are an artist, musician or creator, protecting your work online can be a daunting and difficult task. There is only one of you, and the internet is vast. However, there are tools that you can use to help combat online infringement – namely the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) Notice and Takedown System. While not perfect, the Notice and Takedown system can help you protect your intellectual property online, not only on sites such as Etsy, eBay, Instagram, YouTube, and Amazon, but on any online platform. Moreover, the process is straight forward.

If you feel that someone is illegally using your work online, you send the content’s online service provider a notice that the work is being used without permission, and the online service provider is required to take that material down. This applies not only to websites, but also to other platforms such as mobile apps. The DMCA Notice and Takedown system protects all copyrightable intellectual property, even if it is not registered with the Copyright Office. However, it is important to remember that the DMCA only applies to online service providers located in the U.S.

How to Issue a Takedown Notice

Online service providers are required to assign a designated agent to receive notices of online infringement. Many larger platforms provide forms that you can submit to inform the designated agent of infringement. YouTube, for example, provides a “Copyright” link and a webform for submitting your complaint.

You may also submit a free form letter to the online service provider if a fill in the blank form is not provided. However, your takedown notice must adhere to the following:

  • Be in writing and signed by the copyright owner or agent; an electronic signature is acceptable as well. If you do not have legal ownership or are not the owner’s agent, you cannot file a notice and takedown;
  • Identify the copyrighted work that is being infringed. You can do this by providing a hyperlink to the infringing material and provide a copy of the infringed material;
  • Provide accurate contact information for the online service provider site to contact you;
  • Provide a statement that the notification is made “in good faith” with the belief that use of the content was not authorized by the owner. “In good faith” essentially means that you have a sincere belief that the material is being infringed.
  • Provide a statement that confirms that the information contained in the notification is accurate.
  • A statement that you are the copyright owner or the owner’s agent.

Sample Letter

Dear (Designated Agent),

 I am writing regarding copyright infringement on your website. I am the owner of [identify the song, photograph, book, etc.] and did not give permission for its use on this website. I have attached a copy of the [identify the infringed content here] for your reference. Additionally, here is a hyperlink to the infringing content. 

 [hyperlink to infringing content]

 This letter serves as official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to remove the infringing content referred to here. I request that you immediately remove the infringing content from your website and prevent the infringer from reposting the content on your site in the future. Under the law, you are required as a service provider to “expeditiously remove or disable access to” the infringing content upon receipt of this notice. The result of noncompliance may be liability for secondary copyright infringement.

This letter is sent with a good faith belief that use of the content referenced in this letter is not authorized by me, the copyright holder. The information I provide here is accurate to the best of my knowledge, and I am the true copyright holder.

My current contact information is shown below. Please send me a response once you have taken down the infringing content from your site.

Kind regards,

Jane Doe
123 Any Street, Everywhere Town, USA
Tel. (555) 123-4567
Email: janedoe@email.com

After receiving the takedown notice, the online service provider is required to remove the infringing material in a timely fashion. It is unlikely that the online service provider will refuse since that could open it up to secondary liability for assisting with the copyright infringement.  Moreover, since one must have a good faith belief to submit an infringement claim, the online service provider usually adheres to such requests.  The alleged infringer does have an opportunity to dispute your claim when notified of the removal, and the infringer can issue a counterclaim if they disagree with the complaint. If that happens, , then the online service provider must repost the material within ten business days unless a complaint is filed in court. Hopefully you won’t have to go down that path.

The Notice and Takedown system provides a convenient, straight forward way for you to protect your work on online platforms. Though the system is not perfect, it does offer an extra tool to fight against infringement online.

By Cassidy J. Grunninger, Esq.