How To File A DMCA Takedown Notice

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One of the most common questions I’m asked has to do with what to do when someone takes content, whether written, images, audio or video. Copyright infringement in the online, digital, and mobile spaces is getting easier and more prolific by the day. As new social platforms pop up, a new medium for “stolen” content is born.

When people find their copyrighted work posted somewhere they didn’t authorize, it’s very personal. Most people want to “do a DMCA”. While that’s definitely one option it’s not always the way to go.

First, let’s define what a DMCA is. DMCA is actually short for Digital Millennium Copyright Act and it is a group of laws that protect copyrighted content on digital mediums. Signed into law in 1998, the DMCA has been the go-to source for many of the copyright infringement issues arising due to the proliferation of digital media. There are many aspects of the law, but the one most people are familiar with is the DMCA Takedown Notice.

The DMCA Takedown Notice provides a mechanism for copyright holders to request an Internet Service Provider (ISP), search engine, host or other type of site-owner/manager to remove material that is infringing their copyright. Unlike other aspects of copyright laws, the DMCA Takedown process does not require you to have a registered copyright. That’s very important to know, because some people may say you do. Before you send a DMCA Takedown Notice you need to establish a few things:

(1) You own the copyright or have the right to assert infringement of a copyright you license. If you do not own the copyright or have a legal right to assert a claim of copyright infringement, you’re wasting your time.

(2) The alleged infringement is not covered by an exception such as Fair Use or free speech laws. While you don’t have to know every aspect of Fair Use exceptions, you do have to have a “good faith” belief that the alleged infringing use is not covered by any law which would permit its use.

(3) The content is capable of being infringed online. That mean the work must be something in digital form. Here are some examples:

  • Text (TXT, RTF, DOC, DOCx, PDF, PPT, PAGES, etc.)
  • Images, pictures & photos (BMP, EPS, SVG, JPG, JPEG, GIF, PNG, PSD, RAW, TIFF, etc.)
  • Video (MPG, AVI, RM, MOV, Quicktime, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer)
  • Music & audio (AIF, AU, MP3, MP4, MID, WAV, etc. )
  • Images found on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Flickr

Once you’ve determined these three things, and you are sure you want to file the DMCA Takedown Notice, there are very exacting provisions of the law you must comply with or the receiving agent may ignore your request. Here are the steps to use when filing a DMCA Takedown Notice.

1. Locate the correct person. If you find your content on another website it may not be common knowledge who their hosting company is. You can use Domain Tools to help you find the information. If you are sending a takedown notice to an ISP there is often an email or form provided on their site. You may need to hunt for it as there is no consistent location. Some put it under Copyright, others have it in their Terms and Conditions. If you can not find the DMCA agent contact on the website, search the US Copyright Office list of DMCA agents. While it’s supposed to be current, it may not be due to the organization not updating their information with the US Copyright Office.

2. If an online form specifically for DMCA Takedown requests is provided by the ISP, Search Engine, or website it is often best to use the form as your initial point of contact since it is likely going to yield a more timely response. That is not always the case, but many large provider (especially search engines) use forms to direct specific issues to different departments. For example, one large search engine has different departments that handle requests related to images and video.

3. If an online form is not provided, you will need to send your notice to the designated DMCA agent in the manner they request. Keep in mind that while you think email should be acceptable, if the DMCA agent requests notices by fax (or in some cases registered mail) you MUST submit your request how they want it. Never mind how stupid you may think it is, the DMCA agent chooses the method(s) they want to accept.

4. If you are not using an online form, your letter will need to contain some very specific information. The information requested is the same for every request and is established by law, not the ISP, Search Engine, or DMCA takedown agent.

Often you will need to send this same information to multiple parties, so it makes sense to put it in a letter to ensure you have all the necessary information that will be required for your request.

Your notification must:

• Be in writing (this includes both hardcopy or digital);
• Be signed (whether in writing of via electronic signature) by the copyright owner or agent;
• Identify the original copyrighted work (or works if there ar multiple) you claim has been infringed;
• Identify the material that is infringing your copyrighted work;
• Include contact information so the designated agent can reach you, if necessary;
• Include a statement your complaint is in “good faith;”
• Include a statement the information in the notification is accurate; and
• Include a statement that under penalty of perjury you are authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Below I provide a SAMPLE DMCA TAKEDOWN NOTICE TEMPLATE. You are free to cut/paste and use it as you see fit. You will need to gather the appropriate information specific to your request, which I have designated in red.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

SAMPLE DMCA TAKEDOWN NOTICE TEMPLATE.

To Whom It May Concern,

The following information serves to assert my rights and request removal of allegedly infringing web content under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The following is a report, in good faith, of alleged copyright infringement. I am contacting you as the designated agent for the site upon which the infringing work currently appears. This letter is a Notice of Infringement as authorized in §512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Law.

I am the copyright owner of the works and the following is true and accurate.

1. The original work, for which I claim copyright, appears, with my permission, at the following locations online:

{URLs WHERE YOUR ORIGNAL AUTHORIZED WORK APPEARS}

2. Copies of my original copyrighted work are {attached/included/provided} to assist you in your evaluation and determination.

