Out there in the Wild Wild West of the Internet, there is kind of a sad truth…there are people that will steal your content. It sucks. It’s totally out of integrity not to mention against copyright law.
There are a variety of reasons someone might do this, none of which make it okay. Sometimes they are just using you as “inspiration” and end up using a bit too much. Sometimes they literally don’t have a voice so have to take somebody else’s. Sometimes they are legit not cool humans and steal stuff to make money. Whatever the reason, it’s not okay and here are 3 steps you can take (and in the order I would take them).
Of note → under copyright law, taking content means literally taking it WORD FOR WORD or almost literally. Just taking your “idea” and wording it differently is not enough, because as we all know there are no original ideas anymore, sorry. Now, if someone is taking a name close to your TRADEMARK, that’s a different story and if it’s going to cause confusion in your branding, you have different rights. Learn more about trademarks here.
STEP 1: REACH OUT TO THE PERSON WHO STOLE YOUR CONTENT
The first step you can take is to contact the person who stole your content and ask them to remove it. I KNOW, sounds simple right?! But sometimes sending them a polite email or message, explaining that the content is yours and requesting that they take it down, actually works. They feel ashamed at getting caught and don’t want to cause further issues. If you want to make your email even stronger, provide evidence of ownership, such as links to the original content or timestamps.
Now, if this person is a spammer or in China, it may be more difficult to do and you may have to go to the next step.
STEP 2: FILE A DCMA TAKEDOWN NOTICE
If your email or message doesn’t work and the person who stole your content refuses to take it down, you can file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice. This is a legal process that requires the website or hosting service to remove the infringing content. You can file a DMCA notice with the website or hosting service where the content is posted. If everything happened on social media you can go through that platform via their copyright process.
To send a DMCA takedown notice, you follow these steps:
- Identify the website or platform where the stolen content is hosted.
- Find the contact information for the website or platform's designated DMCA agent. This information is usually listed on the website's Terms of Service or Copyright Policy page.
- Send a DMCA takedown notice to the designated agent via email. The notice should include the following information:
- A description of the content that has been infringed.
- A description of the infringing material, including its location on the website or platform.
- Your contact info
- A statement that you have a good faith belief that the use of the copyrighted material is not authorized
- A statement that the information in the notice is accurate
- Wait for the website or platform to remove the infringing content. They may also contact the person who posted the content and ask them to remove it.
- If the website or platform does not remove the infringing content, there are additional legal steps you can take
STEP 3: TAKE LEGAL ACTION
If the person who stole your content does not respond to your request to remove the content OR the DMCA takedown notice, you may need to take legal action. There are two main legal actions you can take.
The first action is sending a Cease & Desist Letter demanding they take it down. This can be done by you but will likely be more effective if it is done by a lawyer. Basically it’s a threat that if they don’t comply, you will take further legal action.
The second and more serious legal action you can take is filing a claim for copyright infringement. If the stolen content has caused significant harm or loss, filing a lawsuit may be necessary and will allow you to get monetary damages. This is an option only if you have previously registered the copyright with the government.
Obviously legal action can be expensive and time-consuming, so it's important to weigh the costs and benefits before pursuing this option.
If you want to read more about copyright law, head over here.