I’m not a big fan of copycats. But sadly, they are a reality when running a creative business.
Of course, there’s copying that’s a-ok under the law. And copying that isn’t.
So the first step when dealing with a copycat is to decide if this copying is or isn’t okay under the law. This gets tricky for those of you that create products that are used like jewelry, homewares, clothing, and accessories.
(Want a little help with deciding if you can, can’t, or maybe shouldn’t take action? I’ve got a workshop on how to deal with copycats. Learn more here.)
Once you know that the copying isn’t okay under the law, the next step is deciding if this situation is worth the time, energy, and resources to deal with.
Because believe me, there’s always a downside to dealing with copycats (even when they are clearly and obviously in the wrong).
If you do decide to deal with them, then the first tool you should try to use is a DMCA Takedown Notice.
Not only is it totally FREE but usually takes less than 5 minutes to submit.
4 steps to sending a DMCA Takedown Notice
Only four simple steps are required to send a DMCA Takedown Notice.
Step 1: Take screenshots of the infringing site
Once you send the DMCA Takedown Notice, the web host will remove the infringing material. As such, your first step should be to obtain electronic (and print) copies of the infringing material.
Step 2: Locate the website’s host
The DMCA is a kind of legal loophole, that prevents website hosts from being sued for copyright infringement if:
- the infringement is posted by one of their users
- if they follow a specific procedure to remove the material after getting notice of the infringement
This means that you must send your DMCA Takedown Notice to the website host.
So how do you find the website host? Here are two free options:
Note: The DMCA Takedown Notice procedure only applies to web hosts based in the United States. So if the site is not hosted in the U.S. you cannot send a DMCA Takedown Notice. That being said, some countries have similar procedures to take down infringing content (e.g. the European Union and Australia).
Step 3: Determine the Copyright Agent
Now that you have your web site’s host, you need to determine the exact person to send your notice to. Legally this person is called the Copyright Agent. Often the best way to determine this is to Google the web host. Once on the web host’s site, the Copyright Agent can be found by:
- Selecting something like: “Copyright”, “Notice for Claims of Copyright Violations”, or “Agent for Notice”
If this doesn’t pan out, you can search the U.S. Copyright Office Directory of Copyright Agents.
Step 4: Draft your Takedown Notice
If the website’s host doesn’t have a form, you will have to draft the letter yourself to the person and address you found in Step 3.
The letter you send to the website host to remove the images is called a “DMCA Takedown Notice.” The law requires that this letter contains very specific items.
By law, the DMCA Takedown Notice must contain the following items:
- A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright or intellectual property right that has been allegedly infringed upon;
- Identification in sufficient detail of the material being infringed upon;
- Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing upon the intellectual property. Include information regarding the location of the infringing material with sufficient detail so that the web host is capable of finding and verifying its existence;
- Contact information about the notifier including the name of the intellectual property owner, the name and title of the person contacting the web host on the owner’s behalf, the address, telephone number and, if available, e-mail address;
- A statement that the notifier has a good faith belief that the material is not authorized by the intellectual property or copyright owner, its agent, or the law; and
- A statement made under penalty of perjury that the information provided is accurate and the notifying party is authorized to make the complaint on behalf of the intellectual property or copyright owner.
If your notice contains all of the above items, the web host should remove the images within a reasonable time (although the alleged infringer can still send a counter-notice).
Can someone send a DMCA Takedown Notice for me? Can I send them for my friends?
Only two kinds of people can send DMCA Takedown Notices:
- the copyright owner
- an authorized agent of the copyright owner
This means if you don’t want to take the time to send DMCA Takedown Notices yourself, then you can authorize someone to send them on your behalf.
However, an Instagram DM or a quick email exchange won’t turn someone into your authorized agent.
In order to make someone your authorized agent, your agent should have a signed document stating that under penalty of perjury you swear:
- that you have authorized them to submit this DMCA Takedown Notice
- that you own the copyright in the work that they are submitting the DMCA Takedown Notice for
- that you have a good faith belief that the material they are submitting the notice for is not authorized
- that you have provided your agent accurate information
The risks of submitting them for your friends
When you submit a DMCA Takedown Notice for others, you are the one promising under penalty of perjury that your friend:
- is the copyright owner
- that you believe them when they say it hasn’t been licensed
- has provided you accurate information to the best of your ability to confirm
Because of this, submitting for others yourself shouldn’t be taken lightly. Because if the other party submits a counter-notice you are now on the hook for dealing with it.
Overall, it’s probably better to point your friends to companies designed to submit these for others because they’ve got the tools and resources in place to not only collect the authorized agent forms but deal with the risks and counter-notices that can arise.
Need to send a DMCA Takedown Notice?
Use this workbook to follow the four steps I take for each notice.
Enter your email to download a DMCA Takedown Notice template. You’ll also get the four steps I take each time I send a notice.
Your privacy is important to us. Learn how we protect it here.
Of course, a DMCA Takedown Notice may not be your only option. Depending on the circumstances, you might also:
- Request the website owner add a credit to the image.
- Send a cease and desist letter with a demand for payment yourself.
- Hire an attorney to send a cease and desist letter on your behalf with a demand for payment.
- Hire an attorney to file a copyright infringement suit.
(Psst…I cover all this and more in my “Dealing with Copycats” workshop that you can get instant access to here.)
DMCA Takedown Notices aren’t perfect but this tool should be in every content creators toolbox to remove content detrimental to their brand.
Have you ever sent a DMCA Takedown Notice? What was the outcome? Let me know in the comments below!
Hi! I’m Kiff! I believe that you can have ease in the legalese of running your creative business.
Each week, I send out an email to help you confidently strengthen your business’ legal foundation by sharing my experiences and knowledge.
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