3. The allegedly infringing {work/text/image} appears at the following location(s) online:

{URLs WHERE INFRINGING WORK IS CURRENTLY LOCATED}

4. My contact information, as copyright holder, is as follows:

{INCLUDE YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION}

5. The information of the alleged copyright infringer is:

{INSERT WHOIS INFORMATION FOR THE SITE YOU ALLEGE IS INFRINGING}

6. I have a good faith belief the use of the above reference copyrighted work(s) that appears on the website for which you are the designated DMCA agent is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or by law.

I declare, under penalty of perjury, this notice is true and correct and that I am the copyright owner entitled to exclusive rights which I allege are being infringed.

Signed this ________ day of ___________, 20_____ in {INSERT CITY, STATE, COUNTY}.

{YOUR SIGNATURE/eSIGNATURE}

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Filing a DMCA Takedown does not mean every instance of your copyrighted work will be removed from the internet. You will need to submit a request for all the different locations you find your work. No, that’s not awesome. But it’s how it works.

Finally, keep in mind that the alleged infringer will have access to the information provided in your takedown notice. In addition, the alleged infringer can file a counter-notice, which is basically a reply, stating why the work does not infringe your copyright. If that happens, the work will likely be reposted and you will need to pursue other measures to enforce your copyright.

 

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship.

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35 thoughts on “How To File A DMCA Takedown Notice

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  2. Richard A. Wright

    One thing I am confused about is what if it is a situation where you have posted commissioned art and have been denied access to the account? Over several years I have commissioned art from various artists of fictional characters and have posted them on art galleries that allow commissioned art to be posted. After a heated argument with an admin at the site I was banned, but the art is still there. I want it taken down but the site administration is ignoring me. What would be the advice there? I designed the characters and wrote them, they even have been used in a couple of published comic books. I just paid people to create images of the characters.

    Reply
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    Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a enjoyment account it.
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  9. Gary McCloud

    Hi Sara, thanks for sharing your knowledge and informative information, I guess the template can be used as a means to first informally contact/warn a website owner rather than go straight to the ISP and a formal complaint?

    I have a question that I’ve often wondered, but have yet to find an answer…Regarding Social Network User Names. For instance, a user sets a “username” for their Facebook, Twitter, or any other account. Following this, another individual creates a company and website which uses the same user name the other person uses for their social network account user name–thus preventing the legitimate business from using their true business name as a username… Now, can the latter (website business owner) claim a copyright infringement against the use of their business name as a user name?

    Thanks!

    Reply
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  11. James Meyer

    Sara,

    Thanks for the article and the template. I get very frustrated when others take my work and post it without permission. Not that I would typically deny them posting, just that as the creator of the work I have the right to decide who uses my work and where it may be posted. So thanks again, this gives me something to think about and act upon.

    Reply
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  13. Donna Hicks

    Thanks so very much for your helpful information on DMCA takedown. I may have to go further as the person who plagiarized my work by posting it on FB claimed my name was not visible, which is absolutely not true and when others warned her, even before I was even advised of the plagiarism, she told them they “have been heard,” yet did not take it down. This information gave me clear direction. I do plan to file the legal action since she blatantly disregarded the warnings, but have to get legal cost info first.

    Reply
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  23. pia

    What was supposed to be the beginning of my book was put into a textbook by a major publisher. They attributed it to me but didn’t say where they took it from,–and most importantly didn’t ask for permission which I would not have given.
    Is there anything I can do?

    Reply
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  25. zoe

    I don’t know what to do, I have filled a dmca report because my art got stolen and the blogger claim falsely that it his art and the material has been removed but a few days later tumblr restored to this blogger the stolen art, what do I do?

    Reply
    1. Sara

      Zoe, I can not offer specific advice as to what you should or should not do. The process under the DMCA allows for a reply to a DMCA Takedown Notice, called a Counter-Notice. It, too, is filed under penalty of perjury. If a counter-notice is filed, 17 U.S.C. § 512(g)(3), the work remains down for up to 14-days and may then be put back up if no further action is taken. You should speak to an attorney to determine what you should do not only to protect your work, but to determine if damages are available if the counter-notice was filed falsely or maliciously. Section 512(f) of the US Copyright Act provides that any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification may be subject to liability.

      Reply
      1. zoe

        thank you for the reply, the problem I face is that I am a minor so I cannot speak to an attorney so I really cannont do anything to take my art down from this person’s blog but again thank you anyway

        Reply
      2. zoe

        Thank you for the reply , the problem I face is that I am a minor so I cannot afford an attorney to determined what to do about the false encounter notice, I guess cannot solve this but again thank you for answering

        Reply
  26. john smith

    If that’s the case I dont see why reports are even useful , its just a waste of time if after a few days they can restore the work even if the claim is false.

    Reply
    1. Sara

      John, the reporting process is the best that we have right now. With the penalty of perjury attached to its submission, often that is sufficient to deter false filings. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t see that as a sufficient deterrent.

      Reply
  27. paul

    Sara: Much appreciate your article. The only question I have is in the case of the form for a novel you set out in item #2 copies of the work. Is it necessary to attach the novel text itself or would the cover copy suffice. Seems you are requesting attaching the full text of the novel. Please let me know what is the minimum to attach in this case. Thank you. Paul

    Reply
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