What To Do When Someone ‘Borrows’ Your Online Business Content

Author

Council, Young Entrepreneur

August 7, 2013

Online businesses are booming. And with that boom comes the constant need to create content that will drive traffic to your website and grab the attention of potential customers. Many business owners find this need to create new content overwhelming, however, and turn to “borrowing” other people’s content and placing it on their site. Others are more unsavory and steal other people’s content simply because they can.

The point is that people steal stuff. And when that stuff is posted online, they steal even more. If you haven’t had your website’s content misappropriated yet, it’s only a matter of time. It has happened to me, more than once.

So what do you do when someone blatantly takes creations from your website and uses them for his or her own benefit?

Luckily, there is a law that governs copyright infringement on the Internet. It’s called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA (full text available here). This law makes it relatively easy and inexpensive to have your content removed from a copyright infringer’s website. Here’s what you can do should someone steal your articles, e-books, photos or other original creative works from your website:

  1. Contact the infringer (the person who stole your stuff). Find their contact info on their website, and send an email letting them know which content they copied. Link directly to the page on your website with the original content, and to their specific web page that contains your intellectual property. Follow up by stating that they do not have your permission to copy your content, and that they have a certain amount of days to remove your property from their site. You’re a tough cookie, and it’s time to be direct.

  2. If they refuse, or the content is still glaring back at you, determine who hosts their website. This is easiest to find by going to http://whois.com or another “who is” website where you can plugin the URL of the site in question. The “who is” site will give you various information about the website’s owner and, more importantly, will let you know who their hosting provider is.

  1. Track down the webhost’s site and collect their contact information. Generally, the website host’s terms and conditions will be listed in the footer of their website. This is where you’ll find the instructions on how to let them know about the copyright infringement that has occurred and where to send your complaint (via email or other contact information).

  1. File your claim with the webhost provider. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requires most webhosts remove all pages that infringe on your intellectual property. In order to help speed the process along, make sure to include the following in your email or letter:

  • Direct identification of your copyrighted (or stolen) work. Link directly to where the content first appears on your site.

  • Direct identification of where your work appears on the offending site. Again, link directly to where your content appears on someone else’s site.

  • Your contact information (usually just an email will do).

  • The Good Faith Belief Statement. It should read, “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.” You’re just letting the webhost know that the use of your intellectual property is not okay and you are acting in good faith.

  • The Accuracy Statement. It should read, “I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in this 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.” This states that all of the info you’ve provided is accurate and that you have the authority to request that the page(s) be removed.

  • Your signature (to make it official).

The DMCA requires the webhost get back to you, so hold tight and you should have a response in a week or two. If they find your claim of copyright infringement to be valid, they will remove the content, take down the specific infringing web pages, or possibly even take down the entire website.

Protecting your copyrighted work isn’t just about feeling better. Failing to police your copyrighted work and require anyone who uses or posts your material to use it in a way that complies with your copyright terms can cause you to lose the rights to those works.

Disclaimer: This article is a resource guide for educational and informational purposes only and should not take the place of hiring an attorney. No information in this article creates an attorney-client relationship between the reader and the author.

Rachel Rodgers is the business lawyer for young entrepreneurs with online-based businesses. Her practice, Rachel Rodgers Law Office, is run entirely online. She is the author of Small Business Bodyguard: Cover Your Bases, Cover Your Assets, Cover Your Ass, a comprehensive legal resource for entrepreneurs that teaches business law with personality.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

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