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Understand the Requirements for a Copyright Infringment Complaint, with Sample Download

written by: Rebecca Scudder•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/20/2010

Have you found content you created posted somewhere on the Internet, without your permission requested? To send a takedown notice to have the content removed, you need to comply with the DMCA requirements for the notice to be legal. Understand what is required, and download a sample takedown notice

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    Are You a Victim of Copyright Infringement?

    The DMCA was created to provide protection for copyright in the Digital Age - an age where copy and paste means content anywhere on the Internet can be copied and placed in a different place with minimal effort. This is a temptation to some, and to others, merely a way to capture information they want. Nevertheless, without the permission of the copyright holder, it is illegal.

    If you have found content you created used on the Internet where you have not given permission, you have recourse. The DMCA provides a method for legally requesting that content be taken down. We also link to a download in the Bright Hub Media gallery you can use as a template for a sample copyright infringement complaint you can tailor to request your specific copyrighted material be removed from its illegal posting on the Internet. This is meant for sending directly to a website.

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    Some information on the DMCA

    Have you found a creation of yours posted somewhere on the Internet? If you have checked out the offending URL and feel there is no possibility that the material is used under the Fair Use clause, the DMCA Law has provided guidelines for a legal takedown notice- the notice requesting that the illegally posted material be removed from the Internet. There is not a case for Fair Use if the work you created is posted in complete form, even if the poster offers commentary.

    Almost everyone who uses the Internet has heard of the DMCA. However, asking around, I have found very few people who have actually looked at the law. If you'd like to see the U.S. Copyright Office Summary of The Digital Millennium copyright Act of 1998 they have posted a PDF you can download or read.

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    DMCA - Digital Millennium Copyright Act Protection - Goes Both Ways

    The DMCA provides protection for copyrighted content copied in digital form - and sets out specific guidelines both for making sure that there is a case of copyright infringement - because there are penalties for sending false takedown notices with malicious intent. You should also know that there is a DMCA guideline for replying to a takedown notice which the recipient believes is sent in error. If you do receive a takedown notice you think is in error, you can still get into trouble if you ignore the notice.

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    Blogocide 2010

    Earlier in 2010 there was quite a bit of furor when a number of takedown notices were sent out by record companies to people posting songs on music blogs on Blogger - music which public relations people from those same record companies had requested be used to provide publicity for the bands the music had come from.

    Google was legally required to pass on the takedown notices, and to remove the blogs containing the offending music when a certain number of takedown notices had been sent and were not replied to. People who had legitimate permission to use the music seem to have generally ignored the notices - since they had permission. SomeBlogocide 2010  of them removed the songs and thought that was all they needed to do.

    It was a full scale SNAFU in the old sense of the word, with all of the blame not assignable to any one party. Record company bots found what they thought was illegal use of their music, and the takedown notices were sent out automatically. Publicity people evidently did not notify the people controlling the bots that they had actually requested the music be played in some music blogs.

    Those who received the notices did not follow DMCA guidelines for replying to takedown notices sent in error. Google followed the legal rules - because if they had not, they would have been breaking the DMCA law - and risked losing their Safe Harbor status.

    You can read a very clear and fair minded description of Blogocide 2010 information at Plagiarism-Today. It is a good example of some of the dangers involved in the entire DMCA takedown process. Blogocide 2010 was covered by Wired and Google itself blogged on the situation as well. Information explaining Blogocide 2010 also came from nintyfive years, and many other blogs and sites discussed the debacle.

    Image by Rebecca Scudder.

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    On the next page of this article, we look at the text in the DMCA which explains what is needed in a takedown notice, and an description of this in straightforward language. There is also some advice on takedown notices and additional reading material.

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    Here is the exact text from the DMCA detailing requirement for a legal takedown notice to send to a website posting your copyrighted material. We also give a straightforward explanation of what the requirements mean and how to comply.
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    DMCA Takedown Guidelines

    Title 17 US Copyright Act section 512 (C) (3) lists the information the DMCA says must be sent to be a legal takedown notice for your copyrighted information.

    (3) Elements of notification.

    (A) To be effective under this subsection, a notification of claimed infringement must be a written communication provided to the designated agent of a service provider that includes substantially the following:

    (i) A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

    (ii) Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.

    (iii) Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material.

    (iv) Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.

    (v) A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

    (vi) A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

    In the next section of this article, I'll lay out what this means in what I find more straightforward and easy to understand wording.

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    What a Takedown Notification Must Contain

    Takedown notices go to different people, depending on the situation, but this information must be provided in any notification:

    • That you own the copyright, or are the duly authorized representative of the owner of the copyright. copyright logos 
    • A physical or verified electronic signature as copyright owner.
    • Identification of the material that is being infringed. Give the title of the material, and if it is not specifically enough identified by title, give chapter, page number, etc.
      • You should give them a direct URL to the location of the material if possible, or a series of URLs if you are claiming infringement for more than one item. In some cases you may be asking them to remove a link to the material, rather than material. You need to give them enough information that they should have no trouble identifying your material.
    • You must give them a method to contact you - mail, your phone number, and email if possible.
    • State that you have a good faith belief than no permission was given to use the copyrighted material by you, an agent of yours, or the law.
    • State that you believe everything you have written is true, and under penalty of perjury (which has legal consequences) you are authorized to complain this exclusive copyright is infringed.
    • Ask that the material be removed or the link to the material be broken as quickly as possible.

    Depending on the site, you may be able to send this information in an email, but many sites insist that takedown notices be physically sent to them. Some sites give a timeframe in which takedown will happen, but many do not say.

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      On this last page of Bright Hub's article explaining a sample copyright infringement complaint we offer advice about actually sending a takedown notice, and more information you may find useful.
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      Some Advice on Your Notice

      Look through their site to find any information on where DMCA notices should be sent, and what their requirements are to file the takedown notice - mail or email.

      If there is no specific procedure listed, look for contact information on the site - possibly an email address for problems. If the site does not give contact information, you can search for site information at such sites as to find someone to send your notice. Some domain selling services such as also have links to whois information.

      Take screenshots of your material before you send a notice. You can send screenshots along, and they are your proof that the material was there.

      Do understand that while a takedown notice means the alleged infringing material should be taken down, or links to it broken as soon as possible, the person who is said to have infringed copyright has the right to file a counter notice. When one is filed with you, you should respond as soon as possible. If you receive a counter notice and do not respond the site has the right to replace the material that was taken down after about a two week time period.

      Before you send your notice, check that the material is still on the site. It is possible that the site may have noticed that it was a copyright infringement and removed it themselves. It is embarrassing to send a takedown notice when none is needed. You can check back occasionally in that case to make sure the material was not reposted. If it is reposted, your prior screenshots will emphasize your complaint if you do have to make one after all.

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      Additional Reading for Sample Copyright Infringement Complaint Notices

      You can read legal information explaining the DMCA and takedown information at ChillingEffects (with whom Google files copies of alltakedown notices they receive). Home Header 

      Google explains their role as required to be a Safe Harbor, and other information about the DMCA, including their involvement with ChillingEffects. They also explain how to send them a takedown notice.

      The idea of searching domain resgistrations for contact information was found on the site.

      You may find this series of articles on intellectual property with a close look at copyrights and patents useful.