You’ve taken all the necessary steps to protect your art and your written words from copyright theft. . . you’ve put up the proper © sign followed by your name; you even have a blurb on the bottom of your web page that reads, "© Artist Name. No portion of this website may be reprinted without permission."
Still, someone has stolen your work and you’re furious.
Rightly so, I might add!
But before you head off to a copyright attorney and spend hundreds of dollars in legal fees, try resolving the issue yourself. Most people, after all, don’t fully understand the copyright laws and the offending party may have used your works without knowing he or she has done anything wrong.
Here are three steps you can take to resolve the copyright infringement issue without an attorney.
1. Get proof
As soon as you discover your work has been stolen, get proof. Take screen shots and print out copies of the offending materials. Then take screen shots and print out copies of your original materials, as they appear on your website.
Next, go to Google.com, type in your web page and print out a screen shot of Google’s cache of your original materials.
2. Contact abuser directly
As calmly, and clearly as possible, leave a message for the offender stating that you did not give permission for him or her to use your material and that you are requesting your material be removed within 48 hours. If he or she doesn’t comply, you will be forced to take legal action.
3. Contact the web host
If the website owner, blogger, or store owner doesn’t remove your material after the 48 hours is up, contact the web host and request assistance. (You can find the domain’s webhost via Who Is Hosting This.)
Once at the web host’s website, look for the contact form or email that allows you to report abuse. (It may look like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.) Then draft an email to the web host similar to this one:
Company Address and contact person
Your Name and contact information
Date you wrote the letter
RE: Notice of Copyright Infringement
Dear Host Name,
I need your help with a copyright infringement issue.
The owner of ____ has stolen my content (artwork, imagery). I have tried contacting the owner myself but have been unable to receive a response.
I discovered you were the web host, via _____.
Per the DMCA, I am requesting that you notify the owner of this infringement and immediately remove or disable all access to the infringing material.
1. The copyright work at issue is the _____ that appears on http://___
2. The material being infringed upon originally appeared here: http://____
3. I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted material described above on the allegedly infringing web pages is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
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.
Your Full Name and Date
Please accept this as my electronic signature.
Then wait. The investigative process can take up to a week to resolve. If you do
not get a response from the web host, try emailing the letter again. If you still do not receive a response, mail a hard copy of the letter with your signature to the company’s legal department.
Usually, that’s all it takes to resolve the issue. If, however, you find the web host uncooperative in helping you resolve the issue, or if you discover that the website owner has simply jumped web hosts and put the infringing material back online, it may be time to contact your attorney.
To learn more about digital copyright law, I’d encourage you to take a look at this pdf of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
And just a little caveat. . . I am NOT an attorney, so this information is provided without warranty. When in doubt, please contact a licensed copyright attorney.